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NBA Live 2000 (PC) Review

Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: November 1999

Background Info

EA's NBA Live series has been around for a while now. Year after year, we get the same situtation where a user can just take his guy to the hoop every play. This year, with two rookies entering the PC basketball genre, the competition will be fierce. How is EA's latest offering, NBA Live 2000?

Presentation/Graphics : 95
The game's graphics are just incredible. Each player is easily distugnishable by their face and their body. The player scalings are also dead on accurate. A Shawn Bradley is visibly a lot skinnier than a Shaq. Also, the motion capture team did a good job with the players' movement. Very realistic movements.

EA improved greatly in their facial animation feature. Players now react just as they would in real life. Sometimes the players will argue with the referee, or sometimes the players will just be disappointed in themselves for missing an easy dunk. The referees even have facial animation. Graphically, EA will have a tough time topping their efforts in next year's game.

The crowd actually applauded, although sometimes they seemed to applaud at the wrong time. From a distance, the crowd do look like they are 3-dimensional, not flat. Just about all the courts are accurately designed. The jerseys are accurately portrayed. The rim rattles around after a monster dunk, which adds to the realistic effects in the game.

There are a number of preset camera angeles in NBA Live 2000. Although the views are not totally customable, they are very close, as you can change the zoom from 1 to a 100. Also, most of them can be modified to the reverse angles.

While the graphics are nice to look at, they slow the game down a great deal. Shooting free throws takes way too long since the cameras have to show all the cut scenes of the player getting ready. I tried turning the cut scenes off, but during free-throws, I was forced to watch the player taking his time at the line. This needs to be fixed.

Presentation/Audio : 78
EA has been known for their revolutionary style of presentation. However, NBA Live 2000's two-man announcing team, Don Poyer and Reggie Theus, keeps the game from being a total package. Users would not even know that there is a two-man team without careful attentiveness. Reggie Theus says about four or five lines in a game. Poyer does have some decent lines, but it gets annoying during the latter stages of franchise mode when he says, "Number 75" instead of their name.

The sound effects in the game are extraordinarily well done. From the crowd noise to the squeaking sounds made by the players scattering up and down the floor, the sounds are as realistic as it gets.

A pretty major issue here is EA's decision to include what I call a controversial song. Part of the lyics go like, "That cat is a bad mother**cker." Come on now. That is simply a stupid choice by EA to have that song in the game. There are plenty of other songs that could have fit in the game. Other than that particular song, the other upbeat hip-hop songs are great.

Interface/Options : 96
Moving through the menus in the game might take a while to load. Besides the drag of waiting for the menus to load, they are well organized and easy to find without having to go through four or five buttons.

NBA Live 2000 features a plethora of features. I'll start off with the gameplay modes. The game includes franchise, 1-on-1, 3-point shootout, play-offs, season, exhibition, and network modes. All the modes are pretty self-explanatory. The 1-on-1 mode allows you to take it to the streets and play someone from the NBA, young or old, 1-on-1. The 3-point shootout is pretty similar to last year's version.

The franchise mode has been improved dramatically over last year's pathetic franchise mode. The career mode has a rookie draft, including a lottery for the top picks, just like the real NBA. NBA Live 2000 uses a point system, rather than a financial one. This is probably due to a conflict with the NBA. I'm not sure if it is just me, but I was always over the 1 million point cap with my teams. The cap almost prevents teams from being too good for too long. As a result of being over the limit, you are not able to sign any of the good free agents out there.

The rookie draft is pretty interesting. I decided to throw away a whole season by putting my worst players in the starting line-up. I ended up 3-79 and boy was I proud of myself! I ended up with the 3rd pick in the draft. During your process of choosing who to pick, you need to put in account their potential, strengths, and weakness. The game does not actually show the rookie's ratings, which is a good thing since no one is ever sure how good a rookie will be in the NBA. The cpu does not always take the projected first pick, either. They might go for someone more to their interest, that might be projected 4th or 5th. EA did an excellent job with the rookie draft portion of the game. Since most of the players in the 2nd round draft are sub-65 in overall ratings, I only wish they had included a steal in the 2nd round draft every now and then.

The game includes the MVP, Rookie, Sixth Man, and Defensive Player-of-the-Year Awards. It also has a All-NBA, All-Rookie, and All-Defensive teams of the year as well as having Play-of-the-Week/Month awards. Sometimes the All-Rookie team is a little off though. I had a rookie, the first pick in the 2nd round, who averaged 15 minutes, 2 points, .5 assist, and .3 rebounds who got chosen to the All-Rookie team. For the most part, there were no major quirks.

NBA Live 2000 also includes a "face in game" feature. This feature is pretty much the same thing as the one in NHL 2000. The feature has some minor quirks, but nothing to hold a grudge against. Works pretty well.

The simulation engine in the game is very accurate. There are numbers of statistic categories in the game. Not happy with the preset ones? You can calculate your own category in the game. Very nice touch indeed.

Last of all, NBA Live 2000 does have Michael Jordan. I respect Jordan greatly, but I'm not sure what the big hype of having MJ in the game is about. It doesn't really add much to the replay value, other than the 1-on-1 mode. This year, though, Live 2000 is not the only PC basketball game out there, and having Jordan's name on the box might entice some consumers to purchase the game over NBA Inside Drive 2000 or NBA Basketball 2000.

Gameplay : 93
The game speed in NBA Live 2000 is a little slower than last year's version yet still too easy for the game to be considered a sim. The dreaded fatigue bug is gone. The AI is vastly smarter. NBA Live 2000 feels more like basketball this year. The star players in the league will be doing the majority of the scoring, not just when you simulate, but when you are playing the actual game. Try to force a dunk, you will likely get blocked or miss the dunk. Try to throw a long bomb down court, the chances of your player ending up with the ball are not good.

Direct pass is still in the game. For those of you not familiar with the feature, it allows you to pass to a specific player by holding one button and pressing another button. Something new is the direct shoot feature. The premise is basically the same idea as the direct pass feature. The direct shoot allows players to force a dunk, hook shot, or a lay-up, although your player needs to be a certain distance from the hoop to be able to dunk. In other words, no, you can't dunk from the 3-point line.

The game does not appear to be bug-free though. On the Superstar level, my players would not even try to block the cpu's shot. I would have to take control of the player and press the jump button myself. Maybe I need to turn on/off an option? Feel free to let me know if you have any idea on a fix for this.

Something needs to be done with the human reaction time given on the defensive end. I've been beaten numerous number of times by quick first steps, simply because I can't move my players quick enough. It is nearly impossible for any human to stick to the ball handler at the Superstar level without losing him. EA should think about slowing the cpu down a little while they are on the attack.

The AI has been improved by a great deal. It is a lot harder to get pass the defender with the ball. This makes you pass the ball around working for a shot, instead of just going for a dunk everytime. The cpu does seem to have an advantage in steals as well as shooting percentage, excluding dunks and lay-ups. Other than those two, the game is very balanced between the user and the CPU. The AI will give the ball to the better players on their team and let them shoot. EA really improved the shot distribution. No longer will a player who normally averages fewer than ten points take 20+ shots in a game. A flaw in the AI on the Superstar level is that the CPU does not go to the basket when it has a chance to get an easy lay-up or dunk off a fast break. The CPU usually pulls up and waits for their teammates, no matter who is handling the ball.

As seen in previous NBA Live games, you can still call plays on the fly. Another nice feature is the 'on the fly screen.' By holding down a button, a user can call for a pick and one of their teammates will come out and set a pick.

After playing Fox's NBA Basketball 2000, which featured one of the worst rebounding models I've seen, I was hoping for anything a little better in NBA Live 2000. I was not a bit disappointed. In Live 2000, the guys who normally grab the rebounds in the NBA will end up with them in the game. Very realistic. The only grudge I have is sometimes there seems to be an imbalance of offensive rebounds. One game, I outnumbered the cpu in offensive rebounds by 4-1. Another game, I was out-rebounded in offensive rebounds by around 3-1. My team was ranked 10th overall in rebounds, and the team that out rebounded me ranked around 15th I believe. Go figure.

Overall, the gameplay has surpassed any previous PC hoops game out there today. Nothing out there matches NBA Live 2000's AI. Maybe EA will come out with a patch to decrease the AI's advantage with steals and their shooting percentage.

Replay Value : 95
The franchise mode will keep you busy for a while. It allows you to go through 25 seasons. One of my favorite features of the franchise mode is the rookie draft. The game does not show the ratings for each player, which would be no fun, since most of the time, the teams will take the guy with the higher rating. Instead, you have to rely on your scouting reports and decide who to take.

There are four difficulty levels in Live 2000. Personally, the only level that was able to provide me any sort of a challenge was the highest level, the Superstar level. The rest of the levels are not challenging enough for me.

EA also included the greats from the 50's all the way up to the 90's. The list includes Chamberlain, Erving, Jordan and more legends. You will have to put all these guys onto the regular team's rosters, or else they won't be available in the draft.

I encountered a minor problem while putting all the players into a 16-team custom league. I noticed that only the players of the teams that are in the custom league will be available in the draft. For instance, say the Spurs are not in the custom league, Robinson or Duncan would not be available to draft. Again, I would be interested in hearing any workarounds.

Overall : 93
EA has really improved on this year's NBA Live game. I was expecting a game with medicore AI and the ability to score by going to the hoop everytime, but the EA team proved me wrong. The only two major flaws in the game are the pathetic color commentary and the CPU's advantage on the Superstar level. Despite the two flaws, NBA Live 2000's realistic gameplay, incredible replay value and eye candy graphics make this a must-have for any basketball gamers.

By: James C. 11/18/99

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