I’ve a special nostalgic soft spot for NBA Live series. It was what got me hooked on basketball. Like many other ten year olds, ten years ago I was heavily into gaming. Not like a ten year old kid ten years ago, because he would be a fetus. Ten years ago I was about ten and like any ten year old I was into gaming. Not that I had a super gaming rig, but back then you didn’t need one. Just having a computer was considered a sweet setup. And NBA Live 2003 with Jason Kidd on the cover ran pretty smooth.
I still listen to the OSTs of NBA Live 03, 04 and 05 all the time. Those three editions of NBA video games taught me all I know about the NBA teams, height/weight/history of the players, coaches, moves, salary structure, etc. Bust a move in game, then go out and practice and do it in real life. That was my education in basketball.
If I have any reason to be biased, I’d be biased towards NBA Live. But I can vehemently say that NBA 2K beats NBA Live anyday. And I’m not just saying that because NBA 2K featured Allen Iverson for five consecutive years.
When it came to visuals, 2K had sharper details and the models had smoother movement. In NBA Live, players didn’t run, they seemed to skate on ice. On the other hand, NBA 2K roped in the Professor for motion capture of some moves. The main differentiating factor though, is the gameplay.
As I grew up, I began to realize why I fell in and out of love with NBA Live. It’s a arcade game which was perfect for my young self to dunk around on. But when I wanted to do something besides just bust a move and blow by my man, NBA Live had no answer. NBA 2K is a basketball simulation game.
For the casual fan, NBA Live can hardly fail to impress. It has everything, flashy interface and a easy learning curve. For a basketball fan, NBA 2K wins hands down. One of the most important aspects in a basketball game are the shooting mechanics. In NBA 2K, all the players have their distinct shot release. Making adjustments off layups also has a tangible feel to it.
There’s one thing to be said in favour of NBA Live, the freestyle stick controls. Live kept it simple, jerk the analog stick left to right for a simple crossover, but 2K went the opposite way for a while by integrating the movement controls with the crossovers. Only with NBA 2K13 did they separate the two.
The most damning factor which gives one a clue about which sports series is the better one? NBA 2K killed the NBA Live series. 2K came to Windows in 2009, and after 2010 there were no more NBA Live games. EA even considered rebranding the series to NBA Elite but later canceled the entire series.
Today, if you’re looking to play a simple arcade style basketball game on a laptop which can’t handle the latest NBA 2K series, you can have a lot of fun with the Live series of games. But if you’re a hardcore basketball fan who has spent a couple of years with any NBA video game, there is no contest, NBA 2K is the only way to go. And the in game settings have enough gameplay sliders which can be tweaked around to tune it as an arcade game.