The NBA season is still weeks away, but the release of the league’s virtual counterparts is just around the corner. NBA 2K has dominated the market for basketball video games for the last several years, but it appears that EA Sports’ NBA Live is making a considerable effort to close that gap. NBA Live 19 released a demo version of their game on Friday, and Blazer’s Edge contributor Steve Dewald is here to provide the details.
Introduction to “The Rise”
NBA Live 19’s demo opens with a quick three-on-three game between current stars and legends of the past. The opening game is used to teach you basic controls and introduce the archetypes that you will utilize when creating your own player after the game.
Your choices are broken into three basic categories at first: guard, wing, and big. Allen Iverson represents the guard option, Vince Carter as the wing, and Shaquille O’Neal as the big. The user-controlled trio then faces off against James Harden (last year’s cover athlete), Joel Embiid (this year’s cover athlete), and Candace Parker.
The opening game is played to 21 points, which allows you to get a basic feel for each player type before you begin to create your own player.
Once you exit the game, you land on this screen:
Once you make a selection you then move onto creating the basics of your player. After picking out the basics, you are led to the choices that will impact your play on the court. First you pick your position, then you choose what style of player you want to be. The style is the most crucial part, as each style is tied to a skill tree that unlocks traits as you progress through the game (without the use of virtual currency).
For this review, I chose to be a point guard with an emphasis on defense. Once there, you pick between two players at the position. Defensively oriented guards get a choice between following a path tied to either John Wall or Gary Payton.
Once your player is completed, you are then taken to a five-on-five contest with nine other NBA players. Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul serve as team captains, while the other participants are high-profile rookies. This contest serves as the first stop on your player’s quest to rise to the top of the basketball hierarchy.
For a demo, you get to play a significant amount of basketball in “The Rise” portion. Unfortunately, you are unable to access the gameplay that involves competing in an NBA setting. Before leaving this section of the demo, make sure you complete the first two games with your created player. If you fail to do so, you won’t be able to access the “Play Now” portion of the game.
Gameplay & Presentation
If you are a seasoned 2K player, I recommend you stay patient at first. The controls are similar, but a few subtle differences can be frustrating. For me, timing my steal attempts on defense was a major hurdle. In NBA Live, the computer controlled team will torch you if you reach. Along with timing steals, the center position is represented by the L1 button when the passing options are brought up (PS4 controls). The subtle shift in passing mechanics left me pressing the wrong button as an open big man rolled to the basket.
The shot meter is straightforward and you are able to successfully shoot in much tighter windows compared to 2K. Perhaps the nicest addition is the identifier that appears after certain missed attempts. The game will let you know why you missed by indicating if the player has too low of an outside shooting rating, the coverage was too good, or the timing was off.
As far as the presentation goes, this edition seems much more polished than last year’s release from EA. Replays are easily accessible after made shots and the highlights that occur in the streetball settings are presented as if they are captured on a cell phone from the crowd.
The NBA Play Now games are presented with the same graphics that are utilized by ESPN and ABC. The halftime show is sharp and features commentary from Jalen Rose.
It is far too early to proclaim that NBA Live has closed the gap on 2K with this demo, but there are signs of improvement from EA. The gameplay is much smoother than recent editions, and the presentation is on par with the competition.
The biggest hurdle that NBA Live will face will be its ability to keep gamers engaged for a long period of time. 2K has built an enormous online community and it is the standard for elite competition. NBA Live 19 does have a few distinct advantages, though, like offering a game for players looking to dodge the pitfalls of virtual currency that plagues 2K.
The real judgement will come once the full game is released and all the game modes are unlocked.
—Steve / @SteveDHoops / BEdgeSteve@gmail.com