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NBA Live 18 Review - from a lapsed basketball fan

I haven't followed NBA basketball in years.

There was that one time I attempted to get into NBA stuff by buying a 2k game. I don't remember what year it was. But one thing that stood out for me back then was how difficult the game was. A lot was said about how 2k's games are more simulation-based so it's a lot harder to get shots in. That's the experience I had with a 2k game (that was back in the PS3 / Xbox 360 era), and I ended up selling the game about a week after i had bought it. 

I enjoy basketball. When I was a teen it was a nice way to spend time after school, just shoot some hoops and have fun. Watching NBA games or even the local PBA games is a good way to bond with other friends and just talk about your favorite players and teams. Getting older, I stopped following basketball and sports in general. Life just got in the way, or....maybe, put simply, it isn't as easy now to just 'play basketball' as it used to be when i was in high school.

Back then I always had access to a court and i can just play. I am not the greatest player in the world but it's just a nice, physical activity to do. Getting older, there isn't a place you can just go to easily to play basketball. And usually the 'park/playground' where there is a basketball hoop, is already occupied by the local hustler team who isn't really going to let someone who just casually plays just jump in and play with them....that's just asking for trouble in real life. 

So recently I was reading about NBA Live 18 and how it's a big improvement over previous installments. Some time before I saw this video of NBA Live where it had this glitch where the players would go into a T stance randomly....this was all over youtube before and it was hilarious. When I saw that video, I thought, man, NBA Live is dead. And that was in the heat of their 'battle' with 2k over the basketball video game genre. EA used to lead back in the 90s with their Live series and they were always the best, but 2k got all the critical acclaim because their game doesn't just let you 'drive in the lane and dunk all day'....basically its simulation aspects were what made it bigger than Live, and eventually it won in popularity with both gamers and even pro athletes. There's stories of how real athletes get upset over how 2k rates them or how 2k simulates their style of play, and they say it never gets that right (of course they'd say that!). But that's how much 2k has the mindshare - they're literally the kings of the basketball game at this point in time.

So why the hell did I buy NBA Live 18?

Oh yeah, let's get back to that demo. EA gave a really, REALLY good demo. It let you play as the teams, and it let you play their 'Career' mode called 'The One'. I found the presentation in 'The One' to be very interesting - straightforward and just goes straight to the best part, which is the on-court action and gameplay. I tried out 2k's 'Prelude' this year and it had ridiculous cutscenes, and the overall presentation to their one-player career mode was a little weird....it was just cheesy and unrealistic. Whereas 'The One', that game feels like you're in a professionally made sports movie. It doesn't really have cutscenes like 2k18's career mode, but it does give a good backdrop for the actual gameplay.

I think, I ended up liking NBA Live 18 because of how it plays. It just feels really smooth to me. I read some comments and videos about how some people find the controls stiff or robotic - but it makes sense to me because in a sports game, there is momentum and the way they implement it in Live makes sense to me. It probably helps I don't have a history with 2k games and how I have lapsed in interest in basketball for many years now. The last time I played was probably in '97 or so, and yeah I know how EA games just let you dunk or layup all day. Live 18 is no different, in some way - it has a lot of dunking and layups but I like how the defense can be challenging too, so not every moment is a dunk or a lay-in. 

So, if I had to summarize what I liked about NBA Live 18:

- The graphics are really nice...their courts are good. Their player faces, some are okay but others need more work. Overall, the graphics jive well with the gameplay, and I found the controls very easy to use.
- I love, love, love the presentation in this game. I love watching player celebrations. Sometimes i enjoy the commentary, though honestly it needs more so there's less repetition.
- I love how simple it is. Franchise mode, i've heard, isn't as complex as 2k's, but after a hard day at work, it's nice to just grind out one game vs. the CPU to relax. Then after you win, it's recorded in your 'franchise' - so it's literally a personal fantasy of 'hey, I'm on a big NBA team and I gotta win a championship' -- that's it. I'm sure it isn't complicated enough for people who already play 2k games. But for me, it's good enough. It's so good I think I've already hit 50 hours just playing this. And I'm not even in the playoffs!

Overall, I like how NBA Live 18 just literally re-introduced me to sports gaming, which I haven't done in years. It re-introduced me to the NBA which I haven't watched in years, too. It's a great game to just get into basketball again. Maybe if you have been with 2k games for years, NBA Live 18 isn't for you. But if you want to start over, like me, NBA Live 18 is a great place to go.

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