NBA Live 2001 Review
Ever since the late golden days of the SNES and Sega Genesis, the NBA Live franchise was the premier basketball series for gamers, and pretty much the only worthy basketball series. As time went by, the franchise little by little grew and formed into gaming's most prestigious b-ball license, EA Sports was clearly on top of the mountain, and the climb to the top all started with NBA Live '98. Being the first best Live game in the 32/64-bit era, NBA Live '98 was a great example of how basketball games should play like. The following year Live '99 was released, it featured everything the original did but had better polished visuals, more detailed player models and even more realistic hoop action. Following that came what may be the best 32/64-bit ball title, it came in the name of NBA Live 2000. Sporting facial animations like never before in a videogame, player models that were even more realistic and the ability to play as Michael Jordan, NBA Live 2000 was a dream come true for any b-ball sports fan, especially me. NBA Live 2001, while not extremely an overlap of the previous Live, it still featured enough extras to make it a worthy purchase, other than that they were pretty much the same game. There's no doubt about it, the Live franchise was a worthy sim that deserved all of its praise. After hearing about NBA Live 2001 and seeing tech-demo movies of the game, I was thrilled to see how it would appear in its final form, and after a few short-term delays EA Sports releases its very first basketball title on the PS2, how does it stack up to Sega's NBA 2K1? Hey you knew that it was coming!
As time went by, EA gave us more and more gameplay shots of Live 2001, and every time we got new shots the game looked better and better. People would quickly compare those early Live 2001 shots to NBA 2K1, particularly Sega fans saying that NBA 2K1 looks better than Live, but now that Live 2001 has been completed and I've played both games, I can easily say that neither game is the best looking ball game. In the visuals the single most important aspect is body definition, unlike NBA 2K1's overly exaggerated bodies, NBA Live 2001 features replicas of the real pros, the muscle cuts, height, weight, head shape, hair, and skin tone, look just like they should. Now here is where Live 2001 suffers, a good amount of the athlete's heads don't look quite like they are supposed to. Rick Fox, Chris Dudley and Tom Gugliota, just to name a few, look plain, too generic and almost as if EA Sports didn't even bother photo capturing their image, it is downright weird.
Let's get one thing off the bat, those screenshots of Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnet are NOT gameplay shots but merely glimpses to keep people calm. As time went by EA gave us more and more gameplay shots of Live 2001, and every time we got new shots the game looked better and better. People would quickly compare those early Live 2001 shots to NBA 2K1, particularly Sega fans saying that NBA 2K1 looks better than Live, but now that Live 2001 has been completed and I've played both games, I can easily say that neither game is the best looking ball game. In the visuals the single most important aspect is body definition, unlike NBA 2K1's overly exaggerated bodies, NBA Live 2001 features replicas of the real pros, the muscle cuts, height, weight, head shape, hair, and skin tone, look just like they should. Now here is where Live 2001 suffers, a good amount of the athlete's heads don't look quite like they are supposed to. Rick Fox, Chris Dudley and Tom Gugliota, just to name a few, look plain, too generic and almost as if EA Sports didn't even bother photo capturing their image, it is downright weird.
The game's second suffering comes with its annoying screen distortion every time a cut-scene comes on. Say that a foul play has been called and the game stops, the game would switch views and show you an up-close shot of the committee, if you look on the screen you will notice at times the pictures distorts, almost as if it was a bad cable reception. It's obvious that this may be some sort of un-worked bug that could have taken some time to fix up, but EA had already delayed the game twice, and they didn't want to do it again. Let's move back to the good side of things, we all know that some ball games really suffer from choppy frame rates that almost make them unplayable, thankfully with the PS2's fierce power we may never see that again, as long as EAs house teams are behind all of their projects. The frame rate remains fast and crisp, even when all of the ball players are near each other, the action still moves fast. What many people may not know about is that the first four rows of the audience is all composed of polygons, while I would prefer that those polygons were used to make the players look even better, it is still pretty cool to see slightly more realistic viewers, but keep in mind that everything after the four rows is all pixels.
I can't really tell if EA Sports has re-used the same motion-captures that were used in the PSOne version, but never the less the package still moves sleek, even if the motion capturing is dated. The courts look great, they feature nice polished floors, that reflect the lights. I think instead of using polygon viewers, EA should have used those polygons to create refs and coaches, not some stupid spectators, come on! Overall, I can't really surely guarantee which game looks better, but I've played quite a lot of NBA 2K1 and like it a lot, but I would say that NBA Live 2001 takes it home because of the incredibly detailed player animations and almost replica like athletic structure.
What do you expect from a game that has seen nearly seven different titles. Those who have played NBA Live 2001 on PSOne, will be greeted to the exact same modes on the PS2 version. Without a doubt the game plays smooth, but it doesn't offer much new to the whole series, basically this is a perfect example of evolutionary software, not revolutionary. The same Montel Jordan song intro opens the game just like the PSOne version, I personally think that EA is making bad choices for their opening songs in their sports games Madden and NBA. FIFA, I loved, Moby is without a doubt one of the best artists out there. When the main menu pulls up, you are greeted to the same old, same old, a quick random pick team match, Exhibition, Season, Playoffs, and One on One mode, all of which were included in the previous versions. The only real new feature that is put into the PS2 version is a 'Player Interactions' feature, this is where players would react to calls, such as out of bounds, personal, defensive or offensive fouls, it's a lame feature, the voices aren't even real and the reactions are always the same. After every quarter ends the players would congratulate each other, but every team does the same thing! Now what was the point of inserting a feature that pretty much repeats itself over and over again, to the point where you wish it was never even implemented.
The One on One mode returns and of course you know the drill, in order to get Jordan you have to set everything to default and set the level on Superstar. In One on One mode you play out side in a street court, but what reeks is that you can't play a 5-on-5 match on an outside street court like you can in NBA 2K1 and I found that mode to be a brick load of fun. I'm sure most of you reading this have played a Live game before, and if you've got a PSOne version of Live 2001 or even 2000, then you know exactly what this game will offer you. The gameplay package needs to be done better, the only new inclusions this game has to feature is a visual over-haul and some brightened up and tweaked gameplay spots. If you are looking for a NBA title on the PS2 then by all means pick up Live 2001, it is a great sports sim that replicates the sport very well.
Whoa, what is going on in EA Sports' audio department, first the cheesy rap songs in Madden, then Madden himself in the commentary booth for Madden 2001. FIFA was all fine and great, the commentary and music was darn near perfect, NHL 2001 was also fine and dandy, but NBA Live 2001 is a different story. First of all the soundtrack needs to be crumbled up and thrown out of the window, I don't think the musical styling of Montel Jordan would really fit into a game like Live. I prefer something a long the lines of Master P, DMX, Snoop Dawg (even though he is retiring) or maybe even Busta Rhymes, just not an R&B singer, basketball is an intense sport, at least give it an intense soundtrack. As for the commentary, it is average, the commentators need to be changed, Bob Costas would do wonders for a game like Live, he is without a doubt the greatest sports commentator out there. For your knowing, the commentary is all play-by-play and downright dull. We need to get things re-organized here in this category.
The controls haven't been changed much, I really like playing with the analog as it gives me a whole new feel for the game, and controlling the athletes is much more easier and responsive that way. During the games extremely long loading time, there will be a screen that shows all of the game commands on defense and offense, and since you've got all the time in the world you'll know them left and right. Also I would like to point out that the big ball players such as Chris Dudley were given no cross-overs or cuts, I found that rather funny. But overall the controls are tight.
In the end, while I found NBA Live's visuals just barely better than NBA 2K1's, I would have to go on record and say that 2K1 had better gameplay, it just offers a whole lot more. While Live 2001 gives you up to eight players access via two-multi-taps, let's get real though, who actually invites 7 friends, has 8 controllers and two multi-taps. NBA 2K1 on the other hand will let you play via Sega Net or for those lucky ones via Sega Broadband Adapter. NBA Live really needs a major audio overhaul, the commentary is weak, Bob Costas really needs to be signed in by EA for better and quicker commentary. If you have a DC and PS2 and would choose just one hoops title, I would go with NBA 2K1, no doubt about it, Live is not a bad game, it is just time for a change, EA Sports really needs to consider one for this series.
1/28/2001 Arnold Katayev