Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! This is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to basketball video games, the real NBA or another area of interest to our community, either as a list of five items or in the form of a Top 5 countdown.
As you may have noticed, there’s been a ton of NBA Live 16 news this week, owing to the game’s presence at E3 2015. Unlike the past couple of years, the development team have really been pushing out details, screenshots, and even videos of NBA Live 16 throughout E3, which definitely speaks volumes about their confidence in this year’s release.
For this week’s Friday Five, I’m going to talk about what I feel are the five best things about NBA Live 16 to come out of E3 2015. If you’ve listened to Episode #121 of the NLSC Podcast, you’re probably aware that I’m feeling excited and optimistic about NBA Live 16 in the wake of our first glimpse of the game, as well as all the juicy tidbits that we’ve learned so far. If you need to get up to speed, then I encourage you to check out all of the latest NBA Live 16 news here. With that said, let’s get down to the five things that have me feeling optimistic about NBA Live 16.
1. Gameplay Sliders & Roster Customisation Are Back
Let’s tip things off with two major Wishlist items that been confirmed for NBA Live 16: gameplay sliders, and the ability to customise rosters, including Create-a-Player. These two vital features were missing in NBA Live 14 and NBA Live 15, and their absence was sorely felt. As I’ve mentioned before, there have been several moments playing NBA Live 15 when I’ve thought “Man, if only I had sliders to adjust that”. While there are obviously some aspects of the game that they can’t fix, sliders provide the ability to fine tune frequencies, percentages, and other gameplay elements, which can make a huge difference to the experience.
The return of custom rosters is also very welcome. While we do have the weekly official roster updates, occasionally there have been errors and oversights, which in years gone by we’d simply fix ourselves. However, without the ability to modify the rosters these past couple of years, all we could do was report any issues to the team, and wait for the next update to be pushed through. Beyond making our own edits based in reality, creating (and sharing) fictional rosters also offers up a new way to enjoy the game. The addition of GameFaceHD, along with the ability to have up to five scanned faces in the game, is also huge. Sliders and roster customisation were sorely missed, and it’s great to see them already confirmed for NBA Live 16.
2. More Off-Ball Movement & Collisions
Reactions to the gameplay footage have been fairly positive. While there are still some awkward-looking animations in the game based on what we’ve seen so far, there’s also been some improvement over NBA Live 15. Additionally, IGN’s gameplay demo spotlighted some noticeable improvements in player AI, particularly in terms of setting screens, getting to the open spot on the floor, and not just standing around waiting for the user to make things happen. In previous years, the development team has referred to an aim of having players “move with a purpose”, and it appears as though LIVEmotion is helping that goal come to fruition.
NBA Live 16 also has a physic-based movement system, which will hopefully give players proper weight without the controls feeling sluggish, and is intended to create more realistic collisions both in the paint and away from the ball. We’ve seen a bit of that in the gameplay footage so far with players setting some off-ball screens, but it was a fairly quick glimpse. Nevertheless, those are two important areas for NBA Live to improve in and emulate as realistically as possible, so it’s encouraging to see progress being made. I just hope that the collisions also allow for injuries, as that’s another important – albeit unfortunate – aspect of the sport that should be replicated.
3. The New Shooting System & Other Gameplay Enhancements
Jumpshots have been a bit of a problem in NBA Live 14 and NBA Live 15. That was partly due to the lack of sliders (no longer an issue, presumably), and exacerbated by the shooting system and lack of input feedback. The shot feedback in NBA Live 15 was a welcome addition, but it was still a bit lacking, and jumpshots certainly felt a tad harder after being tuned in the official patches. The new system, which doesn’t tie the release of the shot button to the animation, and features a meter indicating the optimal release point – somewhat similar to NBA 2K – is a much better way to go. I’m very glad to see that change.
Other fundamental aspects of gameplay have also been fine tuned, or indeed, implemented. The newly added hand-offs are looking really good in the footage released so far, and I like the way they’ve been implemented: holding the Circle or B button. New pass and catch animations to make the passing game more crisp and responsive, smoother dribbling moves, re-screening, the ability to better deny players away from the ball…they’re all welcome enhancements, which makes for promising news. Naturally, I’m hoping for improvements to the depth modes – especially Dynasty – but as EA themselves said, gameplay is king. There’s still a lot learn about gameplay improvements in NBA Live 16, but I’m liking what we’ve heard so far.
4. Gamers at E3 2015 have had good things to say
Not everyone has been completely impressed by the raw gameplay footage shown during the IGN demo, or the gameplay trailer for that matter, but a lot of gamers aren’t writing off NBA Live 16 as quickly as they have the past couple of releases. Again, you can certainly notice a few familiar animations that don’t look so hot, but as far as the word from the floor at E3 2015 is concerned, the gameplay experience is very satisfying. People who have had a chance to play NBA Live 16 at E3 have had good things to say about the responsiveness and overall feel of the game. Their reactions tend to be positive: they’re impressed, or at the very least, cautiously optimistic.
I’m certainly glad to hear those positive remarks from gamers who have had hands-on time with NBA Live 16, especially this early on (more in that in a moment). As I’ve said a few times before on the Podcast, I believe that basketball games – both NBA Live and NBA 2K – look a bit better when you’re playing them yourself, as opposed to watching someone else on the sticks. If nothing else, your enjoyment of the experience can outweigh a funky animation here and there. A game that feels great and is enjoyable to play can compensate for visual shortcomings, but it seldom works the other way around. So far, first hand accounts suggest that NBA Live 16 will offer an experience that carries the game.
5. There’s still two-and-a-half months of development left
Once again, the development team obviously felt that NBA Live 16 was at a point where they could show it off during E3 in far more detail than NBA Live 14 and NBA Live 15. Judging by the general reaction so far, their confidence was well-placed. The game is looking better than last year, it’s adding or bringing back features that gamers really want, and there’s definitely a more positive buzz about NBA Live than there has been in quite some time. As it stands, it looks like NBA Live 16 is going to be better received at launch than its predecessors, but that’s the really encouraging part: there’s still around two-and-a-half months left to develop and polish the game.
Seeing what I’ve seen so far, learning all the information that came out of E3, and knowing that Dynasty is also back and “better than ever” (as per the preliminary features list), I’m already confident that NBA Live 16 will be another step forward, and a game that I’ll really enjoy. However, I’m even more optimistic about what EA can achieve this year, having already seen a game that they had the confidence to subject to gamer scrutiny at E3, and knowing that even more work will go into it. We’ve also seen the team do some impressive work on the last two games post-launch, so even after NBA Live 16 comes out on September 29th, it may well continue to get even better.
As I said before, if you need to catch up on all the NBA Live 16 news coming out of E3, check out all of our bulletins here. We’ll continue to post news as it comes through, and we’ll be doing our best to bring you some interviews and other exclusives in the coming weeks as well. I’m certainly hoping that I’ll continue to be impressed by the previews and details that are in the pipeline, but it does appear to be shaping up as a good year for NBA Live.
That’s all for this week. Do you have any thoughts on the NBA Live 16 news coming out of E3? Does EA have your attention? Is there anything else that got you excited at E3…Fallout 4, perhaps? Have your say in the comments below, and as always, feel free to join in the discussion in the NLSC Forum! Thanks for checking in, please join me again next Friday for another Five.