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Q4 2004



- Nice player animation

- Cool All-Star Weekend Mode

- Challenging on higher levels

- Increased detail in Dynasty Mode



- Unrealistically “sticky” defense

- Too much like last year’s edition to warrant purchase



Review: NBA Live 2003 (GC)

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Review: NBA Ballers (XB)



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NBA Live 2005

Score: 7.9 / 10


Last year, EA Sports finally came close to getting it right with NBA Live 2004.  After lackluster efforts on the next-gen consoles, NBA Live 2004 offered a decent, fun simulation of NBA style basketball.  I, along with a lot of other reviewers, felt that the future was bright for the series since there was a lot more right with Live 2004 than there was wrong.  Now, NBA 2005 arrives and builds on the promise of last year’s title, but it still isn’t as good as it could be.


nba live 2005 review           nba live 2005 review


The most attractive, and popular, feature of Live 2005 will likely be the All-Star mode.  This mode allows players to participate in all of the events that take place over All-Star weekend, specifically the Slam Dunk competition, the 3-point Shooting contest, the Rookie Game and finally the All-Star game itself.  Within each mode, players are able to customize the participants to set up matchups that they would like to see, even if that means putting Darko in the dunk contest.  The Slam Dunk Contest is obviously the main attraction, and putting an amazing dunk together (using much more complex mechanics than are present in the normal game modes) is rewarding, it is far too easy to earn a perfect score once a player has mastered the esoteric, timing-based control scheme.





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Though the All-Star Weekend feature is likely to be popular, in the end it is the Season and Franchise modes that make a sports game.  Live’s franchise mode (called Dynasty Mode) has been fleshed out a bit, though it is by no means a match for what exists in EA’s football or baseball franchises.  Like those games, Live 2005 allows for a degree of micro-management beyond what the casual fan would require, but, in contrast, Live doesn’t have the mini-games, training options, coaching options, or team strategy options to add depth to the decisions.



Of course, no one cares about the franchise mode for a game no one would want to play dozens of times over the course of a season.  Live’s gameplay is pretty appealing, though.  Not much has changed since last year.  The only new feature I found myself using repeatedly was the ability to change shots in mid-air (say go up for a dunk and settle for a lay in).  EA has also weakened the free-style dribbling a bit by increasing the chance of a turnover, so it is now reserved for point guards or players with similar dribbling skills.


nba live 2005 review           nba live 2005 review


Last year I said that if EA kept everything the same and fixed one major flaw then this year’s game would be great.  Well, they didn’t and it isn’t.  The complete (or nearly) lack of a fast break again makes Live feel more like methodical “Big East” style college basketball.  As in last year’s game, players have a odd mixture of force field and fly paper around them that makes it nearly impossible to slide through for a fast break.  I know that this is a reaction to all of the players and critics who said the ease of scoring on the fast break ruined Live 2003 for them, but Live 2004 slowed down the action too much and 2005 does nothing to improve on it.  Add to the odd “defense bubble” around the players the fact that players never receive a pass in stride, but instead stop and catch, and we see very few fast breaks over the course of a game.  I found myself doing a little “cherry picking” just in order to force the action a little.  Unfortunately, this works a little too well on normal difficulty and I could score most of the time on the play.  On the higher difficulties, however, the AI reacts much quicker to the outlet pass and more often than not caught up and wrapped my player up in the fly paper.


So, like last year’s model, Live 2005 is good, but not great.  On top of that, the fact that the GameCube version doesn’t feature online play (obviously) and has an absolutely terrible button layout means I won’t be playing much more of the game this year. (Remapping ability, please!)  Maybe next year’s model will finally put it all together.


- Tolen Dante

(November 23, 2004)

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