NBA Live 10 Review

By Mike D'Alonzo - Posted Oct 13, 2009

Though it seems like only yesterday that the Los Angeles Lakers were hoisting the O'Brien Trophy for winning the 2008-2009 NBA Championship, basketball season is once again upon us, and, with it, the usual crop of basketball-related games it brings. EA's annual entry in the NBA Live series, NBA Live 10 is here, and it's not perfect, but it's pretty darned fun.

The Pros
  • Improved defense
  • Improved AI reactions make for a more real game
  • Fun presentation and deep interactivity
The Cons
  • Players look a little unreal
  • Occasional gameplay foibles

Though it seems like only yesterday that the Los Angeles Lakers were hoisting the O'Brien Trophy for winning the 2008-2009 NBA Championship, basketball season is once again upon us, and, with it, the usual crop of basketball-related games it brings. EA’s annual entry in the NBA Live series, NBA Live 10 is here, and it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty darned fun.

What you should know right off the bat is that NBA Live 10 is a significant upgrade over the last few games in the series. A stronger emphasis has been placed on smoother gameplay and logical decision making on the fly. It’s a pretty deep game, deeper if you’re a basketball fanatic or an actual player, but it’s also fun to just pick up your controller and ball.

NBA Live 10

Hand Down, Man Down


My big knock on basketball games in general has always been how difficult it is to play defense, which normally means that the last team to score wins the game. NBA Live 10 has obviously focused on this, making it easier and more logical to guard both on and off the ball. Team defense is better in general, which means that guarding your man and letting the rest of the team do its work will often result in a bad shot or a turnover.

That’s not to say that it’s easy, though experienced gamers will want to ratchet up the difficulty level a bit. The fundamentals of the game are still at work, and your opponent might run screens or pick-and-roll plays that cause your defenders to switch off. You will need to stay disciplined to play defense, but your hard work and concentration will pay off, especially as you learn to understand what sort of offense the other team is running.

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Throw It Down, Big Man!


On the other side of the ball, you will realize quickly that the AI’s defense has improved, as well, which means you can’t just have Kobe Bryant hog the ball and drive down the lane on every play. The computer will recognize and double and triple team your players, meaning that you’re going to have to learn how to run an actual offense if you want to be successful.

NBA Live 10
offers the opportunity to play in a great many offensive sets, i.e. if you’re playing as the Lakers, you will run the Triangle. The intricacies of those offenses, which players study for years to learn, might escape you unless you are an actual basketball player or a genius with the mind of John Wooden, but it’s good to know that they’re there if you want them.

Mechanically, the shooting system works well, with a single-button shot that is touch-sensitive and allows you to either shoot the ball quickly, or step into a jump shot. Pulling the right trigger while you shoot will allow your player to drive the lane and dunk, and the analog stick will govern which side of the backboard your player uses on a layup attempt. One knock on the gameplay is that, occasionally, you will direct a pass in one direction, and it will inexplicably go the wrong way. I suppose that’s a little like real life. 

In the lane, you can also size up your defender and juke him out of his shoes or blow by him altogether with the use of the analog stick. Though it can occasionally be a trick staying in bounds, the animation is smooth and works well. Foul shots are also simplified with a bar on top of the screen that works a little like the kicking function in Madden.

NBA Live 10

From Downtown…YES!


Marv Albert and Steve Kerr are on-hand to provide in-game commentary, which feels pretty authentic, as does the reaction of the crowd, which gets louder during rivalry games and tense moments on the court. Highlight packages and game recaps add to the feel of a real NBA game. Though the players might look a tad on the unreal side, the animations are smooth and function well.

EA’s Dynamic DNA system makes a return in Live 10, allowing for the actual statistics of the season to be reflected in the game. Since the season hasn’t started yet, it’s hard to see if the functionality has changed, if at all, from last year. A new function related to that, Dynamic Season, lets you jump in and change your team’s destiny in real time or flash back to the past and replay games that were actually on your team’s schedule.

One other new function, Adidas Live Run, lets up to 10 users go online to play live five-on-five games. You can create teams with your friends and keep your record and stats as you play. Dynasty Mode is still in the game and robust, allowing you to sign players, and choose your team’s destiny as you attempt to hit a group of targets related to what sort of team you are.

NBA Live 10

Count It!


There are some elements of the game that will rankle the grizzled baller. The players do look a little on the cartoony side, every now and again a player will make a pass that was clearly unintended, and staying in bounds can be a challenge. However, these are not much more than niggling worries and they don’t detract significantly from the game.

NBA Live 10 isn’t a perfect game, by any stretch, but it is a significant improvement in the series, and a lot of fun to play. Improvements in almost every facet of the game make for a much more robust experience, and one that stays true to the spirit of the sport. The chaos of years worth of flailing around at controls trying simply to outscore your opponent has been replaced with a much more strategic way to play, and basketball fans will find themselves satisfied with the result.