NBA Live 2000
Windows - 1999
Description of NBA Live 2000
Twenty years ago today
It's almost twenty years ago now, but I remember like it was yesterday. A teenager in love. Ahem. A teenager tuning in to tape-delayed (damn you, CBS!) NBA playoff broadcasts late at night, keeping the volume on the old black-and-white 14-incher in my bedroom down low so my parents couldn't hear. Seeing Kareem and my beloved Lakers take on the likes of the Elvin Hayes-led Rockets and the Julius Erving-helmed Sixers. Ah, where have you gone, Maurice Cheeks?
For the past decade, however, the NBA and I have been estranged. David Stern and his "market the stars, screw the game" approach left me cold. To me, basketball is a great team sport. Everyone on the floor has a crucial role to play. Seeing this ignored, first by the marketers, then by the spoiled brat new generation of players, turned the NBA into an afterthought.
Now, thanks to two very good PC games, I might have to rethink that approach. The first salvo was fired by High Voltage and Microsoft when the two teamed up to release the truly excellent NBA Inside Drive 2000 late last summer. The second came just these past two weeks, when I spent a great deal of time with EA Sports' NBA Live 2000. What the former did to renew the pure sport of basketball in my eyes, the latter did to revive the moribund NBA through a killer blend of fun and challenging gameplay at least rooted in the real thing and an unprecedented show of glitz that even Mr. Stern has been unable to accomplish on TV broadcasts. Taken together, it all adds up to a lot of exciting entertainment and perhaps the best NBA Live released during the series' lengthy run.
Gimmie the rock
First and foremost, NBA Live 2000 is jammed with options. Like all of the Y2K versions of the EA Sports line, the game features enough glitzy frills to make Elton John's fashion consultant jealous. Exhibition, Season, Playoff, Franchise, 3 Point Shootout, 1-on-1, Practice, and internet multiplayer modes are available. Games can be played using either Arcade or Simulation settings at four difficulty settings---Rookie, Starter, All-Star, and Superstar. Virtually every aspect of gameplay can be adjusted, from basics like quarter length through more specific items like Defensive Fouls, Injuries, Backcourt Violation, and the Shot Clock. As you might expect, the latest addition to the NBA Live family is very arcade oriented no matter what options you tweak. Gamepad skills are all-important, and an eight- or ten-button pad is a requirement here. These extra buttons allow you to pass, shoot, fake, pivot, hand check, jump, crossover dribble, face up on an opponent, and call plays.
A few of the menu screens, including a frightening glimpse at my new look in the Player Editor. All players in the game can be edited, and new ones can be created if you want to add either yourself or a hot rookie that the designers missed to your favorite roster. Creating a player from scratch can be a lot of fun, thanks to added bonuses such as EA's new Face in the Game technology and the presence of really goofy options like afros and every type of facial hair known to (skateboarding) man. Take a look at the character I created above, complete with spray-painted afro, James Worthy-inspired goggles, and facial hair unseen in North America since the Mod Squad was the hottest show on TV. I wanted to create a whole roster of these freaks and send them into Franchise play courtesy of the Custom Team option, but homebrewed squads can only take part in Exhibition, Season, and Playoff modes. Well, perhaps the world is better off. And I can insinuate my weirdoes into various league teams as free agents.
One of the coolest new touches is the addition of all-star teams from the NBA's five decades to the standard roster of all the current NBA teams and players. Take the likes of Julius Erving, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and, yes, even Michael Jordan into today's NBA, play a little one-on-one, or simply stage a "decade vs. decade" match to see which really featured the finest roundballers. The clubs are fairly complete, with one big exception: no Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. To a huge Laker fan, this is a major problem. Hopefully EA's crack legal team will keep working to get his participation in next year's game.
In the paint
On lower difficulty settings, gameplay is still rather simplistic. Rookie and Starter modes offer little challenge to even the most dexterity-challenged. Centers and star players dominate every match-up, and you can pretty much dunk at will with just a few minutes practice. Crank things up to All-Star or Superstar, however, and the situation changes considerably. At these levels, the game turns into real, competitive basketball. The difference between the latter two and the former is huge, sort of like that between the NBA All-Star Game and the final minutes of a playoff game. Defense is a main priority of the computer, and you have to work the ball around to have any chance of scoring, let alone actually winning a game. Using the tried and true Live strategy of simply driving the paint with a big man will typically result in a brick, blocked shot, or quickie turnover. Simplicity doesn't work. The down side to this is that you need to be particularly skilled with your gamepad to properly compete. Remember those crossover, fake, hand check, and face up buttons I mentioned earlier? Well, you need to master tham all now.
Another big improvement is in fatigue ratings. While this function was essentially broken in last year's game, allowing the player to keep his starting five on the court for the full 48 if he so desired, such isn't the case any longer. Players get tired now, and substitutes have to be sent in. Bench strength means a lot here. Not having good sixth and seventh men can kill you if you're taking on a deep opponent. To me, this made the overall experience---particularly in Franchise play---much more realistic, as it related a good impression of the strengths and weaknesses of the real NBA rosters. Getting to see first-hand why the Lakers still aren't going anywhere without some serious dealing is a nice plus that shouldn't be underestimated.
Speaking of Franchise mode, it's been completely overhauled this time out. Which is a good thing, because what passed for it in NBA Live 99 was ill-conceived and practically useless. You can now take the helm of your favorite team for 25 consecutive seasons, guiding your boys to either glory or a lottery pick. Bulls or Clippers, it's up to you. Well, it's not totally up to you. The PC is pretty astute in rating talent, so don't expect to be ripping off any rival clubs. Drafting is also a bit of a crapshoot, as can't miss top ten prospects sometimes do. All in all, everything is well done here, from the draft scouting reports of rookies through retirements.
Yeah, jaw-dropping is an overdone phrase I'd rather not use, but my thesaurus can't come up with anything more appropriate here. Of course, there are a few flies in the ointment. The pace of the game is too fast. The PC always works the ball quickly, running up the court and generally going on eight cylinders at all times. I'd prefer this to the often glacial pace of the real NBA these days, too, but this is still a little much. Players can get vertical in a hurry, and in a big way, resulting in far too many blocked shots. This can lead to a lot of frustration when first playing on All-Star difficulty, as it seems like most of your shots are smacked back in your face. It also results in a fair number of goaltending calls. Running still feels rather uncomfortably like gliding. As happens every fall when I get back into an NBA Live title, I spent the first couple of games just trying to stay in-bounds. Fouls aren't as numerous as they should be, even when the Defensive Fouls slider bar is cranked all the way to the right. Worst of all, I've experienced a number of hard crashes in the later stages of games. There's no warning, just a sudden sound loop and everything freezes. Defragging my drive and upgrading to SB LiveWare 3.0 hasn't helped, so I still go into the closing minutes of each contest with my fingers crossed.
Overall, while the gameplay succeeds in almost every way, it never approaches the sim-like atmosphere of Inside Drive. The fun is there, but the serious nature of Live 's main competition isn't. I'm sort of at a loss to explain why this is. Perhaps the excessive, TV-inspired glitz gets in the way somehow. Perhaps the accelerated pace and rather simple-minded offense hamper the illusion. As only a fairly casual basketball fan these days, I don't know. But Inside Drive seems grittier and more authentic to me, a depiction of basketball, where NBA Live 2000 is a depiction of the NBA. This doesn't seem like much, but it makes a huge difference in how each game plays out.
The chocolate Milky Way
In terms of visual presentation, NBA Live 2000 is unmatched. Animations are excellent, with everything from vicious jams to simply walking the ball up-court coming off as authentic as a TNT broadcast. Players also simply look the part, with faces and expressions taken from real life. Instead of that spooky old eterna-grin that everyone used to wear, they now grimace, trash talk, and celebrate. Close-ups interspersed with the action help accentuate just how good this game looks. A great play might be rewarded with a TV-style zoom in on the scorer as he heads back down the court to concentrate on defense. Going to the line always features an up-tight shot of the shooter, complete with his stats for the day. Unfortunately, as impressive as these little touches undoubtedly are, they also slow the game down. Shooting a pair from the line takes an eternity, with the camera focusing in on the player before each shot. The extended pause before the PC shoots, or before the player is allowed to shoot, is also interminable. On higher difficulty settings with fouls cranked up to a realistic level, this problem falls just short of maddening. It really interrupts the flow of the game. Hopefully a patch will be issued to speed up or at least allow us to click through these frill animations.
In-game audio doesn't keep up with the graphics. Play-by-play, provided by St. Louis, err, Vancouver Grizzlies broadcaster Don Poier, consists of nothing but bland monosyllables raving about what just took place on the court. Color man Reggie Theus says practically nothing at all, usually confining his similarly brief commentary to introducing the stats between quarters. He's so rarely heard during on-court action that I at first suspected that a bug was shutting him up. Considering he's promoted on the back of the box, it's hard to believe that he's supposed to be this quiet. At any rate, it's a long way from the fantastic commentary heard from Kevin Calabro and Marques Johnson in Inside Drive.
As disappointing as this is, it's almost mitigated by the incredible soundtrack of tunes featured in the front end. While the most recognizable track is Naughty by Nature's "Hip Hop Hooray," there are a number of other real gems. The original "Shake'n the Floor" performed by Rahzel and the NBA Live Orchestra serves as a great warm-up during the opening video, and the addition of George Clinton's "Mothership Starship Connection (The Second Coming)," a great early 80s sequel to "Mothership Connection (Star Child)." As one of two white guys in Ontario addicted to Parliament, thank you. Hard to think of better people to contribute to a game's musical score than Clinton and Bootsy Collins.
As much as I hate to admit it, I installed NBA Live 2000 with a lot of preconceptions weighing on my mind. After enduring the boring jam-fests of Live s 98 and 99, and having seen what could really be accomplished in a basketball game in Inside Drive this past summer, I didn't have my hopes up. After two weeks spent playing the actual game, though, I'm more than happy to admit that I was wrong. This is a very entertaining look at NBA basketball that provides accurate play both on and off the court. It's still tilted toward the arcade side of the table, but this is balanced with a sensibility that seems based in the real world for a change. While hardcore basketball nuts might still be left unimpressed by some of the concessions to excitement over simulation, most of us will be having too much fun too care about finer details. | |
Review By GamesDomain
Captures and Snapshots
Comments and reviews
jlnhlfan 2019-07-09 2 points
Try the steps on here. https://classicgamefixes.wixsite.com/home/nba-live-2000
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