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NBA Live 2001

Developer: EA Sports | Publisher: Electronic Arts
Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 10/23/00 | Genre: Sports

All I can say is that NBA Live has finally arrived on the PS2 and many gamers like myself are overjoyed about its release. The NBA Live series has always been and will always be the number one basketball game in the video game market. EA has been giving us great basketball since the conception of the series and seems to be able to improve the game every year.

Now I am not saying this game is without its faults, no game is perfect, but it is definitely a solid game and a great effort for their first release on the PS2. With the release of NBA Live 2001 we should expect the lesser series to start releasing their versions of professional basketball in the near future, which will allow us to truly rate how good this version of NBA Live truly is, as we will have something to compare it to other than NBA 2K1 on the Dreamcast.

Anyone who enjoys the best sport sims on any console will be after this one. So basically everyone.

We all know that when it comes to a good basketball sim, gameplay is the most important part of the game. This is the reason that NBA Live has become the premiere basketball sim. It has always had strong gameplay. The newest version of this series is no different, adding more depth to the play than last year's version. Of course with all these good things there must be some negative things about the gameplay as well.

While the response and control of the players overall is fairly strong there are some minor problems. The biggest one would be the fact that once you make a move you are stuck in that player animation until it is over, there is no aborting. For example, if you were going to make a spin move and started to go toward the sideline there is no way to stop yourself from going out of bounds. The animation must finish first before the player will respond to anything else. This causes some control problems and can be frustrating in a close game.

The other main problem with the game is the one that has always haunted this series. The AI is a little weak, but I would have to say much better than last year's version. Certain things will happen and they just don't make sense a lot of the time. One noticeable thing is that the CPU controlled players on your team will not block out and it can be very hard to get a defensive rebound. There are many instances when the offensive team will get four to five chances at scoring before the defensive team can get a rebound. This just doesn't make sense; the only redeeming value is that the CPU team when playing a single player game has the same problem.

Also in single player mode the AI is not very good at playing the game. When you are playing against the computer you can completely back away from the point guard and he will not drive or shoot unless time is running low. He will just continue to run whatever set or play has been called completely ignoring this incredible opportunity you are giving him. All versions of this series have always had this problem, and I must assume that it must be a tough programming problem to fix or it would have been dealt with by now.

So what's good about this game? Well just about everything else there is to do in a basketball game. This game is the best basketball sim you will find out there. The CPU players are very good at moving on offense and running the set called by the coach. The control is very responsive except for the aforementioned problem with the animations. They have added some nice low post moves including a jump hook and a nice power pivot to the hoop. There is a large selection of teams to choose from including the current teams rosters as well as other legendary teams.

There is also the 1-on-1 mode where you can play against Jordan and other legends on the courts outside. There are also the normal season and playoff modes as well. One mode missing which a lot people enjoy is the franchise mode. It's just not offered which I believe is the same as last year's version. Luckily for me, I have never enjoyed the franchise mode of play in sport sims. So to sum it all up, when it comes to gameplay NBA Live 2001 is extremely solid but not without flaws.

I guess with the release of Madden on the PS2 my expectations for the graphics on NBA Live 2001 may have been set a little too high. I will say that it has the best looking 3D models I have ever seen in a console basketball game. The bodies are made up of over 2,000 polygons and it shows. Also, unlike NBA 2K1, the body of the players resemble the real person more accurately when it comes to structure. In NBA 2K1 all the players look like they belong in the WWF with their pumped muscles, whereas in NBA Live the body proportions seem very accurate.

The one major problem that NBA Live suffers from in the graphics department is that the faces of the players just don't look right. I am not saying that none of the guys look like their real life counterparts, but some of them are not even close. I would assume with the way they handled the faces in Madden we would get a better result with the faces, unfortunately we do not.

Luckily the player animations are great and you can really do some nice move and dunks. It's obvious that they used Kevin Garnet as their model for the animations and this looks great when you are using a larger player, but when a small guard like Iverson goes in for a dunk and does a Kevin Garnet dunk it just doesn't look right. I will assume that capture animation is an expensive thing to do and this is why they do not use a wide variety of players in the game considering this has always been the case. The cut-scenes used in the game to supposedly give the game more realism seem to be there more for eye candy than any thing else and they start to get very boring in a short amount of time. Also the camera angles were not the best in the world and at times just don't show enough of the court. The default settings are set at an angle that seems to maximize the eye candy on the court by giving you close-ups that you do not need by taking away your vision of the rest of the court. I recommend that you play the game a few times and make some tweaks to the camera angles set on your own gaming preferences.

So, why I was not blown away by the visuals of NBA Live 2001, I will admit that it is still the best looking console basketball game out there. The detailed player models are truly incredible as well as the little things like the reflections off the hardwood, but the texture mapping for the faces didn't quite do it for me.

This is an EA game so you know the soundtrack will be solid. I have to say that Montell Jordan has given us the best soundtrack yet for a NBA Live game. From the sweet opening to the background music during the menus this soundtrack is a winner.

The sound effects are also on par with the soundtrack. The squeaks of the sneakers can be heard and the bouncing of the ball on the court is always audible. The players make grunts and complaints at the right time and even the commentators make relevant commentary throughout the game. The sound in the game is close to perfect as you can come.

There is a large amount of gaming in the single player modes. Anyone who really likes to play sports sims will truly enjoy the 82 game season mode offered in NBA Live. The computer opponents can be pretty tough when the difficulty setting is set to superstar. You will have to adapt to how the computer plays a more methodical game whereas when you play against your friends it's probably an all out run and gun shootout. Even with this, I truly enjoy playing the season mode the best. Who wants to just skip to the playoffs when you can play a full season and earn the right to play in them yourself?

For a change of pace you can play the street ball one-on-one mode and go against legends like Jordan. I really didn't find this to be much fun against the CPU, but extremely fun against a friend. So, I would have to say that there is plenty of replay value in the single player portion of this game. If you consider the amount of teams you can play with and the fact that you can create a player and put yourself on the team, I would have to say the replay is infinite.

There is nothing better about sports games than the multiplayer feature. I can't think of anyone who rather play the computer than go up against a live opponent. Especially an opponent who will be sitting near to you so you can constantly talk trash as you play. The amount of fun to be had in multiplayer mode is unlimited. It just doesn't get old playing this game. I can sit with a friend and play this game for hour upon hour without being bored.

They also add a little bit more for you by giving you the 1-on-1 mode where you can beat your friend's butt on the streets. This is a nice touch and a totally different ball game, which gives the game a little diversity.

There is no doubt in my mind that this game is fun. How fun? Well I can sit there and play this game with another opponent or the computer for hours up hours and never get tired of it. That's how fun this game is and anyone who has enjoyed the NBA Live series in the past will most likely agree with me.

This is an EA sports game, what are you waiting for? We all know that they put out the best sporting titles in the video game market and NBA Live 2001 is no different. Sure the game has some flaws and could be better, but so does every game. I will to give this a no-brainer when it comes to a purchase. Don't waste your time waiting for this to be in at your local video store for a rent, just go buy it.

By John Kellogg - 08/01/01
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Screenshots for NBA Live 2001

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