Basketball buffs are aware that NBA Live 16 has fallen on hard times, but things are slowly getting better. In the past couple of years, it’s gone from something EA hopes you don’t ask about at E3 to something that is playable on the show floor. EA’s Kevin Bailey walked me through some of the game’s new features, and believes players will see a marked improvement over NBA Live 15.
The demo featured NBA Finals participants the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, and I took a little practice with the game’s LeBron James. I need it, he really doesn’t.
“Last year, when LeBron did signature dribbles we’d loop the same animation over and over,” Bailey said. “Now, it looks much better and the more you do it, you’ll see LeBron’s signature moves for that situation.”
On the court, there’s more feedback when you take shots. A meter displays how likely your shot is to go down by percentage, and explains what you did wrong. Just as you might see in a strategy RPG, these percentages aren’t absolute. Sometimes a shot with a 36 percent chance will go in. Thankfully, I didn’t see any 96 percent misses. I admit to throwing up some absolute garbage with Steph Curry and having it go in. But that’s the reigning MVP. I also knocked down a couple of surprising shots with Andrew Bogut. NBA Live’s default settings are usually more arcade than sim, and that seemed to be the case here. I was able to get a couple of shots to 100 percent chance, which was a satisfying feeling.
If I had to hazard a guess, NBA Live is probably still a year or two away from playoff status. But I’m gaining confidence that’s a journey EA will complete.