Basketball is one of those sports that I wish I could play. Why? Well for start, it just looks so cool. The kits, the fashion accessories, the street courts, the slam-dunks, the slick passes and the superhuman athletic ability all seem to combine to make one amazing show. When I was younger I loved the Harlem Globe Trotters with their mixture of comedy and incredible skills, whilst in the gaming world I loved the older hoop shooting games from the SNES times, with flaming slam dunks and players with huge heads. I’ve never however got into the more realistic basketball sims of the newest generation of consoles. But can NBA Live 18 make me fall in love with the game all over again?
This EA Sports franchise has been around for a while, but has always come across as the poorer cousin to the 2K franchise, what with its deep roots in gameplay, and extensive career mode. This year however the NBA Live team have a little secret weapon in the basketball war and it’s called The One. It’s like the story mode that FIFA has been doing so successfully with The Journey, so why shouldn’t NBA Live get the treatment too? The short answer is that there is no reason not to, and thankfully it’s very, very, good and a brilliant introduction to the world of the basketball.
You start The One as a kid who was being considered for greatness – but you’ve busted your knee up real bad, and it could be a bit of a career destroyer. From the very start you can tell by the video work, the real basketball pundits talking about your career and the amazing voice overs, that the game is building an atmosphere that is big enough to make you feel like you’re in a major Hollywood movie. You of course can choose your own design, your look and your clothing items. You also get to pick your best position; unlocking skills and traits as you progress through the levels. There are loot crates you can buy with points earned, and you’ll find that these contain all sorts of lovely booty, like rare clothing items to use on your character.
The story calls out to you as the comeback kid and gives you a number of chapters that sees your experience raise by competing in street court games, before taking you all the way to the NBA and your draft into a team.
In the actual game itself you play in just the one position, calling for passes, shooting and defending. NBA Live 18 has a good tutorial that enables you to grab the basics, but then it is up to you to learn the more complicated tricks as you progress. Whilst in game, you’ll get marks for good team play, clever passing and hardcore defending, but points will be taken away should you call for a pass too early or if you lose your attacker in defense. The more points you earn the quicker you level up and the more traits you can open.
After the main chapters are over and you head into the NBA career mode, there is still a massive amount of gameplay hours to devour and huge amounts of fun to be had. The One is the killer mode that should give this franchise the much-needed kick in order to put it right up there with the rest of the competition. I have to admit to loving it and it gave me a great stepping-stone back into basketball once more. The mixture of league and street is both fantastic and involving, with the gameplay being simple enough for anyone to get to grips with. Some may get annoyed with its simplicity and maybe want more from their basketball game, but for me, it’s on point.
There are the other usual modes included as well as The One. There’s online play of course, Ultimate Team and the usual fare like Franchise mode that gives you the chance to manage your own team, but none are as good as The One. The online modes aren’t as great and varied as they should be though and that is a massive disappointment, but as an overall package NBA Live 18 will give you tens and hundreds of hours of gameplay, allowing you many months of perfecting your game in order to compete with the world.
As I stated earlier, the visual look of the game mixes brilliantly together with real world video and animation to great effect. The arenas, on both court and street, are dazzlingly realised with great lighting, crowds and backdrops. The characters themselves seem fluid in their animations, and the game goes along at a fair lick without any real problems. The menus look fine and are designed well, while being easy enough to use – pretty much like most EA Sports titles of recent times. The video and film work is exemplary, whilst the commentary and punditry is of a very high standard with both being exciting and dynamic.
And then we get to the soundtrack of this EA title, and it is without doubt one of my most favourite. It all depends on your likes and tastes of course, but the mixture of R&B and rap is brilliantly sourced and put together. Just sitting back on the menu screens with the soundtrack playing is an absolute pleasure.
I have very much enjoyed my time with NBA Live 18. The One is a brilliant mode that gives off a great story, and comes with the ability to make you the star in your own Hoop Dreams film. The amount of leveling up is exciting and uncomplicated, with the loot boxes giving you rare outfits to make your player the sharpest on the block. Aside from that though and there are loads of other modes to choose from, and it’s definitely brings value for money.
Experts of the game will criticize the simplicity of the moves on offer and it is they which will want more of what the 2K game has to offer. But for me, as someone returning to the sport this Live 18 is as good an introduction to the genre, and the life it aims to promote, as you can get. I will carry on ploughing hours into it in the hope that I’ll get the chance to relive my dreams of being cooler then I really am.