NBA Live 99 – Play with Chicago Bulls and New York LA!

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Well, the NBA season is about to kickoff as the bickering over the money has finally ended.  Basketball fans, we are witnessing the probable end of the Chicago Bulls as champions, and more importantly, the great one himself, Michael Jordan, has left the game. Anyhow, let’s get back to business.  NBA Live 98 was a great game in my opinion, it was a huge leap in comparison to NBA Live 97, and NBA Live 99 was very much anticipated by most basketball enthusiasts.  Just like any other sports freak, I got the game right after it was released, hoping to annihilate my computer opponents and later my friends!  Enough of me, lets get it on!

The graphics of this game are the best that I have seen to date for a basketball game.  The new motion captured players look really nice and fluid — each NBA player seems to have been modeled very well.  In addition, instant replays have also improved considerably, allowing better detail.  The detail level of the courts and stadium is extraordinary!  With a 3d card you can set the detail levels high, with player shadows and a variety of other detail options.  The best part is the reflections of the ad boards on the court; they look great.  In addition, instant replay has been improved also, with better angles and just a cleaner look.  One thing that I really liked was that all the smiling faces from Live ’98 were gone.  There are different facial expressions for the players depending on the situation.  My gripe with the graphics is that Antoine Walker has one ugly shot and everyone shoots like him.  EA used Walker for the motion capture and they should have gone back to a different set of pro players as they did in Live ’98.  The shooting motion reminds me of the ugly looking shot of Bill Cartright! 

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Okay, flat out, the interface is not the greatest.  Although it’s easy to navigate through, there are too many sub menus.  The one thing that really ticks me off is the constant mouse clicking from the start of the game to the team ratings and through the starters menu. Then there’s the load time.  After that, you finally get to play the game.  Also, I find the sliding menus too irritating and time consuming.  The controls are well done in NBA Live ’99 — more moves have been added to provide a more realistic look.

Gameplay is one of the more improved aspect of NBA Live ’99. In order to win you must have the right strategy and proper proper execution. Although I found too many steals and fouls being called on high levels of difficulty.  In addition to season mode, a new franchise mode has been added.  The season mode is just playing the normal season and having the options to trade, create a player, and so forth.  Franchise mode is horrible.  After picking your team, you try to win the championship year after year.  Check this out:  Although you are allowed to trade players after the season, and players skill levels change over time, there is no draft!  How would you like to see Eddie Johnson fifty years old and still playing?  Franchise mode is boring and ridiculous, at least have a franchise mode like Madden ’99.  The 3-point contest is also great, but gets old quickly.  One big flaw in Live ’99 is that the players almost never get fatigued — you can play a full forty-eight minute game without your starters leaving the bench.  How can this not be noticed during beta testing?  I don’t know, but they should release a patch to fix this problem.  Also, rebounds always tend to go towards your computer opponent because you can’t switch fast enough.  As far as the multiplayer aspect is concerned, I have only played NBA Live ’99 over the modem.  I did not experience any lag and it was fun, but the fatigue bug remained.  If you want better gameplay, go back to NBA Live ’98, please. 

NBA Live ’98 has the most accurate commentary I have ever seen in a sports game.  However, it is also very boring (What happened to Ernie Johnson?).  The crowd is an annoyance; their noises and cheers are too repetitive.  The rest of the audio, such as the buzzer sounding, players checking in the game, and the announcer calling the players names and jersey numbers are all flawless.  All in all, after two or three games the audio is worth turning off.  

Okay, NBA Live ’98 was really easy, right?  Just inbound the ball and fling it across the court to your teammate and you’ve got it made!  Well, NBA Live ’99 is still flawed in this matter!  The very first season I started was on the superstar difficulty level with Golden State, and I went 28-0 in a 28 game season playing 5 minute quarters.  I was the top seed in the playoffs and easily won the championship in four games.  I can’t figure out why EA did not address this issue when Live ’98 was the same way. However, if you take Live 99 systematically in terms of playing the game as though a professional game was being played, it’s quite challegning. For example, if you want to win (without doing what I just mentioned above as far as flinging the ball across the court to your teamate to score) then it will take some straegy and knowledge of the game to win. The computer is a good challenge and expect to get blown out intially, once you have a gameplan and a actual strategy against an opposing team you should do well. The momentum meter is great; if you are down by 20 points against your buddy you better start hustling.  Otherwise, you’ll suffer an embarassing loss! 

I think NBA Live ’99, at best, is a mediocre basketball game for the PC.  It is not a worthy improvement over NBA Live ’98.  It is a fun game, but I wish they would have concentrated more on the management and simulation aspect.  Things like a draft, salary caps, retirement, and players leaving or being unhappy would have been nice.  The least they could have done was added internet play.  Those who have fast cable modems should enjoy the game some.  Sadly, NBA Live ’99 is a disappointment, and once again, we hope EA will revive us next year with a better product.

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