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NBA Live 2001 (PC) Review

Background Info


NBA Live 2001 was delayed for about 2 months, as it was scheduled for originally for an early December 2000 release. Many suspected that EA had most of their NBA Live team working on the PS2 version, but after that game had been release, one could tell that the PS2 version resembled the PSX version very much. Even though I'm a huge basketball fan, and NBA Live 2001 is one of the few PC basketball titles out, I personally was not too excited about the long awaited release of the game given the disappointment of the PS2 version. Hopefully EA proves me wrong. Read on to find out.

Presentation/Graphics : 92
The cut scenes of NBA Live 2001 are simply amazing. The graphics rank right up there with NHL 2001's beautifully done cut scenes. Although the difference between the cut scenes and the actual gameplay graphics isn't too big, it still is quite a difference. It is very evident the development team spent some time on making those nice cut scenes. Players' faces are also a bit more detailed than last year's facial mapping.

The player animations are nicely done as well. Crossovers, between the legs dribbles, fade-away jump shots, running floaters--all are realistically portrayed. The lay-ups seem a little funny to me, though.

There still exists an invisible force-field around each player. Sometimes when I'm trying to defend against the post, I see my guy's elbow leaning on air. I try to get closer to the offensive player posting up but it won't let me. There is obviously space between the two players and it still would not let me get closer.

Just make sure you have a good enough system to take advantage of the graphical eye candy of NBA Live 2001 if you are buying the game for the graphics.

Presentation/Audio : 75
At first experience commentary seems well done and informative as well as interesting. However, it does get repetitive regardless of what you hear in other reviews. The accuracy of the commentary can also be challenged. For instance, my team had 31 rebounds and my opponent had 21, yet the announcers were saying, "The Lakers are getting man-handled on the boards." Yeah, sure. What game are you watching? Another time, I was up by four with 50 seconds to go and the announcers told me I had better foul.

The sound effects are well represented though, including squeaks and the sound of the ball hitting the floor. The intelligence of the crowd is dramatically improved. During free throws, visiting teams will have to put up with noise from the home fans.

The background song as you scroll through the menus is catchy; however, after a few days with the game, I had to turn off the background music. I could not take anymore of, "Will I go right, Will I go left, taking it home tonight." That song was driving me crazy. True, some people might not get tired of the song as soon as I did.

Interface/Options : 70
The menu system is really easy to navigate as EA did a real good job. Options are very easy to find. Everything loads up nice and quick.

The create-a-player feature seemed to have been worked on but not for the good. I have no idea why they limited the create-a-player feature a bit instead of expanding. Also, no in-game save feature. [Note: It was brought to our attention that we overlooked the in-game saved feature from NBA Live 2000. For some reason EA took it out.] I can see it NBA Live 2002: "New Revolutionary In-Game Save Feature!"

There is no practice mode in the game. The online lounge is a bit confusing as I tried to find a game for 45 minutes and could not start one, so finally retired to playing the computer. Too bad EA did not implement an online league into the game as they did with Madden 2001.

The controls are not as responsive as they should be. Many times I have gotten the ball to an open guy and tried pressing the shoot button quickly before defenders flock towards him, only to have my player not do anything. Very frustrating. The direct shoot feature doesn't work as well as it should. Often I drive to the hoop with one guy standing in my path with Kobe Bryant. I try to use the direct shoot feature, forcing Kobe to dunk, but instead, Kobe either comes to a stop or ends up shooting a running jump shot. And when it does work, most of the time, the dunks don't go in. Players don't miss dunks too much in the NBA.

Even with all the talk, the franchise mode hasn't really gone through much of an upgrade. Oh wow, I can make a trade with 2 other teams instead of just one now. That is supposed to satisfy me? The way the draft is handled with the scouting reports, which I like, instead of ratings for rookies is still the same. Nothing changed here. EA still has not implemented a way to trade draft picks and future draft picks. What a shame.

The camera angles are no longer selectable by simply hitting a keystroke while in the game. Only way to change angle is to pause the game first.

Gameplay : 70
The gameplay is no better than average. I'll start off with the good. First, the game has been slowed down. No more super fast ping-pong basketball. The slowed down pace actually results in realistic game scores. You will no longer score 100+ points in 7 minute quarters on the higher difficulty levels, although the number of 5 feet or less jump shots missed are unrealistically high.

Arcade wise, NBA Live 2001 does a pretty good job of just providing a fun entertaining game for novice basketball fans. As long as you don't focus too much on some of the gameplay flaws.

It is nearly impossible to beat the computer off the dribble on the two higher difficulty levels. Your two methods of scoring (excluding fast breaks): Pass the ball in low, keep backing in and hope you make the little hook shot or a dunk if you try a spin move, or pass the ball to the perimeter and do a pump fake and hope the defend goes for the fake and then drive inside. Note on the spin move, often your player will end up going out of bounds. Nice isn't it? Although, while posting up, you can do hook, fadeaway or up and under shots. The up and under move is a bit difficult to pull off but can be done. Too bad your players don't set picks for your when you need one. The computer players constantly runs through my players' sad attempt of getting in the way of the defensive guys.

The AI contains some serious flaws that just kills anything the gameplay had going. For instance, computer would casually walk the ball up down by a basket with five seconds left in the game. Their shot selection with the game on the line really baffles me. Down by 3 with under 10 seconds to go, the computer passes the ball around, looking for what I would think would be a 3-point shot, but what happens? The computer gets the ball to a guy posting up, and he takes a fade away shot and misses with 2 seconds left. Also, a countless number of times, the computer would drive into the lane with their PG and see a wide path to the basket, get within 5-10 feet, then kick it back out to someone who is covered.

Fast breaks by the computer do not even exist. Whenever they get an opportunity, their ball-handler pulls up and sets up the offense instead of trying to push the ball up court.

Rebounding is another big problem. Often the ball goes through my player's hand right to the computer's guys. Sometimes there are way too many offensive rebounds. One quarter, I went 4 out of 24 from 3-point land. That 7-minute quarter, my team pulled down a total of 13 rebounds. Shaq grabbed 12 offensive rebounds. It is too difficult for a controlled player to jump up and grab the rebound. Best bet is to just leave rebounding to the computer. The majority of the rebounds that I do end up with is as a result of the ball coming straight to my player's hand without jumping after the ball caroms off the rim. Also, when the rebound ends up on the floor, the players on the court don't seem to notice as they just continue to stroll casually instead of pursuing the ball. In addition to the rebounding problem, there is a lack of injuries in the game. I've played over 50 games, and have not had one player injuried yet. Yes, injuries was turned on.

Also, expect a lopsided number of blocks by your team whenever playing against the computer if you like to switch players on D and attempt to reject the shots. The computer gets your guys in good position in front of the offensive player. All you have to do is take control of the guy and jump when the offensive player shoots. This resulted in having three of my guys from the Lakers as the top 3 shot blockers in the league. However, if you don't take control of the guy, the computer will not make your guy contest for the shot. He will simply just sit there and watch the ball go over his head.

Don't force 3-point shots. During my first ten games or so, I was forcing 3-point shot after 3-point shot, and could not manage to shoot more than 15% from long distance. The past few games, I just passed the ball around till someone got an open look and my guys were shooting much more realistically from 3-point land.

With all these faults I found, I still find the game to be enjoyable. It is too bad, as this game could have been so much better with a little more testing. How could they have not fixed the number of shots missed from short range?

Replay Value : 70
The replay value is most definitely hindered by the absence of a save-game feature, rebounding and the frequency of missing easy shots. As far as the franchise mode, not much has been done to it from last year. Again, I would like to emphasize that the game can still be fun to play as the computer provides a challenge and you can't just drive to the hoop on every play and dunk.

Overall : 72
NBA Live 2000 owners should pass this game up as not much as been done in this year's update. However, new basketball gamers might want to give this game a try even with the problems mentioned above. NBA Live 2001 is fun to play if you can overlook the problems. Personally, the game started out enjoyable and still is, but I have a feeling I will start to get frustarted with the rebounding and missing short shots too often in the near future.

By: James Chheng 3/7/01

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