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NBA LIVE 2004 hands on preview!
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Old 31 May 2003, 10:31 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default NBA LIVE 2004 hands on preview!

When it comes to recognizable athletes, the NBA is top dog. Kobe, T-Mac, Stevie Franchise, you not only know these guys by name, you know them by face. And that's where the NBA has a decided advantage over other sports. Their athletes aren't wearing helmets that block their smiles, or hats that shade any eye contact from the crowd. When Shaq smirks after knocking down five defenders with a two-handed throwdown, the TV cameras get jammed so far up in his grill you can damn near count his teeth. So when the development team over at EA Canada took a look at the Live series, they decided that in order to change the face of basketball videogames, the first thing they needed to do was improve the actual faces in their game. Using countless numbers of photographs of each athlete, from profiles to straight-on shots, the developers were able to improve everything from basic jaw structure to the actual head shape of certain players. And the results so far, are simply incredible. Looking at a side-by-side comparison of the Yao Ming player model from the 2003 game to 2004, it's like trying to compare Sam Cassell to Ray Allen. One's a movie star and the other, well, sorry Sam, but the other is just plain ugly.
But the improvements to Live 2004 aren't simply cosmetic, as the developers have implemented some truly innovative gameplay aspects into the series as well. In-air collisions look to make a big impact on drives to the hoop as the offensive player can actually initiate contact with the defender attempting to block a shot. Once contact is made, the shooter can attempt a variety of shots from a fade-away jumper to a scoop shot, depending on what button is pressed. At the same time, the defensive player can counter by attempting to block the shot or even by choosing to foul the offensive player extremely hard. The in-air collisions will also effect rebounding as multiple players fight for position in the paint and leap toward the rim to snatch a board off of the glass. Also new to the series is one-button play calling that allows you to dribble the ball up court with your point guard, scout the defense, then call a play like the triangle or pick and roll to exploit any mismatches on the floor.

One of the groundbreaking gameplay elements implemented last season was Freestyle Control. This year it's been improved by not only offering the same jab steps and jukes, but by also adding player specific moves. That means that while you won't see Tim Duncan busting a crossover dribble, you're sure to see Allen Iverson break some ankles with some his mad shakes on the way to the rim. Speaking of authentic play, the computer AI will also play each team as they're meant to be played, with the Mavericks running the floor looking for every opportunity to fast break, the Lakers methodically bringing the ball up court and dumping the rock inside to Shaq, and the Nuggets playing more like little nuggets that resemble anything but gold.

On the features side, Live will enable you to customize your game with a variety of AI sliders, including adjustments to the game's speed, the speed of passes, and even limiting the number of dunks. The game also includes old school squads (and their arenas), from the championship Bulls teams of the 90's to the great Celtic teams of the 80's, complete with the parquet floor of the famed Boston Gardens. And when it comes to authentic courts, NBA Live 2004 will be the first game in the series to feature fully rendered replicas of every NBA arena, including everything from retired jerseys hanging in the rafters to championship banners. Online play has also been enhanced with one-on-one games added to the multiplayer mix. In addition, the awesome EA Sports Bio rewards system will also be implemented to track your stats, rank your ability, and unlock secrets across a variety of EA Sports titles.

In terms of Live's franchise, or as they like to call it, Dynasty mode, EA is still keeping things on the hush-hush. All that we know so far is the fact that a variety of mini games (like Madden) will be added to incorporate preseason mini-camps and in-season training sessions.

When it comes to sound, Marv "I like to wear heels and bite you in the ass" Albert and "The Czar of the Telestrator" Mike Fratello have been added to the audio lineup to handle the game's commentary. EA promises plenty of player specific comments including in-game stats, as well as added insight into team offensive and defensive sets.

NBA Live 2004 is set to ship in time for the start of the next NBA season this fall. EA Sports hopes its game will not only be as fan-tastic as the league it imitates, but as recognized for greatness as the superstar players it represents. Obviously, only time will tell, but so far, the game at least has the face of greatness, and there's something to be said for looking pretty, even in these early stages.




This is shaping up to be the best live game.
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Old 01 Jun 2003, 06:16 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Sounds awesome...
Can't wait til it comes out
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Old 02 Jun 2003, 03:34 AM   #3 (permalink)
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^ neither can I
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