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NBA Live 10 (PlayStation 3) artwork

NBA Live 10 (PlayStation 3) review


"The characters in this year's game move with more faithfulness to their real-life counterparts. The difference isn't huge, but it's there and it's just one of many tweaks that I absolutely appreciate. Other upgrades have also been made to things like the pick-and-roll control, opponent AI, blocking, dribbling, foul mechanics, rebounding, character models, sweat shading (you know you love it when the players glisten credibly), arenas, lighting and everything in between. I can confidently say that if you were to pinpoint every minor change, type up a comprehensive list and print it out on paper, you'd fill several pages."



NBA Live 10 accidentally poses an interesting question: is a slew of welcome tweaks really worth your money if this year's game ultimately plays much the same as last year's?

Picture a moment in video game basketball. Greg Oden has has just rebounded the ball and he turns ponderously to the right, where his team already has begun its trip down the court toward the waiting basket on the far end. Oden takes a few lumbering steps in that direction. Mid-stride, he hefts the ball down the court. It sails through the air and arrives in Brandon Roy's waiting hands. Roy then begins dribbling as he swoops agilely around Kobe Bryant and produces a masterful layaway that ends the first half of the game with Portland leading by 2 points.

Moments like that occur quite often in NBA Live 10 and I love the game for it.

Now picture a different moment in video game basketball. Greg Oden has just rebounded the ball and he turns to the right, where his team already has begun its trip down the court to the waiting basket on the far end. Oden takes a few steps in that direction. Mid-stride, he tosses the ball down the court. It sails through the air and arrives in Brandon Roy's waiting hands. Roy then begins dribbling as he swoops around Kobe Bryant and produces a layaway that ends the first half of the game with Portland leading by 2 points.

Moments like that occurred quite often when I played NBA Live 09 and I loved the game for it.

There's some bad news hiding in those paragraphs, but the good news is that NBA Live 10 is a really good game. I appreciate the attention to detail that allows Greg Oden to move in the manner that I would expect Greg Oden to move. I like that Brandon Roy is more than just a name and a colorful jersey slapped onto a default character model. I like that I can count on him to move with the agility that I would expect from the Trailblazers guard who has so often propelled his team to narrow and satisfying victories. By now, though, astute readers have likely identified a bit of a problem. That problem is NBA Live 09.

Just last year, NBA Live 09 rocked my world. It too is a really good game. If I didn't already own it, I could right now purchase a brand new copy for as little as $7.75 from a trusted online retailer. NBA Live 10, however, would presently cost me $44.99 or more at the same site. I doubt I even have to say that for the cost-conscious gamer, the newer title either needs to radically improve the core experience or the disparity in price needs to shrink a bit.

What then, if anything, does NBA Live 10 do to justify its higher sticker price?

I've already noted that the characters in this year's game move with more faithfulness to their real-life counterparts. The difference isn't huge, but it's there and it's just one of many tweaks that I absolutely appreciate. Other upgrades have also been made to things like the pick-and-roll control, opponent AI, blocking, dribbling, foul mechanics, rebounding, character models, sweat shading (you know you love it when the players glisten credibly), arenas, lighting and everything in between. I can confidently say that if you were to pinpoint every minor change, type up a comprehensive list and print it out on paper, you'd fill several pages. If you were to settle for merely showing video of NBA 10 and its predecessor side-by-side for the sake of comparison, though, I'm not sure that any onlookers would see much difference. The changes are simply too transparent.

Hopefully, some astute reader has pondered that point and is now on the verge of asking how much we should even expect video game basketball to change. That's a fair question. By its very nature, the sport is extremely focused. The NBA Live series is about basketball simulation, so there's no reason to add alien invaders, a secret soccer mode, big heads, unicycles or lovely polka music (for the record, the music featured here is not polka). The mechanics that have been in place for years now are solid, they work and they make the games worthwhile. We don't need change for the sake of change. We need good games, and that's what we get in the form of NBA Live 10.

That brings us back to the question posed at the start of this rather unorthodox review: is a slew of welcome tweaks really worth your money if this year's game ultimately plays much the same as last year's?

NBA Live 10 can't really provide a thorough answer to the very question that its existence poses because the answer will depend so heavily on the individual gamer. Some folks are perfectly happy spending money to be on the cutting edge. They'll fork over the cash for the most updated rosters, the most graphical polish, the most finely tuned gameplay. It's difficult to blame them and it's easy to recommend that they purchase NBA Live 10, the best and most updated installment in a terrific series that they will likely feel is worth every cent. Let's say that you're a more casual sort, though. What then? Well, then you should probably seek out a more affordable previous installment that will likely satisfy you a great deal. You'll be missing out on some of the high points, but you'll probably be too busy saving money to even notice.

Besides, there's nothing stopping you from picking up NBA Live 10 a year from now. It'll be old by then, but like NBA Live 09 today, it'll still be good. Really good.

Rating: 8/10

honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (February 03, 2010)

Jason Venter founded HonestGamers in 1998, and since then has written hundreds of reviews as the site's editor-in-chief. He also is a prolific freelancer with game reviews, articles and fiction available around the Internet.

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