Now that we’re over a week past release date, you may still be on the fence about whether NBA Live 18 is worth your time. That short answer is: yes. What follows is the longer answer:
Nothing else matters if you aren’t having fun on the hardwood. Everyone defines “fun” differently in this case, but that’s the ultimate question you are asking yourself: Is this game fun to play?
The answer, without question, is yes. To get this out of the way early, the on-court experience isn’t as realistic as NBA 2K. If that’s what you’re looking for here, you will be disappointed. But take it from someone (me) who is a big fan of the 2K series: there is still plenty of fun to be had here on the court.
Just because it isn’t as realistic doesn’t mean it’s not realistic at all. As I emphasized in my gameplay piece the other day, this isn’t NBA Jam or NBA Street. Live replicates the game of basketball well on the court, and I have had a lot of fun playing it.
There are some drawbacks, though. Plays at the rim, whether it’s a dunk or a jump hook, feel canned and pre-determined, leaving you with little control. Icon passing is a bit wonky. And computer help defense could use some work.
On the other hand, the dribble stick is implemented well. Jump shots feel and look nice, complete with a shot meter that is effective, even if it’s a bit of an eye sore. The one-on-one system, where you try to find the right angle as your defender tries to cut you off, is implemented well and leads to some intense battles that are a lot of fun.
So yes, although it is a mixed bag and there are some things that need fixing, I still find myself having a lot of fun with this game.
As I wrote the other day, this is the best that Live has to offer. EA absolutely nailed the career mode here and it provides a lot of replay value. The RPG-like leveling up system is really well done and provides a fresh take on sports career modes. I do wonder whether it will get stale at a certain point as you are focused on only a few key areas that affect your overall rating. But for now, at least, it keeps me coming back for more.
The One is broken into two sides: the streets and the league. The league seems light on features, but if you’re looking to guide your player through the ranks of the NBA, then you’ll be able to do just that. Given the shortcomings of the franchise mode, this is the best way to go about playing a franchise, so to speak.
The streets is where it’s at, though. Unfortunately, you are limited to five-on-five games, but they are a lot of fun. There are several courts to choose from, as well as plenty of offline and online challenges to conquer. If you’re looking for a reason to purchase NBA Live 18, The One is the one.
Other Modes Lacking
That said, if you’re not a fan of The One, then you’ll likely find yourself limited to play now as the franchise mode is borderline unplayable. It is chock full of bugs and shortcomings that make me wonder whether EA would’ve been better leaving it off completely. The marketing campaign has rightly focused on The One, but it’s a bit misleading to advertise a franchise mode that is so bare bones. If and when some of these bugs are patched, I’ll have to give it some more run. But for now, I see little reason to go back.
Ultimate Team seems to work fine. The layout isn’t great and, combined with sluggish menus found throughout the game, it can be a chore to move from screen to screen. But if you’re willing to work through that, there appears to be a lot of replay value here as well. There are plenty of challenges to complete, along with featured ones from Live that will change throughout the year.
NBA Live 18 has been a very pleasant surprise for me so far. Going in, I honestly wasn’t expecting much. And even though I’ve referenced several bugs and shortcomings — including some head scratchers like the awful franchise mode and the lack of any user roster editing — the game is still a lot of fun. If nothing else, as a fan of basketball video games, you should be rooting for Live to succeed. Competition is a great thing and pushes all companies to do better. Live definitely has a solid base here, and I’ll be excited to see where we are at a few weeks down the road with some patches and slider tweaks.
What about you guys? Now that we’re over a week in, how do you feel about NBA Live 18? What do you like? What areas need improvement? Let us know in the comments.