Sports - It's in the game.' It most certainly is when it comes down
to sporting video games. NBA Live 96 was one of the very first
sporting simulations to be released on the Playstation and set a
monumental standard that many rivals have yet to supersede. Tweaks
in both gameplay and graphical departments saw the '97 version move
the posts even further away.
Having already witnessed massive improvements to EA's 98
versions of NHL and FIFA titles I was sure that NBA Live 98, hailed
as the 'Soul of Hoops', was never going to fall in the category of
being 'just another basketball game.'
Live 98 is a next generation product from EA Sports, which allows
the player to experience basketball like never before. They pride
themselves on developing incredibly realistic sports simulations
with depth and ease of gameplay.
The graphics must be the best we've ever seen in a basketball title
on any home system. The players are constructed of silky smooth
polygons with each boasting a texture map of his own real-life face.
This gives them a truly realistic appearance which is most
noticeable when the camera zooms in for a replay . They run and turn
in a similar style to their real-life counterparts thanks to the
Player Model and Motion Capture technique that was used. The amazing
result is that players now move with smoothness and speed, and I
have yet to witness any slowdown within the game. They swivel on one
foot, pump fake, fall down, get up, follow through on the free
throws, sky hook, reverse jam, reverse layup, etc.... You have to
see it to believe it.
The player select screens are flawless with each of the players
polygon impressions lining up for photocall. Non of those boring
snapshots, but moving animation that bravely allows you to study the
detail in each of their faces.
All of the NBA teams play at their home stadium with the court
surface marked with their name or logo. The packed crowd each wear a
detailed attire and even moves their hands together when applauding
and when the action breaks you feel like checking them out to see if
you recognize anyone watching the game. The playing surface has been
so highly polished that a detailed reflection mirrors every move in
play, even the ball has it's very own shadow which grows and shrinks
at it is bounced around the court.
The game can be viewed from every imaginable angle. In fact
each of the eight views may be slightly adjusted in some way or
form, zooming in on play, reversing the direction of play, there's
even a selection of free throw angles to choose from.
opening intro is a selection of breathtaking live video footage that
sets the scene perfectly and is backed by a thunderous rock
soundtrack. The music throughout is as upbeat as the gameplay
reaching a climax with a stunning half time display by the home
teams cheerleaders. Oh, it's also all recorded in Dolby Surround.
The crowd react to every movement of play. They begin with
rapturous applause, then quieting as play gets underway before
rising from their seats to cheer on every vicious dunk. The
play-by-play commentary by TNT announcers follows every single move
with great accuracy, offering sideline remarks on how the game is
going. The dunks, and swishes sound true to life and the shoe
squeaks are there for you purists, although the on court sound
effects seem to have been toned down a little this year.
you own the two previous Live games, but what's new for 98?
Well there is actually a whole host of new features. Apart from
the graphical and sound upgrades there is the new dunk packages
where certain players actions are based as closely as possible on
their actual abilities. You now get to see you team play in a third
outfit, the Sunday uniform. The loading times have been improved
while trivia questions appear while you are waiting. You can set up
your own leagues consisting of 4 to 32 teams and then try out the
new General Manager mode including NBA Draft, salary caps, trading
and injuries. There's even a new 3-point competition to test your
skills by taking on a top basketball star in a race against the
clock to see who scores the most points while emptying five trays of
NBA Live 98 is so easy to pick up and play, even if your
unsure of the rules of basketball. The options just seem to keep on
growing in these sporting titles and Live is no exception.
Game modes include a 1-8 player Exhibition game between any two
from the 29 NBA, 4 custom and 2 all star teams. A full history of
each team is available to browse through at your leasure with trivia
facts such as most consecutive wins, largest winning margin and full
list of championship honors. There are three styles of play which
are Arcade , Simulation and Custom while the standard three
difficulty settings have been increased with the addition of an all
new superstar mode.
Enter a full grueling Season where each aspect may be tinkered
with from trade restrictions to play-off length. If you prefer you
may go straight to the Play-offs.
The 3 Point Shootout is a short test of shooting speed and
ability which is excellent for a session of target practice.
Controlling the players is easy enough with face buttons
allocated for a crossover dribble, back down/spin, pass and shoot
when on the offence. While on defence they become steal, jump,
switch player and hand-check. The shoulder buttons are used to drive
players through defenders, turbo, direct pass and direct shoot.
Substitutions and strategic changes can be made throughout play or
left in the competent hands of the computer. Each of the game rules
may be tampered with depending on whether you wish to play an
accurate simulation or a non-stop, no holds barred game of
basketball - the choice is yours.
Sports have once again succeeded in improving on an already splendid
product. Looking for your first PSX basketball game? Then look no
have captured the feel of an arcade basketball game perfectly with
NBA Live 98. If you don't already own a copy of NBA Live then you
must find room in your collection for this excellent rendition of
your favorite sport. If you already own an earlier version then
trade it in against the sequel and you won't be disappointed.
Live '98 has all the tweaks and whistles that make a great
basketball title! The graphics are superb, the sound and music are
awesome, and the gameplay has been vastly improved over last year's
version. NBA Live '98 could quite possible become the b-ball
simulation king once again! It'll have some tough competition from
Shoot Out and ITZ, but I believe that it will come out on top. It is
an extremely well-done game, and I would like to commend EA Sports
for the great job they did! So, if you're a hardcore basketball fan
such as myself, I suggest you save your money and purchase a copy of
Live for yourself. It is the most realistic and fun b-ball game I've
PlayStation Freak is a dedicated
PlayStation gamer and reader of A.P.I. For an in-depth opinion of
NBA Live 98 check out his Readers Review in the Members section.