NBA Live 15 review: It can't compare to NBA 2K15, but at least it's gone from comically bad to just clunky

£47.99; EA; Xbox One, PS4

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The Independent Tech

NBA Live 15 isn't necessarily a bad game and it's much better than the awful edition that came out this time last year.

The problem is that it's just so far away from its rival that to spend money on it would be a waste. That rival, NBA 2K15, is a near-perfect basketball sim; this one still has much to improve.

Where it has improved is in the overall presentation of the game. The graphics, comically bad last year, are more than passable, especially in the cut scenes, though some players look unnaturally muscular. The ESPN-provided commentary is also an improvement, though a little choppy at times, while the Jalen Rose half-time presentation is excellent.

Users of other EA Sports games (FIFA, Madden) will be familiar with the range of game modes, which are all perfectly functional.

The problem comes when you step onto the virtual court. It's impossible not to compare NBA Live to NBA 2K and sadly it's during gameplay that this game is badly let down. 

 

The movements and animations are very clunky and lack the flow that makes 2K15 seem so real. The jump shot motion is flawed - several times I had a 'great' release on an uncontested shot only to see the ball brick off the rim - while lay-ups and dunks look unnatural. Players get bent out of shape to allow a player to complete his lay-up or dunk animation. 

All in all the game is much more arcade-like and dunks, blocks, steals and highlight plays are easily done; you can drive through players to finish at the basket in a way that would be impossible in 2K. The ball frustratingly seems weightless sometimes, like it's predetermined to land in one person's arms even if another player is better positioned. 

Defending is also a frustration. When you're defending one-on-one I found it was most effective to mash the steal button to try and knock the ball loose, to mash the block button when trying to defend a drive and to mash the jump button when trying to grab a rebound. 

There's not the thought involved for it to be a true simulation and there's not the fun involved to make it an arcade game.

But, despite it's flaws at least it's playable, unlike last NBA Live 14. Also, as fans of the Madden series have found, a lack of competition is a bad thing that can cause a franchise to go a bit stale. When Pro Evolution Soccer stole FIFA's crown in the early to mid-2000s, it made EA strive to produce a better game; FIFA 15 is a masterpiece.

If the developers can continue to improve and become a true rival for NBA 2K15, then 2K Sports will also have to improve. 

That can only be a good thing for gamers.

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