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NBA Live 06 Review for Xbox
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NBA Live 06 

Review for Xbox

Saturday, October 15, 2005 

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NBA Live 06

Electronic Arts
EA Canada
Everyone (E)
VGcore Bronze Medal
NBA Live 06 Screenshot Gallery

NBA Live 06 Screenshot Gallery

NBA Live 06 Screenshot Gallery

Ever since EA Sports released NBA Live ‘95 back in 1994, they have been the dominant basketball videogame franchise. While the Live series has had its fair shares of lows over the years, recent additions such as the Freestyle Control and Pro Hop have not only helped it keep its crown, but have revolutionized basketball videogames on the whole.

But somewhere along the line, NBA Live lost what made it great. In the original games, you could tell Michael Jordan was Michael Jordan (even if he was named Player). You could tell Hakeem was Hakeem. The gap between the basketball legends and scrubs was large, and exploiting that garnered great rewards.

But ever since the series came to the Playstation era of consoles, they lost that unique quirk. While players like Grant Hill and Shawn Kemp were still better, they just didn’t dominate as much. Sure, Kemp could score, rebound, and defend well, but there were guys who could score just as well. Or rebound just as well. Would it be at the same time? No. But basketball is a team sport; you can make up for your disadvantages by selecting your lineup carefully. Gone was the advantage picking the team with one all-star player and several mediocre ones gave you.


NBA Live 2006 changes the trend of superstars and scrubs being indistinguishable. Like in the old NBA Live days, the superstar players play like superstars. And that’s because of this year’s big addition: the Freestyle Superstar Controls. How it works is simple. There are eight Superstar attributes total (High Flyer, Playmaker, Power, Inside Scorer, Outside Scorer, Shooter, Inside Stopper and Outside Stopper). If the player ratings of an NBA player are high enough, they can be given one Superstar ability for both the defensive and offensive side of the ball. Some players have a wide variety to choose from (like the ever-versatile Kevin Garnett), while others are limited to a single choice (like the token dunkers).

You’ll also see several of the superstars in Live 2006 performing things you’re used to seeing on Sportscenter at 3 A.M. Vince Carter has his trademark “jump over the 7 foot tall guy” dunk. Tim Duncan has the sweet touch off the glass. Steve Nash and the Suns can run ‘n gun like there’s no tomorrow. Kobe can…well, you get the idea.

There is a downside, though. While the Superstar Controls add a huge boost in realism (and fun!), they can be a little unbalanced at times. Actually, make that very unbalanced. There were cases when I would control a player like Shaq (an Inside Scorer) against a team of defensive stoppers (the Pistons) and easily score 20 points in a quarter…while still not forcing up shots. I’m talking about getting 60+ points a game with one player against the best defensive team in the league, while shooting 70%. At times like that, the new controls can seem ludicrous.

But, that can be countered by turning the difficulty up all the way. Unfortunately, like past EA Sports games, the highest difficulty level is absurd. I am convinced that EA games are designed with a “comeback AI” present. It seems like every time in NBA Live or Madden when I get a comfortable lead on the highest difficulty, I start to make mistakes, miss shots (or drop passes), and play horrible defense while the computer controlled team suddenly catches on fire and catches up. Does it add drama to the game? Yes. Does it make you want to throw your controller through the television? You bet.

There is one major difference in regards to gameplay between the Xbox and PS2 versions: control. The Xbox has been out for years, but I still find it harder to control sport games with it. In my opinion, it’s due to the lack of the two shoulder buttons the PS2 has. Will this be a big factor in determining what system to get the game for? Not really. But if you’re like me, no matter how long you play the Xbox version, there are always instances you silently curse the people who designed the controllers and wish you could plug your PS2 one in.

The online play once again is available, although from my experiences with it, it’s hard to find match-ups with people who either don’t exploit stupid Superstar tricks, or games that don’t have a little bit of lag. With friends who have moved away, though, it’s a great way to keep your NBA Live traditions going strong.

Dynasty Mode

Of course, what would any sports game be without a dynasty or franchise mode? For the most part, once again the dynasty mode in NBA Live works well. The new Superstar abilities add a new dimension, allowing you to shape your rookie scrubs into the next big thing in the NBA. Nothing is more satisfying than at the end of the season seeing the guy you took in the last round of the draft suddenly improve enough to be able to have a superstar ability. The player evolution makes the dynasty worth playing at some points.

This time around, you can also hire assistant coaches and trainers to help impact your team’s evolution. Want to increase the chances of your players turning into Stoppers? Hire a trainer specializing in defense. Want to increase your shooters chances to become Scorers? Hire an offensive-minded assistant. You can even hire trainers specializing in athletics to increase your overall health and performance. This new addition helps make it even more fun to create your own dynasty, and finally lets you change the direction current teams are headed in without trading away all of their current players. I was able to take my favorite team (the Sacramento Kings), and start developing them so that a few of my later draft picks evolved into one of the best pairs of outside defenders in the league. All while keeping Peja and Bibby, who are notorious for their spotty defense.

Of course, it still isn’t perfect. One of the things I don’t know why they didn’t change is the inability to fire or hire a new head coach. So, while you may be able to build your own coaching staff, it looks like you’ll be stuck with whatever the team’s current coach is for the next couple of decades. What real NBA coaches wouldn’t give to have that kind of job security...

Once again, NBA Live 2006 has the All-Star Weekend. The dunk contest is mostly the same thing as last year’s installment, albeit with a few new animations and moves. And of course, there’s the always entertaining three-point shootout. When I got the game, one of my biggest joys was seeing you could compete in the All-Star Weekend online with friends. But I learned to my dismay you can only compete against one opponent at a time. Just another good idea which EA didn’t take advantage of.


The graphics in NBA Live 2006 are the best we’ve seen yet in the EA Sports series. With their new graphics engine, players look more realistic than ever. Unfortunately, the NBA 2k series is once again leaps and bounds ahead of NBA Live, so while the graphics are improved greatly, they already look dated. If you own the Xbox version, it’s a big help because of the improved power of the Xbox console over that of the PS2. They still may not be the best graphics out there, but at least it doesn’t feel like you’re comparing a Sega Saturn game to a modern console graphics-wise. But either way, expect to feel a twinge of jealousy when you watch a friend playing NBA 2k6 and see how realistic the graphics look in comparison.

The little things help make up for it, though. Unlike in past games, players actually sport a high level of emotion like you would see at a real NBA game. Did you just make an awesome pass which led to a dunk? Your players will celebrate. Did you give up a big dunk? You can see your guy sulking under the hoop. And the unique Superstar animations are incredibly well done and fluid, adding just another level of realism.

Once again, though, the physics just don’t work out very well. Sure, they bump better than ever. But like the past few NBA Live games, players just don’t feel like they’re moving realistically. Anyone who has played basketball or sports knows what it looks like when you run, jog, sprint, etc., but in NBA Live 2006 all that changes (for the most part) is that your player moves faster. Sometimes, it even looks like your player is sliding more than running around.


One of my smaller peeves concerning NBA Live 2006 (and the Live series on the modern consoles) is that the game has yet to recognize the common names of created players, or future fictional players. Even on sports games for the original Playstation, the announcers were programmed well enough to say names like “Smith” and “Williams”. Here, it’s always the “Number 47 goes for the shot…blocked by Number 9” deal.

Speaking of an announcer, that’s one of the areas that NBA Live 2006 lacks in. Marv Albert and Steve Kerr provide the in-game commentary, and like almost all modern sports games, it’s a little stale. You’ll hear the same things repeated over and over, often with no emotion. You can hear them say things like “if they keep this up they will be out of the game” less than 30 seconds into a contest. It’s ridiculous.

But, Ernie “EJ” Johnson and Kenny “The Jet” Smith of TNT fame help out a bit with their All-Star weekend commentary. Their banter sounds just like what you would hear on a TNT broadcast, and Smith even has his patented yelling after a good dunk. At least they got something right sound-wise.

And the music? Well, it’s what you would expect from an EA Sports games. You have a list of several of the more popular rap artists (it IS a basketball game). Nothing too special this time, although I was surprised to see Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A, who for the past year or so has been an inside joke with one of my friends (he can’t stand her—and neither of us can understand her).


NBA Live 2006 isn’t perfect. But it’s by far the best recent installment of the Live series. The new Superstar Controls add a level of realism (and fun) to the game when it needed it most. After this year’s Madden, people were wondering if EA Sports still had what it took to be the best company—without resorting to buying out their competition. And it looks like they do.

This is my favorite basketball game of the current generation of consoles, and that’s saying a lot. For the first time in years, it actually makes a difference taking a player like Kobe or T-Mac high in the draft rather than waiting a round later to get someone like Sprewell. And with the new player evolution, you feel more connected with your dynasty team than ever. No longer will you never sign a single one of your draft picks and instead resort to signing free agents because their ratings are better. There is actually a valid reason to keep your rookies this time around.

Of course, there are downsides to the game. Compared to the 2k series, the graphics are average at best. And while EJ and The Jet provide entertaining commentary during the All-Star festivities, Marv Albert and Steve Kerr will make you push mute on your television faster than you did when you saw Ashlee Simpson on Saturday Night Live. In real life, if an announcer is so bland and nonsensical, they wouldn’t be given airtime. Why can’t EA Sports learn that and put more effort into their commentary during games? Sports fans like listening to the commentators they listen to when they watch the real games—it makes it that much more realistic.

And although there are some problems with the new Superstar system (notably the unbalance between things like shooting and inside scoring/dunking, missing Superstar dunks, etc), it’s one of the best additions a sporting game has made in recent years. I’d go as far as saying it has the potential to change the basketball genre of videogames more than anything else. I can guarantee next year all of the other series will have similar features to make the superstar players more entertaining and rewarding to play.

In the end, if you have both the Xbox and PS2, I would recommend getting the Xbox version. The superior graphics contribute more to the game than the extra shoulder buttons of the PS2. Either way, though, you’ll get the best recent basketball game on the market today. It may not be the perfect game, but NBA Live 2006 is one that sports fans will have no problem playing until next season rolls around, regardless of what console they buy it for.

  The Core Score



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