Xbox 360 Review: NBA Live 06

To say the Xbox 360 version of NBA Live 06 is lacking, well, everything, still isn't enough to get the point across. Barren is probably a better word. This is the problem with being spoiled by sports games, and NBA Live 06 is a victim because of it.

Fans of this long running franchise (now in its eleventh season) are in for a few adjustments. This is probably the slowest basketball game since the wrongly titled NBA Fastbreak on the Playstation. There was nothing fast about that one, and Live 06 suffers the same fate by default. You'll need to bump your speed up in the settings menu, and even then, don't expect to fly down the court like you used to.

Live has changed, and it's headed for the better; it's just not all here yet. While there are still too many breaks down the floor for easy dunks, it's toned down a notch. The defense actually puts up a fight now on every level other than rookie. Selecting menu options is also improved, allowing for d-pad selection for substitutions, time outs, and more without having to load the pause menu every time. It's all handled right there on the play screen.

Still, NBA Live it too easy. It's been the curse of this series since its inception, and the addition of right analog stick jukes smothers defense with an unstoppable offensive force. All attempts to pace the game realistically are thrown out even if the opposing squad steps in to stop a break down the court. It's a shame the excellent commentary with Marv Albert and Steve Kerr doesn't address the absurdity of the gameplay. That would make for real entertainment.

For a real challenge, you'll need to head onto Xbox Live, though with meager options for only two players (ranked and unranked matches only), you won't spend much time here either. Actually, even offline you won't be doing much. There's no franchise mode, and no salary cap implemented either.

The work in this updated version to the Live series has gone into the presentation. Even if the gameplay doesn't reflect it, entering into those arenas is 100% next-generation. The menu system offers the slickest menu system yet, letting players control Dwayne Wade on a futuristic court while the game loads up. It's an impressive sight.

On the court, things are not as incredible. While the player models are a complete redesign, they lack the sharpness that NBA 2K6 brought with its players. In fact, Live 06 looks overdone and far too dark, with bulging muscles that would be out of place at a body building competition and stadium owners that apparently forgot to turn on all the lights. Worse yet, the camera is awful, and out of the meager few selections, all the changing of the zoom and height in the world won't make this playable.

For whatever reason, the camera struggles to keep up. Making a deep pass down the floor will almost always result in the camera staying a few seconds behind. Your ball carrier is lost to a cameraman that would never see employment if this was real life. If they were trying to force players into pacing the game like real basketball, they failed.

There are also graphical glitches, like the on-court lighting going out of control during close ups. It's even more disappointing that you can't get your own look at the player models. All replays are inexcusably computer controlled after you press the L3 button post play. Worse yet, there's no replaying anything the AI has done. The option doesn't exist.

The changes to the Live series here are promising, and the potential for the next few years is here. NBA Live 06 however is unfinished, lacking, and unable to break away from the arcade fest it's always been. This never should have been released without basic features we began to expect from sports games 10+ years ago.

(** out of *****)

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