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.
Putting aside the EA Access trial on Xbox One, NBA Live 15 is finally out next week: October 28th in North America, and October 30th here in Australia. Just as I compiled a To Do list for NBA 2K15 shortly before it was released, I also have a few things in mind to do as soon as I get my hands on this year’s instalment of NBA Live. So – just in case you were still wondering where I’m going with this – that’s what I’m talking about in this week’s Friday Five.
I expect that there’ll be some overlap with my list for NBA 2K15, as the key points of interest are fairly similar, and I have something of a routine that I follow when I’m playing a new basketball game for the first time. So, without any further ado, here is my To Do List for NBA Live 15!
1. Play through adidas Learn LIVE
To be fair, I’d say that everyone will be doing this, as we’ll be presented with adidas Learn LIVE when NBA Live 15 boots up for the first time. Even though I’m familiar with NBA Live’s controls, I expect that I’ll still find it useful, particularly the post drills. As Sean O’Brien and some of the other developers have mentioned on numerous occasions, onboarding was non-existent out of the box in NBA Live 14, and even after the Shootaround mode was patched in, it didn’t offer much assistance as far as the more advanced moves were concerned.
I’m glad to hear that there will be drills, hosted by cover player Damian Lillard. Cool presentation aside, I believe that it helps to try out the advanced moves as they’re being explained to you, so that they’ll stick in your mind. That was something that disappointed me a little about 2KU in NBA 2K15; the videos narrated by NBA players are nice, and they are still helpful as a refresher course, but I preferred the Training Camp mode from previous games, which allowed you to run through all the drills.
I figure that I’ll also spend a bit of time in the free shootaround mode, not only to continue to get a feel for the gameplay, but also to grab some screenshots of the adidas Learn LIVE gym. It’ll be useful to have those resources on hand, just in case I, or indeed anyone else in the community, would like to re-create it in a patch.
2. Play some exhibition games
As with NBA 2K, once I’ve run through the tutorials and reacquainted myself with some of the moves that I may have forgotten about – or indeed, now need to know about – it’s time to put them to use in five-on-five situations, albeit in games that don’t matter. Just in case there’s a bit of a learning curve, or some quirks in the gameplay that I should know about, I’ll get some experience in exhibition games before diving into Dynasty and Rising Star.
With the footage that EA Access subscribers have posted, as well as the developers’ own livestream, I feel that I know what to expect of the gameplay…at least from a visual standpoint. I don’t think that anyone would dispute that there is still room for improvement in terms of the animations, but the consensus seems to be that a huge improvement has been made over NBA Live 14. I for one would certainly agree with that sentiment. Another big issue in NBA Live 14 was the stiffness of the controls, due to issues with the locomotion system. NBA Live 15 is looking a lot smoother, so I’m hoping that it will indeed feel a lot smoother on the sticks, too.
Honestly, I’m looking forward to playing NBA Live 15. As rough as NBA Live 14 was, there were some flashes of brilliance, some good tech that just wasn’t working as well as it ultimately needs to. From what I’ve seen, NBA Live 15 seems to be on the right track, and potentially a big step forward for the series. I hope that I’ll still feel that way after I get my hands on the game.
3. Check out Dynasty Mode & Rising Star
Dynasty Mode is nowhere near as deep as MyLEAGUE or MyGM, so there won’t be as many new features and options for me to explore and mess around with. All the same, I’ll be checking it out fairly soon after I pick up NBA Live 15. According to the developer blog on game modes, a lot of tuning has been done to the simulated stats, trade logic, and so forth, so I’ll definitely be running a few simulations to see what the results are like. Sim Intervention is also making a welcome return in NBA Live 15, so I might end up maintaining a story thread this year.
Rising Star isn’t at MyCAREER’s level yet either, but it’s taking an approach that’s more along the lines of what MyCAREER used to be: no interactive cutscenes, no linear storyline. I still find that approach to be a bit more appealing, but I don’t think that the depth is quite at the level where I can get invested in Rising Star like I did with MyCAREER in NBA 2K13…at least, not yet. Still, it’s nice to see the mode progressing; it’s received a few enhancements and additions this year, so I’ll at least be checking it out.
From our chats with Sean O’Brien in Episode #90 and Episode #99 of the NLSC Podcast, I know that I’ll have to wait until NBA Live 16 to see some of the big improvements and additions that I’m waiting for in both of these modes. Having said that, it seems as though they’ve received a decent amount of attention despite the fact that game modes were not one of the three “pillars” this year, so I’m interested to see what kind of experience they’ll offer.
4. Complete the BIG Moments Challenges available out of the box
BIG Moments turned out to be one of my favourite additions in NBA Live 14, so I’m glad to see them return and be expanded upon in NBA Live 15. I managed to crack the Top 20 on last year’s scoreboard in LIVE Season, so I’ll be looking to improve my standing this year. BIG Moments will of course be added throughout the 2014/2015 season, but challenges from last season will also be available out of the box. As such, we’ll be able to start replaying some memorable moments on release day, and immediately start building up our scores.
I recall a developer blog mentioning that Damian Lillard motion captured a recreation of his instantly classic buzzer beater against the Houston Rockets in last year’s NBA Playoffs. I’m interested to see whether that was done simply for the game’s introduction, a cutscene in adidas Learn LIVE, or whether those animations will show up in BIG Moments. If nothing else, I imagine that the shot will indeed be one of the BIG Moments that is playable at launch.
While I do ultimately find myself gravitating back to Dynasty Mode, and have also developed a taste for single player career modes in recent years, I really enjoy having the LIVE Season content in the game. I like the idea of being able to play a more meaningful standalone game, re-live a memorable moment, or accept the challenge of re-writing history. Having these extra modes helps keep things fresh, and makes for a nice change of pace in between Dynasty and Rising Star games.
5. Start building my Ultimate Team
That of course brings us to Ultimate Team. I originally didn’t think that I’d have much to do with Ultimate Team, nor MyTEAM in NBA 2K. It’s not that I don’t like the fantasy aspect, as that’s certainly a part of Dynasty Mode too, but Dynasty Mode obviously gives me much greater control over my team. I have to admit though, I’ve been drawn into the concept in both games. As I said before, I’ll always be a Dynasty gamer, but I do enjoy changing things up with some Ultimate Team play. Nostalgic memories of collecting basketball trading cards as a kid probably has more than a little bit to do with that.
With the announcement that anyone who fires up Ultimate Team within the first week of the game’s release will receive 10 Gold Premium packs, I’ll be sure to set up my team as soon as possible. For the record, “Chicago Breeze” is my go-to name for my Ultimate Team, which is a reference to one of my all-time favourite basketball video games: World League Basketball for the Super Nintendo. Hopefully, the new Auctions feature will also make it a little easier to get that last card that we’re after.
Additionally, the starter packs will reportedly feature a better selection of players than last year’s did. I believe that will definitely make the mode more appealing, even if you miss out on the 10 free Gold Premium packs. Those early games were a bit of a tough slog in NBA Live 14, as you were generally fielding a team that was mostly comprised of benchwarmers and above average role players. I expect that I’ll be getting into some Ultimate Team challenges sooner rather than later…after a few exhibition games, of course.
Suffice to say, I’m looking forward to NBA Live 15. I’ve also been enjoying NBA 2K15 so far, and to be honest, I feel very positive about the future of basketball video gaming. In any event, that’s all for this week. If you’re picking up NBA Live 15, what will you be checking out first? Let me know in the comments section below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum. Thanks for checking in, please join me again next Friday for another Five.