EA Sports’ NBA franchise has found its comfort zone.
“NBA Live 19” doubles down on last year’s debut of signature career mode The One. It was a wise decision to bolster the centerpiece offering, even at the expense of improving elsewhere.
The One again allows players to take up a created player through various activities, including playing in the NBA as well as on the playground. While the idea isn’t exactly innovative, it is well executed.
“Live 19” expands what’s available in the all-encompassing experience with several key additions that add more ownership.
Squads are now assembled and can be taken everywhere in the non-NBA setups. Players unlock as rewards for winning on The Streets World Tour, as well as through using in-game currency to purchase them. That includes both NBA and WNBA talent, allowing for dream team mixed-gender collectives.
Custom courts are key to The One’s new Court Battles, which involve invading other players’ creations. More wins unlock more ways to tweak your own stomping grounds.
A crucial component of The One is the omission of microtransactions. There is no way to use real money to advance in career mode, or any other aspect of “NBA Live 19” outside of its virtual card collecting mode, Ultimate Team — common in sports games. Without the stink of microtransactions to taint the experience, The One remains one of the strongest career modes in the entire sports game genre.
While The One allows “NBA Live” to stand out from the critically acclaimed competitor “NBA 2K” franchise, the rest of the play options aren’t big selling points. Despite the unique presence of WNBA teams and players — plus the new ability to create female ballers — there is no WNBA franchise setup and The One doesn’t allow for pro play with a female player. It’s a major oversight in what could be a difference maker of a feature.
Further, franchise mode and Ultimate Team are around, but gamers aren’t likely to be too impressed by either offering.
On the court, the graphics and gameplay are steadily catching up to the competition, but “NBA Live” still isn’t superior. The addition of ubiquitous EA Sports player physics Real Motion Plus is welcome but doesn’t seem to have boosted the on-court action as well as it did in “Madden” this summer. It’s too easy to slice through defenses, making this sports sim feel a touch unrealistic.
Still, The One is so varied and well executed to overcome the shortcomings in “NBA Live 19” that those who want to invest time into that type of mode should feel confident in giving the game a shot.
“NBA Live 19,” published by EA Sports and developed by EA Tiburon, is out now for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, $59.99