While eye and ear candy have become the norm over the years to sell games, the real action is in gameplay and whether it is good enough to keep players coming back. NBA Live 16
gave me a mixed bag of feelings in this department. There are some great things making the game very fun overall, but then there are also those frustrating moments that make you want to sometimes chuck the controller through the screen. Thankfully, enough of the former is present to help get you by the moments of frustration.
On the plus side, single player games are actually more fun than can be remembered in a long time. There seems to be a nice balance in the game between loaded teams and average ones, giving a bit of extra challenge to not control the likes of LeBron James or other superstars. The computer-controlled teammates are generally pretty good at playing their roles as well, so it doesn’t always feel like you against the league. However, it’s not to say the game is without issues as there are plenty of them.
One of my main complaints stems from teammates being only usually helpful on the court. Unfortunately, there are way too many breakdowns in the defense where a man will drive and defenders don’t react with any help-side defense, allowing the ball handler an easy layup or slam dunk. This seems to be even more amplified during multiplayer games because it is a natural reaction to want to play one-on-one with your opponent, but doing so makes playing defense virtually impossible. So what happens is the only way to play defense in a Head-to-Head game ends up constantly switching to control a player who is off the ball, eliminating most of the fun factor. In more than two-player games online, many times your teammates will swarm the ball when necessary to help out a bit.
Fan favorites are back, including the Ultimate Team that is ever-present in EA Sports’ titles for a handful of years. Here you are given a set of basketball cards with random players on them, ranging with overall skills of generally about 65-75 out of 100 on average. Your goal is to earn more cards and use them in an effort to build up a powerhouse team. The trick is to vary your members while you sign key players to extend their usefulness using limited resources.
Another really fun mode of play was Rising Star, where you create your player and work to bring him up through the ranks as a rookie and beyond. As you progress and improve, you’ll earn more Skill Points that can be redeemed to enhance your player’s ability in a wide range of attributes. The games played can be watched or simulated, or as a way to burn through games faster, play only when your star in the making is on the court. At first, after a draft, he will get limited playing time, but that will increase once proven to be an effective and valuable member of the team. This mode of play was actually my favorite because it gives you the ability to play strategic defense (since you only control one player) and really rely on your computer-controlled teammates on both sides of the court. It should be noted that other modes also allow you to earn SP toward player improvement.
NBA Live 16 also includes a new Pro-Am Mode that lets you jump into the action of either 5-on-5 pickup action or a co-op mode called Summer Circuit. Both modes are a fun take on the sport and can offer a different multiplayer experience. Live Run truly captures the feeling of a pickup game and for that, I give it kudos. Unfortunately, it mimics a pickup game… so unless you are playing with friends or unselfish strangers, it can easily become all about a one man show. To all of those ball hogs out there, the rest of us are not impressed with your skillz… pass to the open man! The Summer Circuit, on the other hand, is basically a tournament where you can unlock the next step with wins and gain additional SP rewards for meeting in-game requirements. Both modes can be fun, but be warned… the organized chaos comes at a price as far as framerate is concerned, taking a lot away from the experience. In fact, even when playing a single player experience (nobody joined), the framerate was progressively slow. Also, matchmaking is a bit of a tedious process because every time someone joins or leaves, a new 30 second clock counts down to tip-off.
Another notable mention is that you can play other game modes where you step into the shoes of players in real games to achieve specific goals. Also, you are able to now take your face into the action and completely customize your player from head to toe. When I tried it, however, the companion app hyperlink didn’t work, nor did the QR Code that was on-screen… and then manually going to the Google Play store revealed my device wasn’t compatible anyway and a lot of complaints were seen about the app. As such, I was unable to test this feature.