After taking a year off, EA’s NBA Live series came back swinging (or technically dribbling) last year. It was a solid entry and return to form, but there was still room for improvement. The series is releasing annually once again, though NBA Live 19 still features some noticeable improvements like refined animations, the incorporation of sport personalities and influencers, and the inclusion of Female Create-A-Player.
Last week, I was flown out to an EA Sports event and tried out NBA Live 19. I created a female character and progressed through The Rise, which is the first part of NBA Live’s single player The One mode, and helped me get familiar with the game’s mechanics before I faced off against Joel Embiid. NBA Live 19 is a nice step up from last year, with new changes that make the experience more inclusive and customizable than ever before.
I started off my time with the game by jumping into the game an creating a female character. The options were plentiful, and NBA Live remains one of the more visually impressive EA Sports series. I didn’t give my character a name, so everyone called her The One by default; I did have some fun and make her come from Vatican City, though. You must then choose your playstyle — Guard, Wing, or Big — an RPG-like feature that returns from NBA Live 19.
After choosing Big, I had to select an Icon, which is new to NBA Live 19. A player’s Icon ability gives them boots and skills that strengthen the core playstyle chosen. These are earned by playing an changed at any time, giving the game another layer of depth when it comes to its RPG mechanics. NBA Live 19 is a super customizable experience, and the addition and added options for Female Create-A-Player only strengthen The One and make it more accessible and inclusive.
After completely decking out my character, I jumped into The Rise, which just the first part of The One like it was in NBA Live 18. It began with a video of ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth introducing the Jordan Quai 54 Streetball Championship. Videos like this are a significant addition to NBA Live 19. Not only are the standard commentary or introductory tracks like this in the game, but they are also spliced in between matches.
Comments from TV anchors like Cassidy and social media influencers will pop up and splice gameplay in, making things feel more personal and exclusive to your character. After Cassidy’s commentary, I played a match at the Qaui 54 Streetball tournament and made a splash as “The One.” I was soon one of the most popular up-and-coming basketball stars, and my manager recommended I make a splash in other countries via a conversation system that also gives players rewards like in NBA Live 18.
I could choose to go to either Brazil or the Philippines, and I chose Brazil. After deciding to enter the game, I had to build my squad, another hallmark feature of NBA Live 19. Players will unlock new squad members, novice and famous alike, as they progress throughout the game, and can add them to their squad for each game. Each squad member has their stats and strengths for players to look out for, so it looks like creating the team will be pivotal to doing well across all of NBA Live 19‘s modes.
I won once again in Brazil and was able to add famous WNBA player Elena Delle Donne to my squad. I was also able to upgrade my character and equip other Icon abilities, which I did as well. After doing well in Brazil, I was challenged by cover star Joel Embiid to visit his court and face him and his squad. His court also had special rules giving me a disadvantage, so I’d have to work hard if I wanted The One to beat The Process.
When it comes to gameplay, NBA Live 19 is relatively similar to its predecessor but feels a little smoother and less clunky to control. The addition of RPM animation tech also really adds to the realism, as players will now move, grab, and block in more authentic looking ways, which is much appreciated in a sports game with an emphasis on movement.
Ultimately, I came out on top against Joel Embiid, and he agreed to join my squad. My career hype was also at an all-time high, which will likely be very useful when players move onto the full game. While The Rise functioned similarly to how it did in NBA Live 18 in many ways, the updated presentation will undoubtedly help the NBA Live 2019 versions of The Rise and The One stand on their own.
All of the changes revealed so far are welcome, and only seem to improve NBA Live’s overall presentation and gameplay feel. While the is still fighting an uphill battle against the NBA 2K series, NBA Live 19 is a step in the right direction, and the inclusion of the WNBA and female Create-A-Player will make it the most inclusive basketball game on the market.
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