NBA Live 2004 – XB – Preview

E3 2003 – First

EA showed off the latest version of its NBA franchise, NBA Live 2004, and it
looks to improve over many of the deficiencies of the 2003 version.  The biggest
problem with last year’s edition was its emphasis on speed and scoring over
defense and almost completely ignoring the shot clock.  Whereas some gamers
enjoy the frantic play of Live 2003, fans of basketball sims were left with a
big fat airball.  The developers this year changed all that with the addition of
customizable gameplay sliders.  Want to keep the run ‘n gun feel of last year’s
version?  Keep the scoring and game speed sliders high.  Prefer your basketball
a little more authentic?  Slow the game down and boost the defense. 


The graphics of
the best-looking basketball game have gotten even better in the 2004 version
with a boost in player animations and more accurate face detail.  EA knows that
the little details count, and they’ve completely overhauled the animations of
not just the ballhandler and the defender, but the other eight guys on the court
as well.  Steve Francis will cut back and forth looking for the ball and wave
his hands when he’s open for a shot and Dirk Nowitzki will wrestle for position
down low against Chris Webber.  They’re minor additions that boost the AI and
help ball handlers understand what their teammates are trying to do.  As for the
ball handlers, animations are set in three packages this year: Big Men,
Superstars, and guards.  These animation sets give realism to Shaq and T-Mac
when they have the rock.  For example, a giant like Shaq doesn’t hold the ball
the same way a slashing superstar like McGrady holds the ball.  Shaq pushes his
way in to the paint while McGrady will show the ball one way and dart past his
defender the other.  Steve Nash doesn’t hold his dribble at the top of the key
the way Yao Ming does.  Nash will keep the ball moving in a continuous circle
and Yao will just hold the ball up high.  It’s basketball realism, and EA has
nailed it.  The other main additions to the graphics this year are authentic
basketball stadiums and retouching the players’ faces.  Several of the players’
faces are vastly improved, and some, such as Steve Finley, are spitting images
of their real-life counterparts. 


Other additions to
the game look like they will keep the ball moving in NBA Live 2004.  The Dynasty
mode has been expanded greatly and while developer Gary Lam couldn’t release
specific details (believe me, I tried to weasel it out of him) he did say
they’ve “added some surprises that people will be extremely happy with.  BIG
surprises.” The Playstation 2 version features on-line live chat, on-line
tournaments, and a stat board to keep broadband ballers competitive with the
best in the country. 


NBA Live is
scheduled for release in conjunction with the 2003-2004 NBA season.