NBA Live 18 returns for another year that, in previous years, has been dominated by a certain other basketball game. However, EA Tiburon have returned with what they feel could be the game that puts them back on top.
Let’s have a look and see!
There are a few new gameplay elements this year, included a new one on one control system. This sees you having to get the defender off balance by using dribble moves, and likewise as a defender you have to guess the direction the offence is going to drive. Guessing correctly and timing it right cuts off their attack and gives you an opportunity to steal the ball and start off on a counter attack. Using a defensive assist button allows you to stay in front of the ball carrier and then it makes it easier to try and cut them off when they drive towards the basket.
The shot meter is back and its easier to understand than ever, hit that green section at the top and its a guaranteed basket, however, if you are challenged then you just need to get it as high as possible. Taking shots from different areas also have a differing chance of being made, this is shown by a bar underneath your characters feet. The fuller the bar, the better your player is at shooting from that distance. You can use the right stick for all your shooting moves as well, for step back shots as well as floater shots, the right stick is a versatile option for shooting if you prefer a bit more freedom over just pressing the single shoot button.
Dribble moves can be carried out on the right stick as well, allowing you criss cross to your hearts content to try and bamboozle the defence and open that gap you need to drive to the hoop. A quick flick on the right stick gives you a stutter step while a long press will give you a more over the top piece of trickery. The whole control system when you get used to it will see you carrying out well orchestrated moves, utilising bounce passes as well as lobbed passes. Making space and hitting that 3 point shot has never been so satisfying. There is a true sense of tactics when playing NBA Live 18 and if you are like me with previous games, just trying to rush straight to the basket. Then you will get picked off and you will surely lose.
Moving away from the gameplay you have this years career mode, or “The One”. NBA Live 18 brings you a tragic story of a horrific injury that almost saw you retire from the game, only to come back against all adversity and move to be the king of the courts. Using a similar method to how FIFA brought us the Journey, you get to create your character, decide on which position that you will play in and then go through their story.
You get to choose two routes during The One, you can either go straight for the league method which has you going through the NBA ranks to get back to the top, trying to take your team to the championships. Alternatively hit the streets and go through summer leagues as well at the Pro-Am tours across america. This brings you to such iconic places like Rucker Park in New York City and takes you to the Drew League in Los Angeles. Both routes have you following a story line that develops through interaction and conversations. Depending on which conversation route you decide to go down you will earn XP as well as other rewards such as gear to kit your character out in.
With a new game mode there comes a new character progression system to work hand in hand. So head out to the courts in your custom character and develop them to suit your own personal style of play. Want to be the big centre that defends in the key and gets those all important rebounds. Then equip the Intimidator special ability to your character and reduce your opponents shooting ability while in the paint. There are so many different abilities that you can chose from its sometimes hard to decide which way to mould your player. Then we have traits, these are separate from your abilities but work in conjunction with them to give you a more rounded character. Each trait is also upgradable as you perform on the court. So want to get a boost to your 3-point shooting from the corner, then equip that trait and hit those 3’s. You can swap and change the load out before each match so that you can be as ready as can be for when you take it to the court.
Aside from The One, NBA Live 18 still has its standard online and offline modes as well as Ultimate Team as per ever other EA game mode. Franchise mode allows you to take control of your favourite team and take them to the top of the NBA ladder. Competing on and off the court, managing budgets as well as bringing in new talent, its all there for the NBA fan to enjoy. Head over to Ultimate Team where you can assemble your own superstar team and take on other people all over the world in 5 on 5 action. Taking part in tournaments as well as challenges that give you rewards for completing.
Then for a first in the NBA Live franchise, you can take control of one of the WNBA teams and compete head to head with other teams from the division, included the LA Sparks and the New York Liberty. All twelve teams are there for you to get to grips with.
Graphically NBA Live 18 is very good, from the court side features such as the crowd and the coaches, to the sweat on the players faces after a hard fought half. All what you would expect to be there is there, and its very realistic. With realistic skin tone and believable player dimensions, you could even mistake the action for a real-life game if you weren’t aware that it was a video game.
Download the companion app and you can even put yourself in the game, however this is hit and miss. My own personal offering didnt exactly turn out very true to life and as such made me look a bit of a monster. I can assure you, i don’t look like this in real life.
NBA Live 18 does a fantastic job of recreating all the sounds you can expect at a basketball game. The squeek of the shoes to the roar of the crowd as you pull off that reverse windmill dunk. The soundtrack is hip-hop heavy as you would expect from an EA title and its all perfectly in place.
Voice talents are brought from a number of basketball stars and as you would expect they sound wooden when speaking their lines. This isn’t too much of an issue though as once you get on the court, all is forgotten, the bouncing of the ball gives a great thud and then when you hit that 3-pointer you are greeted with the swish of the net. All satisfying to listen too.
With so many modes, any fan of the NBA Live franchise will have a great time. Putting hours into the career mode you can get lost while building your team up to be the next Chicago Bulls (Pippen and Jordan era) and along with the amount of time you can spend playing Ultimate Team. NBA Live 18 has something for everyone.
So in conclusion a great comeback for the flailing NBA Live series actually brings this game back into the upper echelons of basketball games. Yes the company is still few and far between, but as with FIFA and PES, each game seems to be pushing each other ever closer to perfection. Are we there yet? Not quite, but its certainly getting close.
NBA Live 18 receives the Thumb Culture Gold Award with a score of 8 out of 10.
Disclaimer: We received a physical copy of this game to carry out our review.