- Freestyle Superstars feature
differentiates the players nicely from each other
- Typical EA-quality Dynasty mode
- Online play also includes tournaments, 3-point shootouts and
- Considering that the graphics
engine was supposed to be all-new, visuals are not impressive at
- Can get laggy online when you’re doing a bit too much
- A.I.-assisted defense can get lazy when it’s time to rotate
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Score: 8.3 / 10
The NBA Live franchise has had its ups and
downs for Electronic Arts, bouncing around in its quality level over the
years, but more often than not has been able to claim itself the
undisputed king of the hardwood video games. It has faced a particularly
stiff challenge from the Sega Sports/2K Sports basketball franchise the
last few years, however, and may have its biggest challenge for its
supremacy yet in the form of NBA 2K6.
Fortunately for EA, NBA Live 06 provides a very good basketball package,
including a much more emphasized focus on the NBA’s best players with
the distinct Freestyle Superstar control, a well-designed offensive
controller setup, and a great plethora of online game features. NBA Live
06 proves that EA might not be as dominant as it once was with its
basketball video game, but it sure displays the pride of a champion with
new features and improved gameplay to go along with its
deep Dynasty mode as has been perfected by
EA Sports and simply unequalled.
Freestyle control is an excellent facet of NBA Live’s gameplay. Using
the right thumbstick on the Xbox controller, you can perform moves, such
as an Allen Iverson crossover dribble that will break the ankles of a
defender, which are more effective based on the superstar status of the
player. The better the player, the more
effective the freestyle move is. EA took it a step further with NBA 06’s
Freestyle Superstars freestyle control.
Players are categorized based on particular court strength. There are
power players, highflyers, playmakers, scorers, shooters, and stoppers.
By using the left trigger and tapping one of the controller’s buttons, a
player will pull off a Freestyle Superstar move, and based on how much
of a NBA superstar the individual player is, the easier it will be to
pull off a move. Steve Francis will soar to the hoop with amazing dunks.
Shaq will overwhelm any defender trying in vain to stop the Diesel from
slamming down a monster slam. Ben Wallace will block and rebound with
the ferocity that have made him the most feared defender in the NBA.
What Freestyle Superstar really does is give NBA 06’s players a real
identifiable personality and court persona that matches the actual
player and brings a more realistic gameplay to the virtual hardwood.
Along with the new Freestyle Superstar style of play, there is a renewed
focus on a more offensive basketball game. The new graphics engine is
designed to enhance up-tempo basketball with fast breaks, and it is
easier to drop the ball in the bucket with more regularity. The
offensive controls are well-designed too, totally responsive and letting
you decide, when you have the ball in your hands, what control should be
used at a particular time. If you have a defensive presence in your way,
you can pull up for a jumper by hitting the ”B” button. But if you have
an unimpeded path to basket, hitting the “X” button takes you and your
player to the net for a lay-up or a slamming dunk.
That’s not to say that defense is completely devoid, however. You still
have to work for your team’s baskets, especially if playing against
teams such as the Detroit Pistons who are renowned for their defensive
prowess. But overall, the A.I.-assisted defense isn’t completely at an
All-Star level. There are times that the defense doesn’t rotate to a
defensively advantageous position when it should, giving opponents an
easier (and sometimes completely clear) path to the net.
Speaking of the graphics engine, while it may be a much better engine in
regards to portraying a more fast-break, breakneck-paced basketball
game, it isn’t impressive in its aesthetics. The crowds are just
downright horrible-looking. It looks like every night is Pixelation
Night at the particular arena you’re playing at, with every spectator
getting a free case of the jaggies with admittance. The players are
better in their appearance, but again fail to impress, considering this
is a supposedly new graphics engine. Animation, however, is done well,
especially when performing Freestyle Superstar moves that really
differentiate each player from one another just as they are in real
Again making its annual appearance is a strong collection of
high-quality modes, including the Dynasty mode typical to all EA sports
titles that is unrivaled in its excellence in the sports gaming world.
The Dynasty mode features the new player evolution, where you “see” your
created player evolve from a green rookie learning the life of an NBA
player to a savvy veteran. Your goal is to progress from a rookie into a
superstar, complete with a distinct set of Freestyle Superstar moves.
There is also a season mode, a playoff mode, 1on1, a Freestyle
Challenge, and a favorite of mine, the NBA All-Star Weekend mode.
In the All-Star Weekend mode, you get to play the four events that are
part of every NBA All-Star Weekend: the Rookie Challenge, 3-Point
Shootout, the Slam Dunk Contest and of course, the All-Star game itself.
Announcing all the action during the All-Star Weekend is Ernie Johnson
and Kenny Smith. During the other modes of NBA Live 06, Marv Albert and
new analyst Steve Kerr call and comment all the gameplay. While the
commentary and calls can be repetitive and not always on the mark,
Albert and Kerr do a professional, television presentation-sounding
By far the best mode, if you have Xbox Live, is the online play of NBA
Live 06. Not only can you play standard games against online
competition, you can also join tournaments, slam competitions and
3-point shootouts against other Xbox Live players. There are some
instances where, especially when you’re trying to execute a Freestyle
move, the gameplay can get bogged with some lagging, but generally EA
has done a great job with its online setup in its current sports game
crop, and NBA Live 06 is another shining example of that excellent
The new graphics engine is anything but impressive and the A.I.-assisted
defense could be smarter, but NBA Live 06 still can claim to be (
arguably) the best NBA basketball video game title versus NBA 2K6. Fans
of the EA style of sports gaming will be once again thoroughly enjoy
shooting the rock with NBA 06, while the smaller majority may prefer NBA
2K6. Still, it’s safe to say that despite not being an unbeatable
dynasty amongst NBA video games anymore, NBA Live 06 still provides the
deepest NBA basketball gaming experience around, and the many different
online offerings via Xbox Live will be especially attractive to online
sports gamers looking to satisfy their basketball jones in cyberspace.