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NBA Live 99 (PC) Review

Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: November 1998

Reviewer's Intro Comments

Readers of the newsgroup have been complaining of a "ticker bug." Apparently owners of NBA Live 99 (Live 99) cannot launch the game without not being connected to the Internet. The workaround is to open up Windows Explorer, get into your Live 99 folder, look for the nba99.ini and open it up. Then look for tickerspeed and set it to 0. Another thing prospective buyers should know of is that there are no rookies in NBA Live 99 because of the lockout. EA Sports has said they will offer roster updates. Remember Madden 99? Only took till like week 8 or 9.

Presentation/Graphics : 80
What's all this talk about the so-called facial expressions? I tried using switching cameras for 4 minutes and could not see the "facial expressions" that EA were marketing. However the facial expressions were most noticeable during replays or free throws. Doesn't make sense to me to focus on the facial expressions if it will not affect the gameplay, yet the fatigue problem got through.

The players in Live 99 looked a little fuzzy even with a 3dfx card and the latest Glide drivers. Nothing major, though. The players' actions are more fluid than last year's game. EA has done a great job with the motion capture. The reflections in the court are a nice feature, as well. EA incorporated real, authentic NBA courts and jerseys. Unfortunately, Live 99 will only let users play in 640x480 resolution. Imagine what Live 99 would look like at 800x600, well like I said, imagine... Overall though, the graphics were awesome as usual in an EA Sports game.

Presentation/Audio : 70
The audio in Live 99 is not terrible, nor is it great. The play by play announcer at times seemed really enthusiastic. However, some of the time, he sounds like he is not putting any emotion into his speech. The rest of the audio in Live 99 is pretty well done. The crowd even gets into the games on free throws. Sometimes the game freezes for a split second. I'm not sure if it's on my system or not. It seems when I turn off the play by play, the don't happen as frequently. For instance, in an average game, around 7 or 8 "split-second freezes" happen while the sounds are all on, and when its turned down, only about 3 of the split-second freezes occur.

Interface/Options : 83
Very first thing to do? Boot up the game, go to options and turn off screen transition. I made the mistake of not doing that. If the screen transition is not turned off, it will require a lot of patience on your part. Believe me.

EA Sports' once again included the click and drag feature for substitution. This makes it nice and easy to sub players out when they get into foul trouble. (Notice I did not mention fatigue).

There are a few things I disliked about the team calendars. One is that the win and losses should be color-coded. That way if your team goes 81-1, you can just keep on clicking on the months to see whom you lost to.

It is very easy to customize the rules that you would like have enforced, as well as the details. Live 99 also includes an option to allow users to customize their buttons.

The programmers of the Live 99 team should have included some kind of "game milestone" caption that would be displayed whenever a player hits one of the game milestones. Example of the milestones I'm referring to are: 20 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds, triple double, etc.... Fans of Madden 99 would have a better idea of what I'm referring to.

The addition of the career mode is a step in the right direction. The career mode lacks features such as the draft and there is no salary management. Of course, this precludes any bidding wars on free agents. The lack of a salary management may be due to the NBA's restricting EA Sports from implementing it into the game. I would not have minded if EA Sports had used some kind of a point system instead. The NBA players in Live 99 never retire. A good thing about the career mode is that the computer actually offers you trades. Most of the trades that I've been offered usually occur during January or February. I have not been offered a trade during the start of a season yet. The career development progression chart lets users view the player's progress throughout the 10 seasons. It charts players' ratings and players lose or gain points. At the end of the 10 seasons, you are taken to a "decade in review" screen. It denotes your championship seasons, win/loss record for all ten years, as well as the other vital statistics.

Live 99 lets people customize their leagues by selecting the number of teams, which teams are included and what division they belong to. Users can even draft their own dream team. I'm a REAL BIG fan of being able to save games in progress, which Live 99 included.

Gameplay : 75
Live 99 features a practice mode, 3-point contest, semi-NBA Jam style balling, and, of course, the so called "simulation" mode. The practice mode is limited to only one player. It would have been nice to have the option to play a friend or a computer in a 1 on 1, 2 on 2 or 3 on 3 pickup game. The practice mode does not really serve a purpose except to pass some time. The same shots you make in the practice mode will not go in during a normal game. Well, at least not most of the time. Live 99 include an arcade option for those looking for a NBA Jam type game. The turbo mode implemented in the arcade option is similar to that of NBA Jam's famous turbo button. It goes down as you hold the turbo button and goes back up if you let go. The 3-point contest in Live 99 will provide some excitement for a short period of time. Never forget, though, that games are always more enjoyable with a human opponent.

Direct Passing is a HUGE PLUS. Users can simply hold down their Button 7, and from there, passing to a specific teammate can be as easy as pressing a button that is designated under the number of the player. This feature also works for selecting a particular defensive player. Another good feature is the "bunny hop" the NBA players use. The programmers seems to incorporate this feature very nicely, although it tends toward overuse. The players in Live 99 seem to use it on every dunk, but as it doesn't affect the outcome of the play, it's not a big deal.

Users can throw the ball baseball style down the court after the opposing team scores and usually get an easy dunk. This can be done on any of the difficulty settings. Players can still blow right past defenders using the turbo button. I almost got a dunk or layout every time I tried going to the hoop on the All-Star setting. I had to try out the Superstar difficulty. Guess what? I was still able to blow right past the computer's defenders, just not as easily as on the All-Star setting.

The players in Live 99 seemed to be protected by some kind of shield. I was able to push the opposing player out of bounds without the two players actually coming into contact. Weird.

There are 3 "bugs" in Live 99 that annoyed me the most. Steals occur by the bushel. On the Superstar level (highest difficulty), I was averaging around 25 steals a game (7 min. quarters). The second thing is the fatigue problem. I usually play 7 minute quarters and, believe it or not, the computer does not get tired. Seems like that should be part of Quality Assurance's responsibility, to catch obvious flaws such as the fatigue bug. Finally, rebounds. How do players usually grab rebounds? By jumping up in the air. Well 4/5 of the time, that is how players get rebounds in the NBA. The players in Live 99 who just stay put without going airbound for the ball will usually come up with the rebound. Often the players who ended up with the rebound seem to jump up in the air after the ball lands in their hands. Sort of like what you can call a "delay jump" if there were a such thing. A Live 99 fanatic, Alan Wilson, addressed the fatigue problem by putting together a patch that decreases the fatigue ratings for all of the players. Poor Alan should not have to use his time to fix a bug. Thanks Alan, we appreciate your taking your time to clean up after EA. EA should have caught this problem before the game shipped.

Difficulty : 80
The AI is vastly improved over NBA Live 98. The computer will pass the ball to an open guy if a player comes and double-teams the ball handler, unlike Live 98 where players sometime pass the ball to a guy who is covered instead of a wide-open player. The thing that users have an advantage on against the computer is the turbo button. The computer does not seem to be able to use any sort of speed burst.

Playing on the Superstar level will cause shots that you usually sink to go off target. For some reason, the computer seems to be able to make those 15 feet jump shot around 50 percent of the time, and I was only able to hit the shot 30 percent of the time on the Superstar level. However, while playing on a lower difficulty, my percentage increased to around 50 percent. Superstar level does produce close to real life stats though. Well, at least 7 or 8 minute quarters does.

Overall : 75
Even with the fatigue and the other issues, Live 99 provides exciting arcade basketball with no competition in the market. NBA Live 99 had the potential to be something special, if it wasn't for the bugs. PC basketball fans looking for a basketball game don't really have a choice on which game to purchase, but the choice is not a bad one. NBA Live 99 should keep you occupied over the holidays.

By: James C. 11/25/98

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