Review: NBA Live 14 (PS4)
Title: NBA Live 14
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (9.3 GB)
Release Date: November 19, 2013 (US), November 29, 2013 (EU)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Tiburon
Original MSRP: $59.99 (US), €69.99 (EU)
ESRB Rating: E
NBA Live 14 is also available on Xbox One.
The PlayStation 4 disc version was used for this review.
NBA Live 14 is an abysmal game. It’s impossible to know where to begin describing this PS4 launch title, as there so many issues. Even the aspects where it seemingly betters 2K only prove to be a false dawn. Take over-excessive foul-calling for instance; dealt with by not giving fouls for anything. If you brought an axe on to the court and starting chopping limbs off your opponent, you might get a technical, if you were unlucky.
Core gameplay is unbelievably poor – much worse than the old NBA Live games on PS3 and 360. Player movement is ponderous and hesitant, with none of the flow you’d expect from basketball. Fast-breaks actually turn out to be slower than regular play, due to the passing mechanic being broken and the sprint button switching up your player’s pace from snail to sloth. The ball motion is hilarious to watch; it almost never reacts as it should when shot. In fact, it feels scripted. No matter the power or positioning, the outcome of each attempt looks pre-determined, to the point where some efforts almost come back out of the hoop.
‘Rising Star’ is EA’s answer to the excellent ‘MyPlayer’ in 2K, minus the narrative. Like much of the game, this mode is completely soulless. Nothing but a few objectives string each match together, whilst customisation options are limited. More concerning than all that though, is the ease. Unlike its rival, this individual mode immediately places you in the starting line-up for your team, gives you solid stats (I started at an overall 72) and generates no sense of grinding or hard work to reach the top.
On the court, ‘Rising Star’ only gets worse, as teammates literally refuse to pass to anyone but you. Unless you get close enough to them to receive the ball, they’ll just stand still and run down the clock. Furthermore, it provides minimal feedback on how you’re performing or what you should be doing better. The camera is also a major issue, as it annoyingly undulates when possession transitions and with it positioned at one end of the court, the pole and backboard are in the way of the action.
Is there anything good about this game? Yes – the daily challenges. ‘Big Moments’ gives you the opportunity to re-enact key passages of play from the real world. It may be a whole half, it may only be the final seconds, but it’s always fun to complete these awesome little challenges based on what you saw on TV last night. One other minor facet of the game I liked was the gradual controller vibration, when you’re about to violate half-court or the shot clock. A neat and useful addition, but ultimately miniscule in nature, the fact I singled this out for praise shows the dearth of any quality in NBA Live 14.
‘Last-gen’ is the first thought that comes to mind. From the first moment you see the players on the hardwood, the game looks awful. Player likenesses are off, whilst general play looks like a low-res, stuttering mess. The lack of polish is evident in situations such as timeouts, where the camera will pan across the line-up during the coach’s talk, then repeat the same clip three times.
A broadcast presentation is aimed for, via an ESPN overlay to the game. It works somewhat well, with the authentic scoreboard full of stats and some post-game graphics. However, it falls dramatically short of NBA 2K, which looks more akin to a match on TV, without any licences. The new EA Sports tiled menu system is present and, as in FIFA, it works very nicely. I love how in NBA Live, images of your favourite team are spread across multiple tiles as a mini mosaic, adding some much-needed personality.
NBA Live, somewhat strangely, comes nowhere close to matching the character of its stable mate FIFA. Atmosphere inside the arena is stale thanks to repetitive, boring sounds. Commentary is similarly deadpan; the ESPN duo not injecting any insight or excitement into proceedings. Pre-match, when I first heard Jalen Rose presenting, I was very excited. That was short-lived however, as he reads lines in a wooden manner with none of his usual bubbly personality. The soundtrack is also uninspiring (putting it politely) which ensures the entire audio package is mediocre at best.
Ultimate Team is one of the key factors in EA Sports’ success recently, so I was very excited to finally see it in a basketball context. Unfortunately, the mode is very stripped down and passable at best. No online trade market exists, completely nullifying the virtual currency. It’s impossible to find an opponent in UT, which exemplifies gamers’ feelings on its implementation in NBA Live.
Though never explained properly, the XP system is okay, acting in the same way as EASFC – this time under the umbrella of HoopsNet. Reaching each level is met with a useful reward, such as a UT pack of contracts. Seasons also makes the transition from the mammoth publisher’s soccer sim. Lag is a moderate issue, with matches being frequently affected in short bursts, though the majority of the game runs smoothly.
EA had four years to make this game good, yet have monumentally failed – this barely plays and looks like a PS3 launch title, never mind PS4. There are a few nice touches that offer the faintest sense of optimism for the future, but overall, the game is broken. There is no nuance to the gameplay whatsoever, which is entirely dysfunctional and painful to endure. When compared to the phenomenal NBA 2K14, this is simply embarrassing.
* All screenshots used in this review were provided by the publisher.