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NBA Live 2001 (PSX) Review

Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: October 2000

Background Info

PSX Screeens(12)

The NBA Live series has evolved full circle since its conception on the PlayStation four years ago. The first, being a nasty, pixel-y mess, to today's incredibly deep version of NBA Live 2001. There have been a lot of basketball games to grace the PlayStation, but probably none as good as Live 2001. And with the release of the PS2, this could be the swan song for the Live series on the original PSX. Although with a user base of 25 million PlayStations in America, I would be willing to bet that Electronic Arts will squeak out one last version next year.

Presentation/Graphics : 81
With all the polygon pushing power of the Dreamcast and PS2, it's getting a little harder these days to rate PlayStation games on a graphic level. Now I dare not say that the graphics in Live 2001 could compete with Sega's NBA2K, but compared with other b-ball titles on the PlayStation, they definitely hold their own. EA Sports has made a few graphical improvements to this year's game. They have implemented the new Cyberscan process, which gives players a more detailed look, especially in the head, face, and skin tone. Ewing's mug now looks scarier than ever before, and if you look really close you might even be able to see Iverson's tattoos. Well, maybe not.

These improvements are not just in the player department either. There is also a noticeable upgrade in the arena environment as well. Whether it's the skyboxes, balconies, or bench area, you will be impressed with the new higher level of detail. Maybe not so much while you're in the heat of action, but more so while attempting a foul shot or during replays. EA overall has done a nice job through the years of making the Live Series look better with every release. The players, court, and surroundings have never blended so well together, making for a smooth, graphical game of b-ball.

One small complaint that I do have is that the resolution of the game could have been set a little higher. The players in the Live series have never really had that high pro glow look to them, like in the Shootout series. But if the resolution was set higher, this could have slowed down the frame rate and disrupted the whole integrity of the game. I'm sure this is due to the limitations of the hardware, so I don't really fault EA for that.

Presentation/Audio : 88
If there is one area that Live 2001 has always been very consistent in, it's the audio and sound effects department. This year is no exception. In fact, it has gotten even better with the addition of Bob Elliot as an announcer. The color commentary is dead-on accurate and quite lively. No monotone voiceovers here, just some good old-fashioned excitement. The replays even boast an impressive quick commentary by our main man Bob. He adds a little personality to the game that was missing in last year's version.

In my mind, the announcers in sports games can almost make or break a videogame for me, but the surrounding sound effects are just as important. Live 2001 once again is a winner with those great squeaky tennis shoes and the bounce of the ball sounding just right. Oh now, c'mon, that's important stuff. All right, already I'll get down to it. The crowd noise represents the flow of the game well. If you're on the road and hit a couple of threes in a row, the crowd quiets. Or if you're at home and do the same, they will go nuts. This really pumps you up and is one thing that I really like about Live 2001. Also the slams, players pushing and shoving, and my favorite, the swoosh of the net are all just as realistic as ever. Man, I love that swoosh.

Interface/Options : 91
No matter how much better graphically any b-ball game is compared to Live 2001, no one can touch them in the depth of options that EA jams into their latest basketball title. There is a lot of extra fun to be had here. Well, I'm happy to say that Jordan's back. He's always up for a good one-on-one contest, as are many of the legendary players that are in Live 2001. Also, those all-star teams from the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's are there too. I really enjoy playing a game against the old teams and remembering all those old time players.

The usual familiar options are back for another round, like season, playoffs and franchise mode. But this year we get to experience some new features called game play challenges. Some of the challenges are winning a game by ten points, getting a Magic Johnson triple double, or hitting 3 consecutive three pointers like my boy Bird. Some of the harder ones can be hitting every shot in the three-point contest or becoming the league's MVP. This really adds to the replay value because it keeps you playing for a while. Now if you can accomplish these goals, you will be rewarded with power-ups, new uniforms, and even some new players.

"Options, Options, give me more options!" All right, you want more options, EA gave them to you. How about customizing until you can't stand it anymore. You can adjust season length, penalty sensitivity, and full statistical tracking. This is just the tip of the iceberg. You can also create your own personal player and try to make him look just like yourself with different heads, skin tones, and shoes. There's also a practice mode to help you beef up your skills. You might need it when playing against someone in two-player mode. You don't want little Timmy next door to dunk in your face, now do ya? What's really cool is hooking up the multi-tap and playing with up to eight of your friends. That can get crazy. I love it when my homeboys won't pass me the rock and I run around the court looking stupid. "Edgar, stop hogging the ball!"

Gameplay : 93
I have always thought that the gameplay portion of the Live series was one of its strong suits and this year is no exception. There is a lot to do both on offense and defense because Live 2001 gives you complete control of your team. You can get as detailed as changing the defensive match-up for each individual player, or as basic as man-to-man. Also there are so many ways to control your player individually. You can call for picks, spin, post up, pump fake, crossover dribble, and push off. Whatever the pros can do, you can do.

My favorite thing to do in a game of video basketball is to fast-break. Live 2001 is the king of fast-break basketball. The overall AI in the game is very good, but especially on fast breaks. Have I said fast-break enough? Your guys know when to run, and where to run. It's uncanny at times and I look forward to every defensive rebound to get the running game going. The animation has also been improved and it makes for a more fluid game. It actually enhances the gameplay too. New and more creative shots are now available like the behind the backboard scoop and higher flying offensive rebounding dunks. Man, I like those.

One thing that has always been an issue for me is the player you're controlling sometimes likes to just keep on trucking right out of bounds, mainly on fast breaks and quick stop-starts. This would always frustrate me to the point of just completely turning off the out-of-bounds option. In Live 2001 this has been completely fixed. Your players can almost stop on a dime and now the game is close to being curse free except for the rebound portion of play. There is still a little problem trying to put your backside on your opponent (all right now, stop it) and boxing him out for the rebound. You pretty much just have to try to get into a better position than your opponent and hope for the best, but I'm used to that anyway.

Replay Value : 91
Of course with 31 teams, and an 82 game schedule, how can this game not have replay value? But there are a lot of other things here that will keep you playing for a while. Whether it'll be the great create-a-player mode or the computer generated trades that happen throughout the year. These are fun things to do and interesting things to watch. Although the one thing that will probably keep you playing the most are the awesome Live 2001 challenges. Trying for all the challenges is a small game in itself and will definitely keep you busy.

Overall : 90
If you bought last year's version of NBA Live, you will for sure want to pick up this year's as well. Now you might be saying that the graphics aren't up to today's standards, and you're probably right, but the gameplay is what really sets this title apart. The game is just plain fun and I can honestly say that I would rather play Live 2001 than almost half of the PS2's line-up of launch games. So if you were someone who was in a PS2 line for 14 hours and didn't receive one, don't worry you eventually will. But for the meantime, slap down $39.99 and enjoy NBA Live 2001... It's FANtastic.

By: Michael Wicks 10/31/00

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