Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of the five best things in five of my least favourite basketball video games.
Some Friday Five topics end up being an ongoing, open-ended series, while others are covered as a two-part series, back-to-back. This is an example of the latter. Last week, I talked about five of the worst things found in five of my all-time favourite basketball games. The obvious sequel to that feature is a list of the five best aspects in five of my all-time least favourite hoops titles. I’ve also realised that I wrote a couple of similar Friday Five features going on five years ago, but these lists are more personal, and of course, new games have come out and I’ve remembered other things since then.
Just as the best basketball games that become our favourites have their flaws, games that we end up disliking usually have at least one or two good features or ideas. If nothing else, they’re concepts with potential that we’d like to see executed better, or indeed, implemented in a much better game. With any luck, these modes and features will stick around long enough to be enjoyed in a superior title, or be adapted and adopted by the competition, as the case may be. Unfortunately, some of them do fall by the wayside, and we never get to really enjoy them. Without any further ado, here are five of the best things in games that rank among my least favourite.
1. All-Time Teams in NBA 2K18
Not to harp on it, especially as I’ve written a whole Wayback Wednesday article on its questionable legacy, but NBA 2K18 is one of my least favourite basketball games. From issues with the new motion system and terrible MyCAREER story, to the lack of goodwill and overall vibe that just didn’t feel right, there were plenty of reasons why I stopped playing it well before NBA 2K19 came out. However, it did have its strong points. As I’ve mentioned, some of its ideas had merit, they were just poorly executed. The best aspect of NBA 2K18, however, had to be the addition of the All-Time squads for all 30 NBA teams. It’s no surprise that they’ve stuck around.
While the year-specific retro teams are fantastic and a well-established staple since NBA 2K11, the All-Time teams were a great expansion of the game’s historical content. I’ve seen some people question the need for them, but one of the best things about them is that they’ve added retro players that don’t appear on any of the other historical teams to the rosters. For example, we don’t have an early 90s New Jersey Nets team, but Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson are there on the All-Time Nets squad. As with the retro teams a couple of big names are noticeably absent, but even so, they’re still one of the best things in a game that I otherwise rather dislike.
2. FIBA Teams in NBA Live 08
When it comes to the best things in NBA Live 08, another game that I’m definitely not too fond of, one of the first things that comes to mind is the fake spin in the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 version. As I Tweeted out late last year, when I discovered that move at the NBA Live 08 Community Day, I became obsessed with it. Another great feature from the 360/PS3 version is the “push” approach to Dynasty. However, I’m going to go with a feature that made it into the last gen and PC version as well, and that’s the FIBA teams and FIBA World Championship mode. True, it seems like they were a last minute replacement for something even better, but they were still great.
Additional content such as retro teams and the aforementioned All-Time squads is something we take for granted these days. At a time when the Decade All-Stars and Legends Pool were rapidly diminishing, however, an unexpected new feature was a pleasant surprise. Although the selection of teams was small, it established the feature for the next couple of NBA Live titles. We were also able to add new teams on PC, and use the new TEAMCODE value to create other custom squads for roster projects. NBA Live 08 was a disappointing last release on PC, and the new gen version had its issues as well, but FIBA teams nevertheless stand out as one of its best features.
3. Shot Meter in NBA Inside Drive 2000
In my retrospective of NBA Inside Drive 2000, I talked about my unusual history with the game. I owned it for about a week before returning it for GTA 2 on PC, having been thoroughly unimpressed from the first time I played it. Years later, when I was expanding my collection of basketball video games, I picked it up again off of eBay. I wondered if my initial impressions all those years ago had been the knee-jerk reactions of a teenager who was just used to NBA Live and immediately balked at something that was different. They weren’t. Years later, the same flaws were apparent, and nothing moved me to reconsider ranking it as one of my least favourite games.
It does have one really good feature though, something that was ahead of its time: a shot meter. Jumpshots are a crapshoot with loaded dice in old basketball games. There are optimal release points and a general strategy – “release at the top of your jump” was the instruction that was always given – but the mechanics never felt very precise. Like the meters and shot feedback in modern games, the shot meter in NBA Inside Drive 2000 provided a guide to the timing, and indicated the accuracy of your release. The fact that the concept caught on speaks for itself, making it one of the best things in an underwhelming release. Apart from that of course, it’s not a good game at all.
4. Signature Shots in NBA Live 07
NBA Live 07 is widely regarded as the worst game in the series. I would argue that a couple of the games on the current generation give it a run for its money, but I’ll agree that it remains a contender. It didn’t turn out well on either generation it was released for, and tried a few ideas that just didn’t pan out (though some did evolve into better concepts). In my previous “Best Features in Subpar Games” article, I cited X-Factor players as a standout feature in a game that otherwise stood out for all of the wrong reasons. That was a great concept as the games were aiming to expand control and better differentiate between players, but I’m changing my pick to signature shots.
After all, it’s the concept that has remained in the game as a mark of authenticity. On top of that, while there are several animations in NBA Live 07 that don’t look good, signature shots stand out as being respectably accurate. It’s no surprise that EA made a point of promoting the feature during the game’s preview season, spotlighting unique animations such as Shawn Marion’s distinctive jumpshot style. As I said, even the worst games tend to have at least one or two redeeming qualities; good ideas that we’d like to see in much better titles. NBA Live 07 didn’t turn out the way we wanted on basically every platform, but the addition of signature animations was a step forward.
5. BIG Moments in NBA Live 14
I’m repeating a pick from my previous article here, but NBA Live 14 remains one of my least favourite basketball games, and BIG Moments was the mode I enjoyed the most while trying to get some positive experiences out of the game. I also became interested in Ultimate Team that year, but it wasn’t as enjoyable as later incarnations of the mode, nor did it originate in the NBA Live series. Because they were shorter and provided the context of interesting situations that mirrored moments and games from the real NBA, BIG Moments were more fun to jump into. The longer ones were rougher and far less appealing to play, but the underlying concept was a great idea.
To that end, it’s unfortunate that the mode has been dropped from the last couple of NBA Live releases. The creativity and freshness of the content made it one of the best features in a game that was extremely tough to get into. I remember playing NBA Live 14 after picking up my PlayStation 4 at a midnight launch event, and just being so disappointed in the way it had turned out. I did end up spending a decent amount of time with it though, and the big patch it received did help a little. For the most part, it was the appeal of BIG Moments that kept me interested enough to keep giving NBA Live 14 another try. Along with LUT, it’s the best part of a very a flawed release.
What are some of the best things – modes, content, or perhaps gameplay mechanics – in basketball games that otherwise rank among your least favourite? Have your say in the comments section below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.