Broken on every level, NBA Live 06 is EA's worst major sports product in the past five years. It's nearly impossible to comprehend how far the series dropped in less than a single season. From the on-court mess that feels like it went back to the 16-bit era to the off-court franchise that was stolen from other games, this is a half effort that sports fans should avoid anyway they can.
Problems begin in the menus, when you quickly realize these features are from the NBA 2K series. Marv Albert will guide you along the supposedly new franchise mode, at least until he tells you to pick trainers and assistant coaches. It's been done, and it's far less convoluted in the opposing series. The menus require multiple screens just to read something as simple as e-mail. It's frustrating, and as unintuitive as you can make a front end while still making it work.
The only positives here are the new norms for the series, the All-Star Weekend contests. The dunk contest and 3-point shootout are a blast. They provide the only challenge from the game. They're programmed better than the full 5-on-5 portion and most of your time will be spent here.
Once into a game, you'll feel like you've stepped back. This plays like some of the SNES and Genesis entries, only with a nasty frame rate and terrible graphics engine. While you may have fond memories of those classic titles (we all do), it doesn't lead to a basketball game we expect in today's gaming climate.
New are the superstar moves, assigned to players who have a significant specialty. It's not just the Tim Duncan's and Allen Iverson's who have these powerful, game destroying maneuvers in their repertoire. Lesser known (but still quality) players like Brent Barry can take advantage of them, and in a way that leads to so many balance issues, it renders the game unplayable.
Their purpose is obvious, to offer specific moves to those players who use them. It worked great back on the Genesis when you could perform the Jordan reverse or Larry Bird three from the corner. Now when players use them, they become some unstoppable force, and there's nothing included to restrain their use.
If you have a decent shooter assigned with the proper superstar attribute, be prepared to pour in 50 points a game just from him. They're too easy to execute, with just a flip of the trigger and a button. The only way to counter act these is to play with the sliders (and this can't be done in mutli-player). You could spend days doing so, and giving the AI a major advantage isn't the way this should be handled either.
It also feels rushed, with a flaky frame rate that drops anytime a player passes the half court mark. Making those fast break transitions is impossible when the controls take a response hit. Given the graphics are just awful (player faces range nothing more than a mass of pixels to barely discernable), there's little reason for the problems. Camera positions are also limited.
Even if you could subtract the superstar moves, Live 06 would still suffer. Defense is useless, and rarely do players outside your control make the appropriate switches on opposing players. Driving to the lane is too easy, and working for the open shot is no longer necessary. This is an arcade basketball title that follows the rules of the real game. Don't be fooled into thinking this is a serious simulation of the sport.
If you've heard "wait until next year" for multiple EA Sports games this year, there's a reason for it. This years run is just terrible, and there's no reason or excuse for it. It's obvious this current run of consoles is no longer the company's focus. NBA Live 06 proves that.