NBA Live 06Bryan Intihar
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Canada
Release Date: November 2005
“Oh man, just wait until they see the game.” That’s what Tim Tschirner tells us he said to himself a few months back after reading our first (and quite skeptical) preview of NBA Live 06 for Xbox 360. But how could we not question the next-gen debut of EA’s hugely successful basketball series? The company had only released one screenshot from a “visual target” CG video, which wasn’t even the actual game.
“This is a brand-new NBA Live,” says Tschirner. “We have three goals for this game: It’s gotta look next-gen, play next-gen, and feel next-gen.”
And after some exclusive hands-on time with the Xbox 360 title, this baller already has us eating our initial words.
Even the perspective from how you play the game is receiving some tweaks. NBA Live 06 will offer roughly 20 different (and fully customizable) camera options, and the overall system will be more dynamic. “It may start as your basic low camera,” says Tschirner. “But if you’re at the top of the key and you pass the ball to an open guy in the corner, the camera is going to then cut to behind that particular player.”
The images here aren’t dressed-up beauty shots—the NBA’s superstars really do look this lifelike when you’re playing the game. And aside from the photo-realistic mugs and rippling physiques, you’ll also notice moving uniform cloth and perspiration. Yep, players now break a sweat (some more than others) throughout four quarters. “Players will also portray true emotion,” says Tschirner. For instance, a defender will grimace after taking a charge, and loudmouths such as the Pacers’ Ron Artest will argue calls. Hopefully, he won’t be too emotional and get into a brouhaha with unruly fans.
Usually, those in the seats go neglected. Not in how they look, per se, but in their reactions. In NBA Live 06, crowds will respond with a thunderous roar if, say, the home team has just sunk a go-ahead free throw in the waning seconds of overtime. They’ll recognize momentum changes, too; fans will get all pumped and start cheering louder as the home squad starts mounting a comeback. The increased emphasis on audio is also trickling down to the players, as you’ll now hear teammates call for the ball and bark at you to shoot the rock.
Another next-gen bonus is the crazy amount of detail that’s going into each team’s digs. “We’ve rebuilt all the arenas from scratch,” says Tschirner. This equates into scenery like fully functioning Jumbotrons that display game footage, a scorer’s table, and even those ever-changing billboards that wrap around several NBA homes.
Due to technical limitations, physical play, such as applying pressure D or contesting a layup, has never looked very pretty on today’s consoles. Either it seems like there’s a thin invisible wall between the two players, or even worse, one will literally go through the other’s torso or stretched-out arms. “We are now using real physics to determine collisions,” explains Tschirner. “This means that players can really get tangled up. If body parts hit, it will interrupt the offensive player’s flight path to the basket.” So definitely expect a rougher brand of basketball in the next generation.
Can’t Afford an Xbox 360?
No biggie—NBA Live 06 will also rattle the rims of all the current consoles and the PSP this September and October, respectively. The major addition here is what EA’s calling Freestyle Superstars. Each of the six player classifications, from the dunkaholic High Flyer to the no-look-passing Playmaker, will provide the NBA’s best with unique move sets. Also, expect a smoother transition game and an easier slam-dunk contest. P
Attend any real pro basketball game and you’ll see the courts surrounded with spandex-clad cheerleaders, cameramen, security guards, and annoying team mascots. While the court in this batch of screenshots is bare, Tschirner promises that the final game will have several onlookers. “The sidelines are coming to life,” he says. “You can collide with these people, too. The plan is that if you dive for the ball and crash into one of the cameramen, the game will show an instant replay from that camera.” Very nice.
Copyright © 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Electronic Gaming Monthly.