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NBA Live 18's Gameplay is Fun, But There Are Some Key Misses

NBA Live 18

NBA Live 18's Gameplay is Fun, But There Are Some Key Misses

After taking a look at some of the different game modes in NBA Live 18, it’s time to talk about the gameplay itself. After all, engaging game modes don’t do a whole lot of good if the game isn’t fun to play. So that leads us to ask the question: what kind of game is NBA Live 18?

The question isn’t as simple as, “is NBA Live 18 good?” That’s far too broad and is a question for each individual gamer to answer. But rather, what is the gameplay like? Is it fun? Is it an accurate basketball simulation?

Yes, it’s fun. And yes, it’s an accurate basketball simulation. To a point.

Some have gone as far to call NBA Live an arcade experience, but I don’t think that’s accurate. NBA Jam is arcade. This is absolutely a basketball simulation. But in the same way it’s not NBA Jam, it’s also not NBA 2K in terms of replicating the on-court experience.

That doesn’t mean that the game isn’t fun. It absolutely is. And just as there are some game modes that are more fun than others, there are many areas of gameplay that are great, along with many that will frustrate you.

Let’s take a look at a few of the larger areas of gameplay.


Player Movement

In my day-one impressions, I wrote positively about dribbling in game, but noted that it doesn’t feel as responsive as I would like. After some more time with the game, the issue I have is not with responsiveness. In fact, it’s not even with dribbling itself. It’s that overall, I don’t feel as in control of my player as I do with, for example, NBA 2K. With that series, player movement feels more closely linked to precise left and right stick movements.

With NBA Live, player movement absolutely follows your stick movements. But it does feel like the CPU steps in on your behalf. For example, you may dribbling above the three-point line and you intend on taking a small step towards the right side of the floor, but you end up taking a few more strides than you bargained for. One way isn’t necessarily better than the other. It’s just that if you’re more accustomed to the 2K style of movement, Live might take some getting used to.

With me, for the first day or two, I had trouble driving through the lane or attempting to switch directions quickly to go around a defender. I’m so used to other basketball games that I was relying too much on using what I know from those games and trying to apply it in an unnatural environment. So as much as having previous basketball game experience will help you here — and trust me, it’ll help a lot — with that experience comes a learning curve.

The good news is that, after nearly a week with the game, I am much better at making those cuts and getting around those same defenders. With the benefit of hindsight, what I once interpreted as a potential issue with the dribbling system now feels more like me getting used to the game. The lesson, as always: practice makes perfect.


Although you do have some limited options in using the right stick to shoot, I found it much easier to use the Square button. You can use the right stick to flick up a jump shot, but you can’t use it to dunk. Using Square makes sense, if for no other reason than consistency. As you rise up to shoot your jumper, you’ll notice a shot meter with a line that starts to rise. The bar is yellow and then green at the tip top. The closer to the top you stop the line, the better your release. Jump shots feel natural and the shot meter works really well here. It’s not very aesthetically pleasing, but it functions just fine.

If you’re driving through the lane, holding down square will initiate a layup. If you’re also holding down turbo (R2), your player will dunk (if he can, of course). If you want to change your shot mid-flight, tap Square again. And given the drive-and-kick nature of the league these days, you’ll find yourself doing this quite often. Driving is fun, but I’m not enjoying plays at the basket nearly as much as jump shots. Going back to my earlier point about not having as much control over your player, far too often I find that what I envision my player doing on his way up towards the rim is different than what he actually does. Even if it doesn’t look right, my only option to change it is to hit Square again in mid-air. I’ve gotten more used to it the more I play, but it can definitely be frustrating.

Speaking of scoring at the basket, let’s talk about post play. You use L2 to enter a back down, and from there you can face up, spin, hop step, and more. Which is great. What’s not great, however, is scoring in the post. I’ve never been a huge fan of using a shot stick in basketball games, with the exceptions of post play. Using only the shoot button leaves you feeling like the CPU is doing all the work.


I think that passes are a little too easy to complete in this year’s Live. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can throw from sideline to sideline repeatedly with no issue, but you can absolutely keep the offense humming along without worrying too much about long-armed defenders deflecting your passes through traffic.

Icon passing is present, but one quirk I don’t care for is that you have to hold R1 down while you hit the player you’re trying to pass to. It would work better if R1 was a toggle. Yes, it’s a small quirk, but try holding down turbo and trying to icon pass to your center (L1). I’m just trying to hit my center, not input a Mortal Kombat fatality.

You can also utilize a bounce pass or a lob pass, depending on the situation at hand, along with double tapping R1 to pass your teammate closest to the basket. All of these options give you more control over your player, which is a good thing. A standard pass will work for almost anything, but an entry bounce pass to your big posting up or a lob over traffic to an open teammate for three will do wonders for your offensive game.


Using the right stick for dribble moves in NBA Live 18 is one of the more polished areas of gameplay, particularly on the offensive side. It feels very fluid and responsive, especially when you compare it to other areas of the game that don’t feel as refined. You can execute a crossover or in-and-out just as you imagine you would. And that’s part of the fun, how natural everything feels. It’s very satisfying to use a quick hesitation before crossing hard left and driving to the hole for a quick scoop.


There is a one-on-one system at work here on the perimeter, where your opponent tries to get around you while your goal is to cut him off. If you are slightly off, you will slow them down and engage in a jostle. If you are way off, he will blow right past you. It’s a nice system that works well in practice. If you cut a player off or get him in a jostle, it has a magnetic feel, almost as if you lose control for a brief moment while the animation kicks in

Defense in the post is particularly challenging as it can feel somewhat robotic. And if you’re trying to challenge a guard slashing through the lane and going up for a layup, once he leaves his feet you feel almost powerless to stop him. It’s as if the animation is already in the works and you can’t disrupt it. This isn’t absolute, nor am I suggesting that it’s pointless to leave your feet once the player on offense does, but it’s another knock against the lack of feeling in total control over your team.

Boxing out and rebounding, however, feels right. Players feel a bit more rigid when going up for rebounds, but there is balance here. Boxing out works well, so when you get a good seal on your man, you give yourself a much better chance to grab the rebound.

Computer help defense could use some work, though. If you’re playing on the perimeter and your guy blows past you, your computer teammates tend to stand around as he strolls in for an easy dunk or lay in at a higher rate than they should.

Other Thoughts

I should point out that almost all of my Play Now testing games have been 12-minute quarters with default All-Star sliders. I didn’t talk about tendencies or sliders because we aren’t even a week removed from release day, so I would expect some of these issues to get fixed. Many in the forums are reporting that the mid-range game is either severely lacking or non-existent from CPU opponents, which is accurate. I referenced issues with the ease of passes earlier. There are many examples like this, but I feel like most could be addressed with a good slider set. But that takes many hours of practice time to perfect, and it’s absolutely something we’ll look at down the road.

Live 18 is by no means a perfect game. But it is fun. A lot of fun, actually. There are some big misses that prevent this from being the simulation that it’s aiming to be, but there are more than enough good things here to make for an enjoyable basketball gaming experience. In that respect, NBA Live 18 delivers in a big way.

What about you? Do you feel like NBA Live 18 is more arcade or simulation? What areas of gameplay do you love? What do you think could use some work?  Let us know in the comments!


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  1. Great read 4sure though. The user can choose layup hand and dunk hand on shot by holding in the top left or right quad on the shor stick, but I get your feedback around driving. Good stuff as usual OS.?
    I said it on another thread...But for me, The fun factor is what brings me back to this game now. The quirks and comments mentioned in the article are mostly legit. I really just don't care I guess. Fun factor comes first for me. Not so much realism. I never liked Gran Turismo and I loved Burnout and Need for Speed. If that tells you anything. NBA Live is back. IMO. Peace. :59:
    You can definitely dunk with the shot stick, and choose left and right layups. You can even do spin dunks with the stick.
    You can also use a plethora of post moves using the square button, tapping and pushing the directional stick to help guide your move.
    You can definitely dunk with the shot stick, and choose left and right layups. You can even do spin dunks with the stick.
    You can also use a plethora of post moves using the square button, tapping and pushing the directional stick to help guide your move.
    Yeah, I got to get the post moves down. I wish EA would list all the controls in the game. They don't list the timeout button, many of the post moves are unlisted as well.
    Sent from my A0001 using Tapatalk
    The game is definitely fun and highly addictive. The game plays great also and is well balanced for head to head. This is why i wish for separate tweaks for offline and online.
    You have to be careful with your passes or you can have a turnover easily against a human opponent. The defense can block and alter drives to the rim if users try to abuse going to the paint.
    Dunks and layup animations can be blocked if you quickly switch to a player near the rim if the opponent gets past your on ball defense. The on ball defense is rewarding to stop opponents momentum and make them pass or pick up their dribble. This allows for more touches and forces other players to be involved offensively.
    You can mix up the offense with mid range, 3 pointers, post play when playing a human opponent because of human error.
    I hope sports games developers can tweak things separately instead of universal where if you fix something for offline vs the cpu in a patch it could take away from the balance of head to head. I have seen this happen in many of the sports games.
    The CPU is a relentless force attacking the paint on all star and superstar. I CANNOT keep them out of there. Ive tried multiple defensive settings. I don't recall the demo playing like this. What happened?? It's really one of the few things that I find glaringly wrong and must be addressed, ASAP.
    The CPU is a relentless force attacking the paint on all star and superstar. I CANNOT keep them out of there. Ive tried multiple defensive settings. I don't recall the demo playing like this. What happened?? It's really one of the few things that I find glaringly wrong and must be addressed, ASAP.

    u wont be able to stop them on superstar but should be able to on all star
    They must have updated the game within the last few days since CPU takes far more mid-range shots when required (or have space)
    I tweaked sliders a week ago so it can't just be taking effect now
    1st off I'm loving the game but I hate the way the AI players go after loose rebounds. It's as if they can't lift their heads up to see where the ball is going lol. Also, this game NEEEEDS player editing. That whole Synergy thing is cool but they should have never taken away the ability to edit from the person playing the game.
    Still have a blast with this game, but here's a few things I hope will get addressed:
    1. No real mid-range game
    2. Not enough fouls are called to validate the collisions
    3. I think the default speed should actually be lowered. It's too zippy.
    4. There's a lot of circus layups that some players shouldn't have the ability to pull off
    5. Still too many blocks and steals
    6. The One's NBA games need some sort of chemistry system to prohibit us from essentially controlling the offense at will (calling for passes, shots, etc.)
    7. Player/team tendencies seem off
    IGN was right about this game's lack of animations. I'm guessing ea did something to where the ai will now attempt wide open jumpers, but the ai still attacks the paint at an unrealistic amount of times, even with me playing pretty good defense. Most of the time, the ai's PG is usually Jalen Rose's 'cold player' since they brick so many layup attempts.
    Just finished a game against the grizzles and Conley triggered the jostle animation 4 times in a row, determined to drive to the rim no matter what. It just looks bad, and every pg plays like this in this game. There's also a weird layup/hook shot animation that I've seen several times now where the player jumps backwards as the ball soars in the air that goes in every time. I guess it counts as a wide open shot, even if a defender is nearby.
    Fair points, although you can definitely use the shot stick in the post, and also to dunk.  I also haven't really had much trouble with the defensive AI from my teammates, there are far more "WTF is he doing???" moments in 2k, where shooters are constantly left wide open regardless of my settings.
    For me, Live just needs to continue working on their animations.  There just needs to be more variety in some areas, particularly the finishes around the rim.  I can live with it having less animations than 2k, because honestly I find Live more responsive, but there's still room for improvement without ruining what they already ave working for them.
    The 1v1 game and the defensive side of the ball are the two areas where I feel Live really excels above its competitor in terms of gameplay.  The lack of gliding and skating is a real plus for me, it feels like defense actually matters.  I also think 'The One' is probably my favorite career mode ever, can't get enough of that right now.
    Nice article and very accurate and as a person who has played the demo from day 1 and only been playing live - your spot on with the gameplay and some of the things that can be tuned.  i feel its about a patch or 2 away from really being an awesome game -its very good, but yes the  mid range game is non existent even with slider tuning its just not there.  And one of my main gripes is CPU coaching substitutions, I have experienced numerous times, key starters on the bench during crunch time of the 4th quarter, I also experienced as a starter, being subbed out in the 2nd quarter and not starting the 3rd.  Things that can be fixed.  Another thing that needs to be looked at are the extreme amount of blocks compared the the amount of fouls "not" called - many games teams will combine for 15-18 blocks (with block slider at 0) and combined for a total of 12-15 free throws - and nobody is ever in foul trouble (with all foul sliders at 100).  That can make a lot of people feel its arcade like.  if they make the sliders more responsive and patch out a couple of things it will be fine.   
    In my opinion the devs must add an option "mode" apart from difficulty.It should be in 19 but I think it would be essential if they add it with a next patch & I am sure it will turn this already nice game to great. Mode should be like "Sim" , "normal" & this change should affect ONLY the sliders of the game & not the difficulty of how the cpu plays. On Sim mode there must be completely different ratings in specific sliders such as fouls , contested shots , dunks- lay ups sucess, collisions things like that. I think it is easy for the devs to add this & it will definitely up this game
    Game doesn’t feel like it did in the demo anymore, lot of weird stuff happens. It always feels like the more tweaks EA makes the more broken the game gets.
    I never used sliders in the past but I’ve tried them this year to try to make franchise playable but it just seems to mess other things up, lowering layups and stuff so the cpu doesn’t make every contested layup just results in wide open layups or ones that should be made being bricked. Or guys who are only average shooters having no green release at all and not making open shots that are perfect releases.
    Haven’t been able to find a balance.
    Playing online is almost pointless since there’s no way to play against people you know, people online just seem to play the worst possible basketball, never calling any plays and just abusing the paint. While I can still manage to beat some of these fools it just doesn’t make for a fun time doing it.
    I’m finding myself playing more of the other game and this one less and less. I’ll keep watching for them to patch in online matchmaking or invites but it looks like at this point this is all we’re getting.
    Sent from my iPhone using Operation Sports
    The fun factor is still there for me. The game is not a total SIM and that's perfectly fine with me. It gives a nice change of pace to years of having very little fun with 2k even with the plethora of options and modes.
    Live doesn't have a ton of depth, even in The One which is really fun, especially getting online with friends. I maxed out my player a week after release and the only thing with some longevity is how fun it is to grind for crates and the take downs/Live Run with friends.
    I haven't even touched Franchise after reading about its lack of features. There are things that drive me crazy like court spacing issues and how they decide when a shot is contested by the CPU. Some repetitive animations and seriously sub standard commentary.
    What's crazy is that despite all these little (and some big) issues, the game is just flat out fun. The demo surprised the heck out of me and was shockingly addictive. and I feel pretty much the same about the full game after a month with it.

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