Now, I know a lot of you are going to see the title of this article and think “who cares?” immediately. We all know NBA Live is an afterthought, and 2K is better by a long shot. I too have shared these same thoughts this gen. With that out of the way, I never thought I would say this next sentence. BUT, NBA Live 2016 is not that far behind 2k. Yeah, I said it.
This is my opinion only, and you probably could care less about what I have to say. Just hear me out though. For the record I am an avid 2k fan. I have been rocking with 2k since the original on Dreamcast. But ask yourself this, what has 2K really done to wow you over the last several years? All they seem to do is refine what they already have. That’s not a bad idea at all, but without anybody else making basketball games (until recently), 2k didn’t really have anything to compare itself to.
This is what I like to call “EA or Madden Syndrome”. Madden has not had to compete with anyone for over 10 years now, and up until this last iteration of Madden we were really just playing the same game for years. Every year the game would look and feel a little different, but rarely were there new upgrades or game modes. EA was simply being complacent. Finally the Madden community became fed up and spoke out. 2K basketball has been almost as stagnant as Madden honestly, but for some reason, people seem to give 2K a pass.
Let’s get one thing out of the way right here, right now. 2Ks gameplay is better than NBA Live by a country mile. It’s not even close. I can’t even try to force that viewpoint on you. 2K is easily one of the top sports simulators in the world. The gameplay of Live is very stiff and a little arcade like. While they have great ideas, the execution is a little off. There is a little thing that I will give Live the edge for, and that is they do not have that protective force field guarding the lines when somebody should have run out of bounds. Although gameplay is very important, Live has focused on other little things to make it enjoyable for me. The presentation is top notch. With the ESPN licensing, the pregame is cool to watch. The halftime and post game show are even more realistic. The commentating does seem a little forced and overly scripted, but it isn’t too terrible. 2K seems to let their team adlib and really push the envelope with their commentary and analysis. I also think that Live is right there, if not better, in the visuals department. If I had to pick something about each that I disliked, Live’s bench/role players face scans were clearly after thoughts. 2k’s graphics are a little cartoony compared to Live. You can go all over YouTube and see comparisons of full teams between the 2 titles.
Now let’s talk about game modes. Everyone knows about 2Ks MY career, and MY Park. These are by far the most popular game modes. I feel like people sleep on another solid game mode, which is MY GM. This mode for the last 2-3 years or so has been my favorite. Being able to control the direction of your favorite team is rewarding. Whether making a blockbuster trade, firing of your coaching staff, or deciding who to draft, you feel involved the whole time. You even have to worry about keeping the morale of your entire organization afloat. You also have to keep your owner happy by meeting certain goals from year to year. If not ,you will be fired and have to hope that another team is looking for a new GM. This year’s new addition of an online franchise was very lackluster and kind of just thrown in there to shut people up. I got a “Here is your stupid online franchise, happy?” vibe from it. With no draft, free agency and no real reward, why even bother? Pro-am is cool, but there are too many games, and no real reward. There is a leader board, but not a level up system like the Park.
As far as Live, their career mode is Rising Star. It isn’t as polished, or as interactive as My Career. Mundane is an apt description. The game mode that DOES shine is their version of Pro-am, which I think is much better and was properly thought through. Games are to 21, and you can either play 5 on 5 PvP, or 5 on 5 PvE. What is best about it is the fact that it has objectives and a reward system. You not only get points for your players attributes, but you also receive points for your favorite gear, with a chance to win the gear straight up. On 2K Pro-am, I played 4 quarters, had 30/10/10 and basically got an “Atta boy” for my trouble. Whereas on Live, I had 6/2/5 with a 80 teammate grade and 3 completed objectives and received a pair of retro Jordan’s which are worth 10k or so points. I actually felt like I was accomplishing something.
Now I am not here to say that NBA Live will be taking over the sim basketball world. Everyone calm down. But I do think that Live deserves it’s just due, as well as a fair shake. I am blown away by the strides Live has made since coming out with the nonsense that was 2014. So I’m giving props for what they have accomplished, instead of what they have yet to. At least they have been consistently been getting better. For me personally, I will now be buying 2k for PS4 and NBA Live for XB1. I think there is room for one more basketball game this gen. Now if you are 100 percent sure that you will not enjoy Live no matter what, you should at least be rooting for them to push 2k to put out a better product. For now, 2K is definitely still king, but the boys over at EA are not just going to let them sit comfortably.