The NBA Live franchise has gone through some turmoil in recent years and EA Sports have failed to deliver a high quality basketball title that can rival the brilliant NBA 2K series. That’s not to say that they haven’t tried to right the wrongs of past games, it’s just that they haven’t found that balance of great gameplay and addictive modes to draw players in. The latest attempt is NBA Live 19 and EA Sports have promised their most polished basketball experience yet, accompanied with a whole host of features and content that will keep basketball fans along with general sports game fans, busy for quite a while. I’ll start off then by saying that they’re not wrong when they say that there are a whole host of different game modes and features in NBA Live 19. It’s packed with things to do whether you want to jump straight in to a game or whether you want to build your Ultimate Team or take your created player through the ranks to become ‘The One’. There’s definitely a lot here to sink your teeth in to.
Where EA Sports have fallen short in the past though is in the delivery of a good solid gameplay experience and the improvements this year are pretty significant. NBA Live 19 plays much better than previous years with a simplistic control scheme that will attract casual players but with enough advanced, tricker moves for hardcore veterans to get in to. There is an easy learning curve for the basics needed to enjoy the game and the gameplay experience thrives on this but if you feel that you want to delve deeper in to the controls and take your playing style to the next level then you won’t be disappointed by the advanced controls on offer here. It’s certainly the smoothest, most responsive NBA Live game that I’ve played for quite some time and it can be a whole lot of fun to play. Movement is hugely improved, the passing system is responsive with some great options available allowing for different build up plays and shooting can be as simple or as advanced as you want but whichever you try, either one brings the most satisfying NBA Live game to play so far this generation. Does this deliver the same gameplay quality as the NBA 2K series? Not quite but it’s clear here that EA Sports are taking the right steps towards that goal and there is no doubt that NBA Live 19 is fun to play.
Authenticity in EA Sports titles has never been an issue and it’s no different here as there are a whole host of licenses on offer from teams, players, sponsors and courts. Having said that though NBA Live 19 seems to lack the atmosphere that is so prominent in EA Sports titles and the NBA 2K series. It’s hard to pinpoint the sole reason for this but it seems to be a combination of little things that just don’t seem to blend well together. The audio is flat with a mediocre soundtrack and dreary commentary within the matches but crowds and even the players themselves lack flair within the overall atmosphere. It all seems a little flat and underwhelming which is surprising considering the history of EA Sports titles. The menu systems look messy and aren’t the most pleasing to navigate around. It would seem that EA Sports have taken 2 steps forward with the gameplay but also taken 2 steps back with capturing that lively NBA atmosphere that 2K seem to nail every single year. There aren’t any crashing dunks with the epic replays to accompany them, but instead we get a few claps from the crowd and a couple of high fives between the players. There are no epic celebrations or exciting replays showcasing that moment of pure adrenaline which is disappointing.
As always though the visuals in NBA Live 19 deliver high quality and again, while they’re not quite to the standard of the NBA 2K series they’re pretty damn good and a big improvement over the last couple of years. Players look like there real life counterparts and the attention to detail is executed very well indeed. The courts look great with high detail and clothing moves naturally as you would expect to see so visual presentation here is top notch and looks great on a standard Xbox One but even better in 4K on an Xbox One X. Animations have also been greatly improved and this is an area where NBA Live 19 completely outshines the NBA 2K games. The fluidity in the movement of the players is fantastic and I have no doubt that these much improved animations are contributing to the improved gameplay mechanics also. Players glide smoothly with the ball as every little detail in movement is implemented and the collision system is excellent with every bump, slip and barge dynamically crafted to ensure the smoothest most natural of movement throughout the roster. EA Sports have done a great job ensuring that animations really stand out this year.
As mentioned earlier, there are tons of game modes including the real low point for me with this game and that is in its microtransaction heavy Ultimate Team Mode and its without doubt the most intrusive Ultimate Team in any of the EA Sports titles including FIFA. While these are purely optional, I felt that there was a more pushy approach with this one and I didn’t like it one bit. FIFA has it too but it’s nowhere near as intrusive as I found the formula being used here. It’s disappointing that this is the case as it spoils and otherwise content filled basketball game. Despite that though the other modes all offer a great experience including online multiplayer and I had no issues in this department. Matches were quick to be found and I experienced barely any drops, of any in server quality or match lag. I am impressed with the overall quality of the online experience in NBA Live 19, but it’s to be expected considering EA have a reputation of offering smooth online experiences. The mode that I found taking up most of my time though was ‘The One’, a Mode that allows players to take their created player through the ranks to become a superstar. There is a really good levelling up system with skills to unlock and new attire to earn and I had bad of fun with it. I have to say that I had my reservations about this game going on past entries in the series, and while it isn’t without its flaws, NBA Live 19 is a fun basketball game and is a massive step in the right direction.