Another year, another broken NBA Live on 360. While not as busted as Live 06, the addition of more features actually makes the problems with NBA Live 07 all the more apparent. It looks like shit on the court, and the controls aren't responsive enough. And in any videogame that requires quick reflexes, stiff controls are the absolute worst crime imaginable. It's the badger baiting of videogames.
Perhaps the faults are more of an insult because it comes from EA Sports, a team that no matter how much you might hate because they 'just do yearly updates' and all that other hating nonsense, can still produce some of the most complete videogames in the charts. We expect lesser companies to cock up, but not EA Sports. With NBA Live 07 it's not only dropped the ball, but hoofed it over to the competition while twisting its own ankle.
Where Live 06 came to 360 with almost all the best features chopped out compared to the current-gen version, Live 07 goes some way to stuffing the better modes back into the box, but without addressing the majority of problems from last year. So we get the Dynasty mode and NBA All-Star Weekend, complete with the Rookie Challenge, 3-Point Shoot Out and Slam Dunk contest, but each addition is hampered by the shoddy control mechanisms and awful animations.
It's impossible to enjoy the nuances of the sport when the players jerk across the screen and fumble shots, passes and dunks. Wrestling the right stick and button combinations becomes the priority, and context sensitive shots such as dunks and layups don't do as you'd expect when preparing to rock the rim. The right stick - used for freestyle control of the ball - is too sensitive and can see players passing the ball to the crowd instead of team-mates, or practically handing it to the other team. Mapping layups and hop steps to the same button is just asking for trouble and confusion.
Live 06 often amounted to teams simply taking it in turns to score, but Live 07 isn't as happy to let you do that. Although not that challenging, team-mates do a lot of the tactical thinking on your behalf, driving the lanes and positioning themselves at your call with a tap of the D-pad. Defensively they're not as efficient, struggling to click that it's time to defend, or chasing balls when they'd be better off letting it go. It's not a massive improvement, and it's clear that EA still needs to work on the AI before its NBA series becomes a fair single player experience.
Animation is clumsy and affects gameplay. There's a physics system that theoretically uses momentum to stop players from changing directions in the blink of an eye, but the player can't tell the difference due to choppy animations. Collision between defensive and offensive players happens often, and if not entirely down to poor controls, can still leave the game looking like the Chuckle Brothers have walked onto court.
There are some highlights. Player models are great, they look the part and there are plenty of player-specific moves captured and used within the game. Arenas look nice, but we're not going to get too excited about that. Because when it all begins to roll, with stuttering animation, a lack of flow between moves and clipping issues, it becomes a £50 joke.
And then we have online play, which as you might expect, isn't up to scratch. There are serious lag issues taking the experience into almost unplayable territory. When it does work decently online, a lack of options is yet another sting. The Slam Dunk and 3-Point Shoot Outs, both fine examples of quick multiplayer fun, aren't supported online. Neither is the ability to create leagues. It's just too basic to warrant any serious time or effort.
Are there any redeeming features? Well, it's playable and you can get a half-decent game of basket ball out of it. But who buys a basketball game for a second (or third) best experience? NBA Live 07 does the basics, but when the competition, namely Take 2's NBA 2K7, does everything so much better (and we do mean everything), there's no reason at all why you should be wondering which title to pick up.