NBA Live 14 was a great restart to the Live franchise, all though a bumpy one, with its unfinished graphics and clunky gameplay, Live 14’s experience just never felt complete. The great news is a NBA Live 15 is a seriously better game than NBA Live 14.
First up the graphics. If you pause the game and take a closer look at the players in NBA Live 15, you quickly see the technical strides this series has taken. Sweat realistically travels down bodies, which now sport muscles that retract and expand during drives to the basket. Jump shots, post moves, and even your steps all look more believable than those in last year’s game.
It’s true that not all the players are amazing, there’s a varying level of detail from player to player, but stars like cover athlete Damian Lillard, of the Portland Trail Blazers, look sharp, thanks to the motion capture work and 3D head scanning.
Moving on to environments, the arenas are spectacular, with little to no flaws in their presentation. You can see some nice reflections coming off the floor and some really gorgeous lighting to boot. I will give it to EA Tiburon, they know how to make an environment pretty and prove it with this game. Even the crowd s great as they boo, or cheer during free throws.
Okay, so onto gameplay. NBA Live 15 has improved its gameplay in two main areas; freestyle passing has returned with a bang. That is where the player holds down the right bumper and then whips the right stick in the direction of a teammate. It is amazingly easy and enjoyable and surprisingly more accurate than hitting A for a standard pass, given the sometimes jittery way the AI auto-selects the nearest teammate (especially if two or more are running in a line on the fast break).
The other feature is when you can send all of your teammates into motion with the press of left bumper. This can get them free for catch-and-release jump shots and even alley-oop dunks, which is a single button press of B.
As is standard now with most EA Sports games, once you start the game for the first time, you will be introduced to the game’s tutorial mode called “Learn Live.” This will load up while the game is still installing so you won’t have to wait long to get started on your drills. This is spread out across five areas of gameplay and, even if you are accustomed to playing another NBA game, you’ll want to go through all of these trainings just to be safe. The cover athlete Damian Lillard is there to talk you through the different tutorials and is very informative and helpful with his commentary (seriously).
In terms of gameplay modes within NBA Live 15. You can expect following;
Rising Star — This is basically your career mode. This mode allows you to create, shape and bring up to stardom your very own player. The NBA Live 15 the Rising Star mode works well and the progression system that accompanies it is easy to use. As you play and progress in games, you earn XP. The XP can be used to upgrade attributes of your player, such as dribble technique, shooting or defence.
Rewind— The mode allows you turn back on the collect on NBA history and through certain challenges re-write or rewind defining moments in NBA history and how the games turn out.
Dynasty — If you’ve played an EA Sports title before you’ll be familiar with this mode. It’s deep stuff and made for true NBA lovers out there. You can start an NBA dynasty as a general manager of a team. You go through drafting, games and whatnot.
Ultimate Team — In this mode, you build your own team through cards. Fans of the Madden series will be especially familiar with this mode. You obtain more packs of NBA cards and improve, replace and use your card team to succeed. You can have certain coaches, players, etc. in the cards.
Tip-off — Essentially this is a standard exhibition mode style of game. You’ll pit two teams against each other, using true players with real-life attributes attached to them in a one-time-through game.
Online — Enjoy this one. It is everything you wanted in an online basketball experience. It has an interesting levelling system attached to it, and is truly built for those hardcore NBA fans.
Overall, NBA Live 15 is all about playability. The latest instalment has catered to fans who have played basketball games for years as well as beginners to the franchise. While the game isn’t perfect, it is clearly ready to take on all comers and creates a firm foundation for EA to build upon for years to come. I’m excited for NBA Live 16.
NBA Live 15 was reviewed on the Xbox One using a retail copy provided by EA. The game is also available on the PS4.