Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4
We played on: PlayStation 4
They say competition breeds innovation, but I’m not so sure that’s always the case. When it comes to choosing a basketball simulation video game, pickings are quite slim. You’ve got the always-excellent NBA 2K series from 2K Games and you’ve got the less excellent and sometimes terrible NBA Live series from Electronic Arts. With each passing year, NBA Live gets closer and closer to being a viable choice, but it’s still not there yet.
Regardless of the sport you’re playing, whether it be football, basketball, baseball, or something else entirely, the most important thing is to have your fundamentals down on the basic level. Things like dribbling, passing, shooting, and defending should all work well and function in harmonious balance. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be farther from the truth in NBA Live 16.
The simple act of moving your character around the court feels, for lack of a better term, off. Animations look wonky. Characters all move identically, and there aren’t enough body types for the game to truly feel unique. That being said, visually NBA Live is quite stunning. When the camera pans around or zooms in on players’ faces, the detail of each and every character model really shows through. Well, as long as you don’t look too closely once they start moving.
During my first game, it became immediately apparent that attempting to play defense was almost entirely pointless. I’m not the best at playing defense in basketball games. But I feel like I am at least reasonably competent. When some of the best defenders in the game were getting schooled by any and everyone, AI-controlled or otherwise, I knew something was up. Maybe it’s fixable with a patch, but it was infuriating how every game devolved into a back-and-forth shootout no matter what.
This is a shame, as the game actually has some really solid game modes to pick from. The traditional Dynasty and Rising Star modes continue to deliver the better experiences. With Live Run and Summer Circuit game modes, there’s certainly not a lack of content. Additionally, EA continues to offer the popular Ultimate Team mode. This is like a mixture of trading cards and fantasy basketball, which has gained a lot of attention in EA’s FIFA soccer and Madden football games.
Typically I try to judge games in a vacuum and limit comparisons, but it’s impossible for sports games. If you want to play a basketball game, your choices are either 2K or Live. I wish I could tell you that choosing between NBA Live 16 and NBA 2K16 is just a matter of preference, but I’m afraid it’s actually very simple. If you want to play the better game, then NBA 2K should be your choice.