NBA Live 2001
Windows - 2001
Description of NBA Live 2001 Windows
It's Not Just Getting Older...
For reasons known only to the design team at EA Sports, NBA Live 2001 is not as good as its predecessor. This is a pretty good trick, actually, as for all intents and purposes, it's the exact same game as its predecessor. You'll have to look close before you'll be able to tell one from the other, and even then the disparities are often subtle. Tallying the differences between NBA Live 2001 and NBA Live 2000 are as easy as picking out the elements that distinguish a Backstreet Boys single from one by N'Sync.
And just as good a use of your valuable time. NBA Live 2001 just isn't a rewarding game. Both veterans of the long-running series and newcomers will pick out more and more irritating flaws as the number of games played begins to mount. Even though the NBA Live brand name has been around for going on a decade now, it's never quite captured basketball as well as it could, or as well as some of the early efforts promised. Last year's title was arguably the best ever, though, a fact that magnifies the shortcomings of the new game and makes one think that some sort of opportunity has been squandered here.
...Okay, It's Just Getting Older
Gameplay issues, many of which were rectified or seemingly on the way to being rectified last year, strike the gamer like a Karl Malone forearm to the face right after the tip-off. The NBA Live series has always featured slightly wonky player movement more akin to boots on ice than sneakers on parquet. Last year's game introduced some refinements to this ongoing problem. This year's game takes us almost back to square one. It's as easy as it ever was to unintentionally go out of bounds or simply lose control of your player and the ball for a moment or two. There's just an awkwardness to all motion that makes it difficult to really get into the action and really feel like you're taking part in a basketball game.
From showtime with the Answer to hitting the playground with Vince and Julius.\ Computer AI seems dumbed down. The PC drops the ball in virtually every area. Substitutions make no sense at all - be sure and turn off auto-substitution immediately. My starting point guard Steve Nash once took a foul five minutes into the first quarter and didn't return until the third. Thankfully, the CPU is just as hard on itself. The computer's Shaquille O'Neal once vanished from a tight contest with seven minutes to go and never returned. These are isolated incidents, but similar ones happen consistently through each and every game.
All CPU-controlled teams employ a standard, dishwater dull offensive scheme that emphasizes ball control. Conservative is the watchword here. You'll want to scream after a few games of seeing your adversaries do nothing but walk the ball up court, over and over again, in all circumstances. The lineup, the score, the time remaining on the clock---none of this seems to matter a whit. I've seen the computer lazily in-bound the ball, then wander up the court and not even get a shot off in the dying seconds of a two-point game. Needless to say, witnessing something like this can destroy all of the preceding fun.
Situational play also doesn't seem to get in the way of the computer's preset game plan. Hang back on killers like Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson and they'll usually just sit there, idly dribbling and waiting for the shot clock to tick down to five or six seconds before attempting to score. This dreary pace seems to have been implemented to keep scoring down. You can now play a full 48 minute game and end up with final tallies that are dead-on duplicates of what you'll see on ESPN Sportscenter. In the short season I just wrapped up with my redrafted LA Lakers, I never once scored more than 113 points. However, I did count around 164 yawns per game, so keep in mind that there's some trade off here for statistical accuracy.
And Maybe a Little Sleepy
Rebounding is another serious issue. In many ways it's almost a game killer, since even the most patient gamer is likely to be driven momentarily mad by it on occasion. Why? Well, simply put, rebounding doesn't work. The ball comes off the rim and the board at weird angles. You really can't predict where it will end up, meaning that you're best off giving up on boxing out opponents and just jumping in a randon direction a moment after the shot is released. Even then, the opposition will come away with the ball most of the time because your computer-controlled players tend to just stand around and look at it. While all enemy players in the vicinity madly scramble to corral the loose ball, you're typically all on your own. This supremely annoying problem caused me to walk away from my gamepad more than once in the past few days.
There's nothing as cool as setting up a game with classic rosters.\ There is also a scripted feel to most games. Even with the catch-up logic switched off, the CPU still manages to go on improbable runs. Your team will also hit cold streaks that, while somewhat realistic, seem planned and somehow forced. There's no real sense of being rewarded for a good play all the time. Hit a dry run, and you just know that you're going to miss that wide-open jumper from the low post, or that easy tip-in from right under the basket. Miracle shots from the computer tend to swish a lot more often than they should. I'm all for fairy tale endings, but I never, ever again want to see Bob Cousy score a one-handed three-pointer from center court with 0.3 seconds on the clock to win a game against me. There are only so many gamepads in the world, y'know.
While all the big ticket items---such as 25-season Franchise mode, Internet play and EA Sports match-up support, the one-on-one playground option, and the inclusion of classic players such as Michael Jordan, Jerry West, and Larry Bird---are back for another kick at the can, a number of features have been mysteriously pulled this year. In-game saving is perhaps the most noteworthy victim. This absolute necessity---particularly for diehards who enjoy playing full 12-minute quarters---has been excised for reasons unknown, so pray that you don't get called away when your Grizzlies are on the verge of upsetting the Lakers.
EA Sports doesn't skimp on the presentation. This is the best-looking NBA Live title ever released, though the differences are becoming more and more subtle as the years go on and the evolution of processing power seems to plateau. The crowd and stadium graphics and animations are spectacular, and players like Shaq, the Answer, and the Mailman look like they stepped from the court to your monitor. This is one of those showcase titles that you want to show off to your dad, your girlfriend, to the guy next door, etc.
Audio isn't quite up to speed, mostly because of the lame play-by-play provided by Don Poirer and Bob Elliott. Both repeat themselves over and over again. I'd be hearing Poirer's "Count it!" in my sleep if Elliott's annoying canned observations like "they're trying to be too fancy," weren't already keeping me awake nights. Interplay between the players is just about perfect, though. Protesting calls and giving props for good plays at the free throw line adds a nice touch of realism to the proceedings. The soundtrack is also excellent, once again boasting a great selection of hip-hop and rap tunes. That "Gotta Get My Freak On" song stays in my head for hours after shutting down the game.
For all its warts, NBA Live 2001 isn't an unenjoyable game---but it is a very unfulfilling one. Those who've followed the series in years past can't help but be disappointed. There aren't any serious advancements, and it's obvious that a number of steps have been taken backwards. Some important features have even been pulled. Newcomers would be best off heading to the bargain bin and digging around for a copy of NBA Live 2000. It's a better game, and you'll save enough money to treat yourself to a taco or two in the food court on your way out of the mall.
Review By GamesDomain
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