It might be hard to fathom now, but at one time the NBA Live series was as heralded as Madden. Saying you were a Live head was the way you proclaimed your loyalty to EA Sports roundball title. But hard times befell the once mighty series most of which can be attributed to 2K's rise to prominence. As a result NBA Live's been soft ever since NBA 2K came through and crushed the virtual hardwood. After being MIA for the last few years 2013 was supposed to mark its triumphant return but instead NBA Live 14 shoots an airball.

While expecting NBA Live 14 to challenge a goliath like NBA 2K14 would be putting unrealistic expectations on EA, the game was supposed to be at least a foundational effort, something that re-establishes the series as playable and credible, instead they'll have to go back to the drawing board. Let’s start with the visuals that are not on par of what you would expect from a next-gen title.  Put this game into your PS4, and you’ll wonder if you booted up the PS3 instead as the title lacks polish. Player models are nicely detailed when viewed up close and during replays; when you’re playing the game from standard camera angles, however, the player, coach, and referee faces look blurry as if you’re viewing them through a dirty window. On the court, players move robotically and while this may not have been as egregious years ago, the bar has been significantly raised. There are too many occurrences of your cpu teammates standing in one place for the entire duration of the shot clock while you stand at the top of the key waiting in vain for someone to cut to the basket or set a screen. Unfortunately this happens on both sides of the ball as well making the game lack the kind of constant motion you’d typically see in a real basketball game. The only way to get some movement on the court is to manually run specific plays, but they don’t always execute properly and when they do the results are mixed. There seems to be very little variety in how computer controlled teams runs their offenses. Most of the teams I've ran against dump the ball into the post to a big man then stand stationary as he goes one-on-one. More times than not, the computer big man will end his move by taking a hop step towards the baseline, leaving him behind the backboard or over the end line. On the occasions he was able to get a shot off, it is easy to swat it because of the slow release.

NBA Live 14's signature gameplay enhancement, the BounceTek dribbling system, isn’t as revolutionary as EA was hyping it up to be. Once you start trying to chain together different dribble moves with the right stick, the animations begin to lose their fluidity. Defense is an afterthought as you can consistently score by driving the lane spamming the BounceTek moves with just about any guard, or taking a Eurostep, which will lead to an easy layup whether you are playing the CPU or another person. It’s too bad there are so many issues that plague this game because they overshadow the few good aspects going for it, most notably The ESPN wrapper around Live. Pre- and post-game coverage is hosted by Jalen Rose, and the halftime show featuring Wired for Sound segments of coaches calling out instructions to the players is really dope. Another nice touch is the Big Moments feature that allows you to replay several real world basketball scenarios from the previous night. Just saw DeAndre face plant Brandon Knight on a dunk, or Luol Deng hit a game winning three? Just jump right into the Moments mode and try to replicate the same play. There’s also a The Rising Star mode, the game’s answer to NBA 2K’s MyPlayer with one major difference: unlike MyPlayer, Rising Star is no fun to play. The mode suffers from poorly designed base player ratings, a simplistic grading system and a complete lack of storylines or cinematics to immerse you into the experience.  About the most glaring omission is the lack of game play sliders which purposes are to allow the user to tweak the difficulty to their liking. In this day of accessibility and custom options, it’s unforgivable that EA shipped this game without the standard sliders sports gamers are accustomed to seeing.


As one of those aforementioned Live heads, it’s no fun beating on a once revered franchise while it’s down, but this wasn’t a good reboot for EA in NBA Live 14. Competition breeds innovation in sports games, so everyone would benefit if EA Sports can find a way to resurrect its basketball franchise and close the wide chasm in quality between NBA 2K and NBA Live. But for now NBA Live 14 has been thrown out the game for committing a flagrant 2 foul.—written by DJRhude (@DJRhude)

XXL Rating: S

NBA Live 14 was reviewed for the PS4 on a retail copy supplied by EA Sports

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