NBA Live 15 Review

Adjustments and tweaks make for an improved basketball title, but one still desperate to play catch-up with 2K.

Third-year Traiblazer point guard Damian Lillard is NBA Live 15’s cover athlete. An honor, for sure. Lillard introduces Live with a tutorial, an expose on enhanced dribbling mechanisms, hop steps, and spins – all flanked by Adidas logos. Lillard may be cover athlete, but Adidas is more important.

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It’s a brand-over-player approach. The young Trailblazer star may politely reinstate EA Sports troubled NBA Live with his voice work, however the camera is drawn toward logos. Half court practice arenas are swallowed by the light emanating from Adidas’ background iconography. Scoreboards burn from the punishing white contrast flooding in from those three angular stripes. Then it pans down, not to Lillard, but his shoes. Turns out, it is the shoes to EA.

Then again, maybe this is the modern, post-Jordan NBA. They have LeBron and Kobe. Everyone else can wear their shoes.

We Love that Bas-ket-ball

NBA Live is an unfortunate bottom feeder. It needs anything it can get much like the NBA, so shoes it is. Whatever developmental foibles sidelined the once proud, enormous yearly sports franchise has long since evaporated with fumbled launches, delays, and miserable releases. Rival 2K is insurmountable.

Yet, NBA Live shows spunk. It’s different. Unlike the muscular (even robotic) tension of NBA 2K, Live is spunkier, more fluid. Live’s NBA turns toward the agile mobility of the sport, creating more dynamic scoring and a naturally flowing interior game.

What’s funny is how little NBA Live has changed. Birthed on Genesis and Super Nintendo in 1994, EA’s isometric play was revelatory – and also a viciously simple dunk fest. In 2014, it still is.

Control measures have been instituted. Dribble moves are essential in breaking defenders and picky shot systems (based in both timing and space) force temporary cool downs of unrealistic play. Certainly, there is a level of basketball IQ in place rather than a highlight reel celebration. But, the inside lane remains open.


Most trips down the court for the visiting team are greeted with bombastic broadcast audio design – those hammering two note bass lines meant to call on home crowds to blurt, “De-fense.” It’s literal. They truly want defense.

NBA Live is commendable for adding fluidity to ball handling. Simple right stick flicks are are logical. Yet, that is not what Live needed. Offensive overpowering leaves opposition hopeless even when on the ball. Baby steps in baby shoes apparently.

And that is appropriate: NBA Live is a reborn baby. Puny ESPN presentation work, still victim to EA Sport’s product-wide inattention, carries stumbling commentary and stiffened half/post game reports. Sideline camera workers are baffled as to where they should be in timeouts, and crowd reactions appear as if fans are transfixed on something else. Maybe it’s the Adidas logo; that thing is like a monolith.

There are expected things to do: Franchise, DLC-laced Ultimate Teams, created Superstar career mode, online competition. Call it derivative, but complete. Anyway considered, Live is still caught in an identity crisis between growing dedication to sports simulation and those roots which tie it to an era of NBA Jam. Back then, it all was experimental and trans-formative. Twenty years later, it still is, except now it’s transforming into a shoe catalog.

NBA Live 15 Review
Adjustments and tweaks make for an improved basketball title, but one still desperate to play catch-up with 2K.

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Freelance critic seen on Playboy, GameSkinny, and others. Passionate vintage game collector. Fervent physical media supporter and consumerism devotee.