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Andrew’s Follow-Up Impressions of NBA Live 10

The second title update for NBA Live 10 has been released so as promised, I’ve written up some impressions as a follow-up to my full review which I posted last month. As it has been confirmed that no further updates will be released with the NBA Live Dev Team now focusing solely on the development of NBA Live 11, this will basically serve as my verdict on NBA Live 10 as it stands today, following the two official updates. However, I may possibly post some further thoughts down the road, perhaps as a retrospective closer to the release of NBA Live 11 or following some further slider tweaks.

Let’s begin with some good news. The frustrating replay issues seemingly caused by the first update have been resolved as far as I can tell. Replays are seemingly being generated properly and are available to be viewed after the game as intended. However, I’ve still had the game lock up on me (though admittedly just the once) and for me the second update really didn’t go far enough in correcting some of the problems with the original game or the first update and arguably added some more. Right now, I’m not entirely sure that NBA Live 10 is altogether a better game or even as good a game as it was out of the box, at least for someone who is chiefly an offline/Dynasty player.

The second update seems to have made the game more challenging, which in itself is not a bad idea but it seems to be achieving that goal through the wrong means. All-Star difficulty has become noticeably harder and not necessarily in a realistic way, due to the CPU’s tendency to ignore its playbook and either drive to the basket or toss up a quick shot more often than it should, especially with players who shouldn’t be doing that. The most alarming and frustrating part of this approach is how often the CPU succeeds. Whereas the user can expect to have the ball knocked loose frequently on drive attempts or when posting up, the CPU very rarely coughs up the ball. Furthermore, whereas the user will often run into a clogged lane, the CPU breezes to the hoop, deftly side-stepping defenders for the finish. It’s not uncommon to see the CPU calmly drill jumpers – often turnaround fadeaways – with the defense draped all over them, while at the other end you’re clanging wide open jumpers, rolling layups off the front of the rim or having the ball stripped or the shot blocked at the last second.

It doesn’t help matters that your CPU teammates’ help defense is often quite casual, as is their willingness to jump for rebounds at times. While re-enabling the on-ball scenarios of NBA Live 09 has ensured that CPU opponents will stick to you like glue and fiercely protect the lane (often effectively neutralising Size Ups for the user, though I do like that they can’t be exploited and abused), it doesn’t work both ways. As I mentioned before, all too often the CPU will casually waltz into the lane at the other end and finish with a dunk or layup. The frustration is compounded by the fact that the CPU is adept at finishing at the hoop whereas the user can all too often expect to miss easy layups (or even dunks), fire a layup into the bottom of the hoop or end up doing something they don’t want to do, like put up a wild fadeaway hook instead of a sensible layup moving towards the basket even if that should be the logical result of what you’re doing with the controls. Cue the CPU fast break off the rebound, something it is able to run much better than the user thanks to what feels like NBA Live 10’s version of the catch-up bug and a tendency for CPU teammates to stop running at the three point line.

Additionally, the CPU is always crisp and on-target with its passes. CPU teammates on the other hand seem to have been dumbed down by the patch and alley-oop logic feels like it’s almost completely broken; expect to toss lobs backwards to players at the three point line more often than hitting the open man at the hoop, or send a bad pass that sails out of bounds even though your teammate has good position and you have a good angle for the lob. Too many easy passes in general are blown with the CPU making too many effortless steals and interceptions as a result, often by players that have their backs to the passing lane.

I’ve seen some differing opinions of NBA Live 10 following the second patch and it could be that it has simply added a new learning curve but even so I would argue that there are still some definite AI issues as it seems the CPU runs fewer plays than it originally did out of the box. The issue with the CPU “improvising” too early when the play breaks down is also still there to a certain extent. I think it’s been toned down a little but it still feels like most of the time the CPU is shooting too early in the shot clock and sometimes having players panic and attempt shots a step or two out of their range when there’s plenty of time to run a play and get a better shot. As I said before, turnaround fadeaways and the like are still happening when they shouldn’t be and are being made far too often.

Enabling rim stuffs was a good idea in theory, but dunks seem to miss without rhyme or reason. It doesn’t help that this issue also affects the user more than the CPU, with wide open dunks being blown more often at one end than the other. On the whole, there seems to be an unfair balance with All-Star difficulty following the second update. Unfortunately, Pro difficulty is a little too easy but some slider tweaks might be able to balance things out. There are stretches when the game plays really well but quite often I’ve found myself quitting games and switching the Xbox 360 off because the CPU has gone ballistic and waltzed through my defense no matter what I do, while I repeatedly miss layups and open jumpshots at the other end. Admittedly some slider tweaks and further practice could help out here.

It must be said that there are fixes in the two updates that are very much worthwhile. As I mentioned in my review, adding the backdown button was a good move and something that needs to be retained in NBA Live 11’s default control scheme. Automatically switching control to the point guard after a made basket also prevents a lot of confusion when trying to get back on defense. Goaltended baskets are now counted properly so far as I can see and it appears as though some online quibbles have been addressed as well. The updates had good intentions and looking at the laundry list of changes in the first update is proof that a lot of thought and effort went into the updates, which I certainly do appreciate. There are just a few hiccups that weren’t there before and that’s frustrating, because it’s a situation where the bad has a habit of distracting greatly from the good and the fact that I’m still experiencing lock-ups is worrying, because you never know when a game that’s going well is suddenly going to come crashing down.

I do go back to the question of whether there’s simply an added learning curve with the updates however and perhaps with the right slider tweaks and buckling down, I’ll be able to either enjoy the challenge of All-Star difficulty or ramp up the challenge on Pro difficulty for a more satisfying experience. As I write this, however, I admit I’m a little disappointed. NBA Live 10 played such a great game out of the box and the updates at times feel like a step backwards, at least in some respects. That said I’m sure I’ll keep trying my luck in the coming weeks as it may just be a case of practice (and slider tweaks) makes perfect…or good enough to enjoy the game, at any rate.

However, the lock-ups do greatly concern me and the possibility that an enjoyable game will come to an abrupt end is a shadow that continues to hang over NBA Live 10. You can get used to the way a game plays and find ways to improve and compensate where necessary, try slider tweaks and the like but lock-ups are an unsolvable problem and as such are complete mood-killers…especially when you prefer to play longer quarter lengths. I’d like to keep giving the game a shot and as I said, I’m sure I will between now and the time NBA Live 11 comes out but the possibility that it could come crashing down any second makes me a little hesitant. It’s only happened once, but it makes me cautious all the same. Dynasty Mode’s shortcomings also make it difficult for a Dynasty geek such as myself to sustain interest as I normally would.

Once again looking ahead to NBA Live 11, my recommendation would be to backtrack a little and iron out the gameplay/AI kinks as they were in NBA Live 10 out of the box, while beefing up Dynasty Mode and giving users a more diverse range of gameplay modes to play with. A lot of issues have been addressed by NBA Live 10 and its updates but there is still room for improvement. NBA Live 11 needs to address those issues in greater detail and continue building upon what has become a much more solid foundation so that the series can take another step towards truly reclaiming its former glory. Quibbles with the updates aside, I do still feel the series is headed in the right direction in many ways and with the right improvements in this development cycle, NBA Live 11 should be a special game…hopefully with a triumphant return to the PC platform. That’s certainly my wish.