NBA Live 19 is EA’s latest entry into the world of Basketball. Always living in the shadow of ‘that other’ Basketball title, can NBA Live 19 break through and become The One?
Now, I’m not exactly the biggest sports fan in the world. If I can’t do it sat on my backside or holding a pint, what’s the point? There’s something about Basketball however that I’ve really enjoyed for a while. And NBA Live 19 lets me play from the comfort of the sofa. Magic.
The mainstay of the title is the career mode, egotistically titled, The One. The One allows you to create the next hotshot NBA Hall of Famer, and prove why you are the GOAT on the streets and inside the arena. This time around, you can even take your campaign to become the goat to the Women’s league, and even bring the fight to the men on the streets in a good old-fashioned first to 21. With the focus on one player, you’ll need to focus on your strength on the court. Thankfully NBA Live 19 has got you more than covered.
You start off with 3 choices. Wing, Guard, or Big. These choices dictate the basis of your role and your physical build. If you need help guessing who the tall ones are, may the Lord help you… Are you the Sneaky guy on the wing who finds his way into the paint? The playmaker, setting up the team plays? Or are you the towering monster slamming the boards? Make your choice, and then tweak your style even further. Want to hit flashy dunks? You can. Want to slam down those 3 pointers? You can. Want to step away from the norm and become a defensive powerhouse blocking layups and dominating rebounds? You can. You can become the player you want to be, and clearly see how you’re going to fit into the team.
Once you’ve made your player, found your role, and set your height to the maximum to laugh at how short the referee is in the cutscenes, you want to pick your icon focus. This is a famous player who fits a similar role to yourself, with the goal of hitting and then exceeding their legendary status. The icon you chose will grand you an additional skill, and can be used to round out your arsenal or strengthen your existing skillset. Now it’s time to hit the court and develop your skills. Thankfully, you’ll watch your skills develop at a blistering pace.
Leveling and gaining new skills in NBA Live 19 is starting to move towards a more rewarding pacing. You’ll generally be gaining a new point after every game, which you can put into upping your ratings. These points allow you to level up your skillset, which grants you bonuses, animations, and most importantly, new shoes as you progress through its tree. Common bonuses are boosts to accuracy, more consistent contested shots, and a greater chance of drawing a foul. As you level up, you’ll unlock new skills, that will all aid you out on the court. This time around, you can really feel the benefits of adding even one point into your skillset. Previous titles have felt little more than a chance to get some new Jordans on your feet, while this time around your skillset feels as if it’s really developing.
And of course, Traits make a triumphant return. Traits are little boosts to elements of your game such as defensive-sprinting, late releases, and catch and shoot attempts. These are not leveled through points and are instead leveled through bronze, silver, and gold tiers. These are advanced though challenges relating to the perk, giving players another element to focus on in order to boost their traits. I did find that traits also allow you to net shots that you possibly shouldn’t. For example, I put points into contested shots and catch and shoot with my Wing, focused on dunks. This, in turn, allowed me to net some 3-pointers despite having nearly no 3-point skill. It’s not a faultless system, but it will allow you that clutch shot in the last minute every once in a while.
Leveling at such a quick pace is rewarding, and gives your actions some real weight. However, you can end up out-matching your team rather quickly. Now I wouldn’t combat this by changing the rate of reward, but instead what the rewards dictate. perhaps doubling the tree by adding a point between each level. This could be where a new stat, or unlock is placed, and be a requirement before advancing your skill to the next level.
Aside from your time playing in the League, you’ll also be graced with the opportunity to play out on the streets, on some of the most famous street-ball courts from across the globe. These events give you the chance to unlock players for your team, which we’ll get to soon, and, of course, unlock more sweet ass clothing. There’s 3 main games, quarters, semis, and the final, accompanied by a throwback, a game against a famous player associated with the court, and a Challenge game. These challenges put an entirely new swing on the game and provide a nice change of pace. These will generally take the part of new rules, such as 5-point dunks, or reverse points, with shots from outside the arc counting for only 1 point, while those inside the paint count for 3.
Co-op challenges make a return, which can be played, with friends or randoms, with rewards of limited time crates for your troubles. These change frequently and provide another place for you to gain experience and some sweet new sneakers. The addition that really rounds out The One mode, however, is Court Battles.
Court Battles is an online mode where you play against teams created by other players, with the goal of controlling as many courts as possible. To play, you create your court, give it your own style, then piece together your team. As mentioned before, you’ll unlock players as you go through your career, and also be able to invest in them through the store. No microtransactions here, mind. Once you’ve put your team together and customized your court, you’ll be able to set your court ruleset. These are akin to the challenges you find on The Streets, and help you to defend your court against rival teams. Of course, this means most of the games you play also have these rules, which provides a nice, fast mode of play. Court Battles runs on a time-slot system, meaning that everything resets at set intervals. This provides constant rewards, with the more courts you control leading to a greater prize.
The One within NBA Live 19 is sure to provide players with hours of enjoyment as they dribble their way up the rankings to become the greatest of all time, with enough outside of the NBA itself within the mode to keep you working on your player while still being able to explore some different gameplay styles.
Once you’ve been able to pull yourself away from your pursuit of perfection, you can dive into NBA Live 19’s other game modes. You’ve got all of the standard modes you’d expect, with multiplayer and single games available. The most notable additional modes are the Franchise mode and the NBA Live 19 Ultimate Team. Franchise mode Gives you full control over a team of your choosing, putting you in charge of playtime, players, trades, and of course the games themselves. You can opt to simulate these, but really, the mode offers very little outside of that. Franchise mode does just feel like a championship mode with a little extra sprinkled on top. Nothing wrong with that of course, but you can’t help but want a little more.
Ultimate Team highlights the biggest issue I have with EA Sports title at the minute. There’s so much copy and paste from the FIFA franchise that just doesn’t transfer as well to other titles. Ultimate Team in NBA Live 19 lacks the depth that comes from FIFA’s countless leagues, and due to the considerably lower update rate, has no real incentive behind it. Yes, there are challenges to earn yourself packs, but much like FIFA, the real hits are best attained through buying packs, and with the considerably more limited nature of the mode here, there’s really no reason to do so. It’s inclusion somewhat saps the identity out of the game, and I really wish EA would start to treat their titles as their own entities, instead of trying to shoehorn in some FIFA success to a title that’s not going to get it.
Which leads me on to my biggest gripes with NBA Live 19. The physics and the graphics. Generic as hell beard selection aside, the character models are very hit and miss. Male players’ faces are pretty damn close. Female players, often look like a default character with a different haircut. Quite what’s happened here I’ll never know. All around, the body types of players come across as little more than slightly taller versions of the former. It takes you going to extremes on the character creator to avoid looking like an average joe. This is only amplified by the existing players in the game, who all seem to have the same body, just slightly taller or shorter than each other. The imposing figure of a player like LeBron James comes purely from his height here, nothing more.
It’s the character models that really let the title down because otherwise, the game looks great. Sadly, they’re the main focus of the entire game, so when they’re not quite right, you’ve got a lot of time to notice. Which leads us nicely onto the physics. While it is entertaining to watch a teammate fly through the air like Superman to make a dunk, it gets old after it happens 5-6 times a quarter. The ball can have a mind of its own occasionally, which is what often leads to these physics-defying moments. Sadly it’s these moments that really take from the game, and can even leave you feeling disconnected from the action on the court. It’s disappointing because when the gameplay runs without hitch, it’s the best we’ve had from the franchise in a good while.
Overall, NBA Live 19 is a worthy adversary to ‘that other’ Basketball game. The franchise is starting to find its own footing with its career mode, The One, but still insists on adding enough of that EA Sports filler to remind you where the teams’ focus really lies. With the money maker.