Search For Posters!
  Join the SGN staff!
Help Wanted
Release Dates


About Us

The Sports

Partner Links
Auto Insurance Quote
Irvine Moving Companies
LA Moving Companies
Brand Name Shoes

NBA Live 2001 (PS2) Review

Background Info

PS2 Screeens(30)

If you're like me, you can't stand to watch the NBA these days. The game has regressed into a boring, slow version of its former self. Gone are the Lakers of the 80's with their "showtime" offense. It's been replaced by isolation plays and low (and I mean low) scoring games. Video game companies are probably caught in a quandary. Would a simulation based on the way the game is played today sell? Would it be fun? Who knows? I wonder if EA was thinking about that when it released NBA Live 2001 for the PlayStation 2.

For its inaugural basketball effort on the PS2, EA Sports presents NBA Live 2001. Reading from the instruction manual, the game claims to be the most realistic basketball game on the PS2, introducing a new inside game and improved sound. All the above is packaged with a few game modes that do their best to keep you busy during the NBA season. While no franchise mode shipped with the game, a customized season mode complete with limited front office moves is included. And of course you can expect every current NBA team with fairly up-to-date player rosters.

Presentation/Graphics : 80
By now I hope that the gaming public has figured out what to expect with the PlayStation 2. Aside from the atrocious graphics in NASCAR 2001, EA's games have a solid look to them. NBA Live 2001 is no exception. The player models are tight with accurate and detailed uniforms. With all the processing power of the PS2, one would expect picture-perfect player models. Unfortunately, that is not the case. It was hard for me to recognize any of my hometown Rockets by face alone. In fact, very few of the NBA players looked like their real-life selves. Furthermore, distinguishing features of some players were completely absent. The all-tattoo team Sacramento Kings had clean skin. "Superman" Shaq didn't sport his body marks either. And what's up with my hometown wild man Moochie? Moochie Norris has spent much of this season sporting a big, groovy, nappy afro and high white socks. In real life he's a trip - a throwback to the '70s. In Live 2001, he's just another face in the crowd.

One thing that is striking is the quality of the stadiums. The bright colors and nice textures create the best looking hardcourts I've seen yet in a console basketball game. Wood floors look realistic, and the stadium lights cast reflections in the polished wax floors. Off the court, Live doesn't keep up the same pace as Madden, but overall the scenery is acceptable.

However, animations are less than spectacular. Trying to steal the ball results in a player having strange, fast spasms. While many of the animations are fluid, they are time-consuming. Special moves take up to a second to complete, during which the ball is vulnerable to steals. Spin and juke moves require significant space to execute, and if you execute them near the base or side lines, you are almost certain to dribble the ball out of bounds. Shooting from behind the arc is afflicted with another problem. Collision detection between the three-point line and players' feet is awful. On more than one occasion I successfully hit a three-pointer where I swore my feet were on the line. Upon viewing the replay, my suspicions were correct.

The game has several camera modes available, though I never was happy with any of the views. You can play the game with an iso view, side-to-side, overheard, basket-to-basket, and more. Playing with the vertical (basket-to-basket) view, I reluctantly settled in. You can adjust the camera zoom, but one thing you can't change is the angle from which you view the action. The camera angle was too steep for my liking and actually decreased the graphical impact of the game.

Presentation/Audio : 60
Yawn. That's all you can say about the audio. The game claims to provide intelligent and relevant information with in-depth analysis by Bob Elliott and play-by-play by Don Poier. Those are EA's words, not mine. Sure there is commentary, but it's really boring. In fact, it's not much better than the matter-of- fact presentation of the stadium announcer, and you know how deadpan those guys are. Typical commentary is as exciting as "A nice shot from the 3-year veteran out of North Carolina." Or how about this one late in the game when you are losing and have the ball? I chuckled when down 6 with under 24 to go I heard, "They should just run out the clock." That's pretty optimistic guys. The commentary is so mundane you eventually are able to mentally block it out.

Interface/Options : 70
Over time I've begun to figure out the menu system in NBA Live 2001. The system is one of the least intuitive systems I've ever used. Starting out it wasn't too bad. The game options are clearly visible on the main screen. At your disposal are the modes of play available, which include Exhibition, Season, Playoff, Play Now, and one-on-one. The Play Now mode is simply an exhibition game without several selection options. On the main menu, you can switch over to a sub-menu with the L1 or R1 buttons. Here you'll be able to choose between game style (sim or arcade), skill level (four levels), game length (2 to 12 minute quarters), and more.

By now you must be thinking I'm a complete idiot for saying I had trouble with the menus. Well, hold on. This idiot hasn't finished yet. I started up a season mode and played a few games. I was a little hungry and wanted to save my progress off to the memory card. I found an option to save and load files, but unfortunately the "Save season" option was locked out. Hmmm. Another menu had the whole load/save feature inaccessible. Being the type of male that hates to ask for directions, I was determined to find the Holy Grail, the save key. My journey was fruitless, so I ate crow and headed to the manual. Load/Save. Highlight Save Season/Playoff, etc. Didn't work. Finally, I found a screen from which I could actually save the game (the calendar) and was happy. Then there was the time I simmed a season and wanted to view the final standings. The "Stats Central" option looked like a good place to start. There were team stats but no conference or division standings to be found. I had to consult the instructions for a second time. Now I know to look under "Menu" for that info? Huh? In this "Menu" option, you can't order a Happy Meal, but you'll get the skinny on standings and injury lists.

If you don't mind the confusing menu system, you'll find plenty of options at your disposal. You can adjust team strategy, change the rules of the game, modify the audiovisual settings, and more. In fact, the level of customization is great. About the only thing missing was an option to change the speed of the game, which I found to be a little on the frantic side. In the season mode, the game will even let you set the sim length of a game. That is, if you play with 5 minute quarters, you won't get accurate stats. While your team may score 40 points, the rest of the league will score plenty more. To even it out, you can adjust the sim quarter length. By setting it equal to the length of your quarters, all teams are on an even level. Scores are similar league wide, and the statistical categories are also more equal.

Gameplay : 60
As I played NBA Live 2001, one thing became apparent. This is no sim. In fact, if you were to compare it to another one of EA's games, I'd say FIFA would be an excellent comparison. FIFA claims to be a soccer simulation, and much of the gaming public blindly agrees. But the more you watch real soccer, you realize FIFA is nothing more than an arcade footy game wrapped in simulation clothing. FIFA lacks so many elements of real soccer that you simply can't call it a simulation. Same with NBA Live 2001. This may come as a shock to some of you Live clones, but this game is nothing but an arcade game with a few simulation elements. This is the FIFA of basketball games.

I'll first approach the gameplay from the point of view of a fan of sports simulations. Today's basketball is watered down and full of isolation plays that frankly is quite boring. I don't want a game like that. I'd rather play a game based on the basketball of the 80s and early 90s. Good fast break offense, great low post play, and ball movement to me are the keys to a basketball game. Unfortunately, I find that Live 2001 fails on all fronts. First, when the Rockets were winning their championships, I'd tune into the radio to hear Gene Peterson call the action. "Hakeem backing it down, backing it down." When I play NBA2K or NBA2K1 on the Dreamcast, I can put Hakeem down on the block and back the opposing center down. NBA Live 2001 claims to let you back a defender down. In reality, no matter which center I use, I can only back an opponent down about 3 inches before my player hits a brick wall. I want to be able to back it down, get double-teamed, and pass it out to the open man. If a double team comes, I can pass the ball out, but the response is so slow that the defense rotates with the ball and quickly covers my open man. There's no such thing as catch and shoot in Live 2001. It's catch, finish animation, set, shoot.

One reason for the inability to back players down is that they are all brick walls. If you try to drive from the perimeter, the outstretched arms of your defender prevent you from turning the corner, even if Steve Francis is in a mismatch with someone like Shaq. This is especially evident on "fast breaks." Imagine my disgust when I stripped the ball at the top of the key from my opponent's point guard. The AI team instantly retreated, and as I headed down the court with the turbo button firmly pressed the opposing point guard was facing me up, arms stretched. The high-speed backpedaling makes true fast breaks a rarity. And don't expect any help. Your teammates sluggishly trudge down the court a full 3 or 4 seconds behind you. If you can't penetrate you have to wait at the top of the arc for a teammate or two to show up.

What's more disgusting is that even on these pseudo-fast breaks, you can get in the paint. But then when you are two or three feet from the basket, you'll toss your shot up (either a lay-up attempt or pull up for a short jumper) and be shocked when you throw a brick. Even when attempting the "all new inside game" short jumpers routinely bang off the rim. Even wide-open three-foot shots clank. Fortunately, this afflicts both you and the AI team, but it really is annoying. It's so bad that in the several dozen games I've played, I have yet to play a game where the AI team made more than 40% of their shots. In fact, most games end with field goal percentages near 30%. What's more, these short shots create rebounds which travel a good distance from the basket. An inside presence is meaningless as AI players go over the back for an easy rebound. Initially, the AI players had incredible offensive rebounding stats. There is no true box-out move, but I did find some team strategy options. Included were options for boxing out and crashing the boards versus getting back on offense or defense. Frustrated by the uneven offensive rebounding stats, I instructed my team to get aggressive on the boards. While it has helped, the game still is flawed with too many offensive rebounds by AI teams even when you have 2 or 3 players close to the basket.

Another significant problem I have with Live 2001 deals with passes and animations. Too many times I'll pass to a player and for some reason he'll dribble and pick up his dribble before I am in control of him. This effectively locks the player out from any penetration moves. Or I'll catch the ball, pump fake, get my defender in the air, attempt to go around him, and find my feet are glued to the floor. Yet one more problem is steals. Even with the fouls set to the maximum, I could swat at the ball all day long with little penalty. My modus operandi is to repeatedly attempt steals with my point guard. To date, the most number of reach-in fouls I've been called for in one game is about four. Each time down the court I'll swat at least a dozen times. I usually end up with double digit steals with 6 minute quarters. Another issue is illegal defense. I felt the game was too strict with illegal defense calls. If I played as the center, I'd stay within 4 feet of my man at all times. But this often wasn't close enough for the CPU, so illegal defense was called. I eventually turned it off.

So from a simulation standpoint, Live 2001 has numerous problems. Judged as an arcade basketball game it fares better, but it still comes up short. The AI is rudimentary beyond belief. While the game does feature set plays, you can't call them unless you are in the "locked player" mode (you play one position the whole game). In its absence, players run around like headless chickens. It felt like pinball more than basketball due to the random chaos I was perceiving. On long rebounds I'd watch as my big men scrambled for the ball yet some players in the vicinity of the ball would stay glued to their spot. I'd watch the AI team give me a game. With 30 seconds to go and my team up by 6, I expect the CPU to foul. The AI team just lets me stand in one spot and dribble the clock down. On rare fast breaks I have seen CPU-controlled players run away from me, ball handler.

I should note that my impressions were formed by moving up through the difficulty levels. After playing numerous games on the All-Star level (third highest of four), I moved up to the most difficult Superstar level. The AI problems and game flaws were apparent in each level. The AI team's shooting percentage was bad no matter the level, the rebound stats never changed, and so on.

Replay Value : 50
I have to be honest and tell you this is my first time to play NBA Live. I've played other basketball franchises, like Shootout, March Madness, and the Visual Concepts products on the Dreamcast. I've always heard tremendous praise for the series, but after playing it I'm scratching my head. On one hand it has some merits as an arcade basketball game. The action can be fun. But more times than not I got fed up with the game. The impenetrable defense restricts you to a perimeter game or playing in the paint. The mid- range game, a key element in basketball, is almost non-existent. The presentation lacked the quality of either NBA2K or NBA2K1. While it's not fair to compare Live 2001 to NBA2K1, we can compare it to NBA2K. Even NBA2K is a better all around package. Live 2001 gets the graphical edge, but in all other categories, such as sound, atmosphere, realism, and AI, NBA2K dunks on Live 2001.

Overall : 61
Owners of NBA2K1 on the Dreamcast should be pleased to know they own the best console basketball game this year. NBA Live 2001 is a bare bones arcade basketball game short on simulation elements and long on minor flaws. If you only have a PS2 and need a basketball fix to hold you over until next season, this is your best option.

By: James Smith 1/29/01

© 1998-2006 Sports Gaming Network. Entire legal statement. Feedback

Other Links:
[Free Credit Report  |   Car Insurance Quotes  |   Designer Shoes  |   Outdoor Equipment

MVP Baseball 2003
Street Hoops
Mad Catz Xbox Hardware

Inside Pitch 2003
MLB Slugfest 20-04
Tennis Masters Series



[an error occurred while processing the directive]