I’ve been waiting until I got the green light to make “official” mention it, but last month, I had the opportunity to visit the EA Tiburon studio to attend an NBA Live 16 community event. During this event, I got to spend a lot of time playing NBA Live 16, and give feedback directly to the development team. In turn, the team was very receptive of the feedback that I and the other attendees had to offer, and it felt like a very productive and constructive few days.
Needless to say, I do have a lot of impressions to share about the game – and there’s certainly good news! – but there’s a lot of stuff I haven’t been given the all-clear to discuss just yet. However, with the announcement of LIVE Pro-Am, featuring the Summer Circuit and LIVE Run, I have been given clearance to give you my thoughts on those modes, and take some questions from the community as well. Some questions I may have to run by my contacts at EA before I answer them, just to ensure that I’m not breaking the NDA I signed, but I’ll do my best to get you the info you’re after.
Without any further ado, let’s take a look at LIVE Pro-Am in NBA Live 16!
LIVE Pro-Am is comprised of two online modes: Summer Circuit, and LIVE Run. In the Summer Circuit, you take one of the five players that you can create for Rising Star, and team up with other NBA Live 16 gamers to take on the CPU in five-on-five gameplay, where the first team to score 21 points wins. Streetball rules are in effect, so don’t expect to be shooting free throws or drawing charges, though two-point and three-point field goals still count for their usual amount, rather than being ones and twos. There’s no “win by two” rule either, so if you’re up 20-18, you better not give up a three!
The games take place on a selection of beautifully re-created indoor and outdoor courts, from the Hoop Dome in Toronto to New York’s Rucker Park. The different venues vary in difficulty, with five games per court, featuring squads of NBA players that get progressively more talented. In other words, don’t expect to get a group of entry level players together, and blow through the Rucker Park challenges right away. The fifth game on each court is something of a boss battle, pitting you against the venue’s toughest lineup.
Simply winning a game is enough to move on to the next contest, but you’re also presented with individual goals/achievements to shoot for in each game, which vary according to the type of player you’ve created. If you’re a pass first point guard, it might be setting up a player with an assist. If you’re a big man, it might be grabbing a set number of rebounds. Completing these goals in addition to advancing to the next game unlocks additional items, such as shoes, gear, and signature animations for your player.
I found the goals to be a fun addition to the mode, especially as they’re not things that you have to go out of your way to do. If you’re playing well, filling your role on the team and doing the things that your player can do best, you’ll be able to achieve them. They’re generally geared towards encouraging good teamwork and functioning as a well-oiled machine, which is a big part of winning in Summer Circuit.
Working as a team can be a little difficult at first, though at the same time it was probably a little easier for us at the event, all being in the same room. The biggest issue lies not with NBA Live 16 itself, but with our mentality as gamers: we’re all used to being player one, so at first, everyone is looking to get the inbounds pass, run the team, and score the basket. And while that will work to some extent in the easier challenges, you’ll find yourself getting blown out by the tougher squads if you don’t play as a team.
Once you get that chemistry going, however…man, Summer Circuit is a lot of fun! The harder challenges should still be suitably tough, especially if you haven’t sufficiently levelled up your player, but the better you play as a team, the less overwhelmed you feel. There’s a feeling that you can play better than the sum of your parts, but at the end of the day, a lack of talent will be a barrier…as it should be.
Each game will provide you with Skill Points that you can use to increase your rating, as well as separate Reward Points that can be used to buy new accessories, gear, and shoes for your player. I really like that ratings and gear have their own in-game “currency”, so you’re not forced to sacrifice a ratings upgrade to get new kicks, or settle for gear you don’t want because you really needed to add a few points to your three-point rating. Furthermore, you can’t buy SP or RP, so all upgrades will need to be earned.
There aren’t any user teams/squads in Summer Circuit per se, nor any team customisation, which some gamers mind find a little disappointing. I personally don’t mind too much; while I think it would be a good idea to add that in future releases – and Summer Circuit is definitely something the series should have beyond NBA Live 16 – it’s still easy to get friends together and set up regular games. A Play With Friends option allows you to create a private lobby and essentially run with a familiar group time and time again. You just won’t have a custom name or anything.
While the mode is the most fun when you do have five human users joining in on a game, the CPU will step in and complete your lineup with a real NBA player if you don’t have five users. This definitely makes Summer Circuit more accessible, as you can get into a game very quickly. However, to get the most out of it, you’ll definitely want to play regular games with a few friends.
As I understand it, there’ll be new challenges, and even courts added to NBA Live 16 post-release, so the mode should have a significant amount of replay value throughout the season. It’s also unlikely that most gamers will reach all of the goals in each game straight away, so there’s incentive to go back and play games that you’ve already won, in order to shoot for 100% completion and unlock new stuff for your player.
If you’ve played adidas LIVE Run in NBA Live 10, or Online Team Play in NBA Live 08 or NBA Live 09, LIVE Run in NBA Live 16 will definitely seem familiar. It’s the more traditional approach to an online team play mode, allowing up to ten gamers on ten consoles to jump into a game. The rules in LIVE Run are the same as the Summer Circuit, and games take place on the same selection of courts.
Unlike previous versions of LIVE Run/Online Team Play however, you’ll once again be playing with your Rising Star players, rather than real NBA players. As with Summer Circuit, real NBA players controlled by the CPU will take the place of any spots that aren’t filled by human users. Thankfully, there’s no “Got Next”, or waiting around for nine other NBA Live 16 gamers to come along and join your game before it can get started. As soon as four users are ready, a game can tip off.
Good team play will obviously be essential to your success. As with Summer Circuit, there aren’t any squads that you can officially join and customise, but once again there is the Play With Friends option that allows you to create private lobbies if you want to get together with a familiar group of gamers to play regularly. Otherwise, you can simply search for a game that’s in need of extra players.
I can tell you that we had some really, really enjoyable five-on-five LIVE Run games during the event, that resulted in some very vocal celebrations, and exuberant high fives. That’s going to be a bit harder when everyone’s in a different place, obviously, but you will be able to mike up and chat to one another, which will certainly help with the team play aspect. All in all, LIVE Run is making a very welcome return in NBA Live 16.
A Few Final Thoughts & Pro-Am Impressions
I’ve mentioned several times in my Friday Five articles, and in episodes of the NLSC Podcast, that I’m not a big online gamer. Not just when it comes to sports games: I’m usually just drawn to the single player experience, or local multiplayer with friends if we’re talking about fighting games. Therefore, in theory, while I’d naturally have an appreciation for these modes, I shouldn’t be too hyped about them.
However, this is where I have to give Summer Circuit and LIVE Run a ringing endorsement. While I’ll always love Dynasty Mode, I can see myself playing these modes in NBA Live 16, and having a lot of fun with them. As someone who traditionally hasn’t been all that into online modes – I’ve had some fun with them at times, but never been too keen on them – I’m not sure that there’s any higher praise I can offer than saying that these are modes that actually have me interested in playing online, and looking forward to doing so.
The courts themselves look fantastic, and it’s really cool that EA has been able to get some famous, authentic venues into the game. During the event, I mentioned that the concept of Summer Circuit reminded me a little of NBA Street Homecourt, and a couple of the developers noted that they did draw some inspiration from that game. As you’ve probably seen from the announcement, the seven courts available at launch are the Hoop Dome, Seattle Pacific University, Brooklyn Park, Kezar Pavilion, Rucker Park, Venice Beach, and the very awesome-looking Terminal 23.
Again, I’m a fan of having separate in-game currencies for the ratings upgrades and player gear, as well as avoiding an ugly scenario where players can max out their player straight away by spending real money. The ratings and height/weight caps for different positions should keep things balanced, and cut down on cheese. I also like the integration with Rising Star, since your player can be levelled up across both modes, and the boosted ratings carry over if you start one mode after levelling up in the other. All in all, EA has taken a good approach with Pro-Am, and its Rising Star component.
The initial reactions on social media seem quite positive, and I’m not surprised. From the moment I started playing Summer Circuit and LIVE Run at the community event, I had a feeling that they would be popular and well-received. As I said, I’m traditionally not an online gamer, but these are modes that I can see myself playing. I’m looking forward to organising some games with the community.
Of course, a big reason that Pro-Am is so fun and appealing is because enhancements have been made to the gameplay in NBA Live 16. I can’t go into specifics about that just yet, but I’ll certainly give more impressions on that, and other elements of NBA Live 16, as soon as I get the green light. In the meantime, I’ll also try to answer any questions you may have about Pro-Am, LIVE Run, and Summer Circuit in the comments section below, as well as in the NBA Live 16 section of the Forum. As I said, I may have to run a couple of them by EA first to ensure that I’m not breaking the NDA I signed, but I’ll do my best to answer any questions.
That’s all for now, but stay tuned for more NBA Live 16 news and hands-on impressions, coming soon!
NBA Live 16 Pro-Am Reveal Trailer
Check out the official reveal trailer for Pro-Am in NBA Live 16, in case you missed it.
Watch it here on YouTube if you can’t see the embedded video.