Above The Rim

EA Sports' basketball sim is well worth the price of admission.

EA Sports is so consistent in the quality of its sports simulations that I've long ceased to be surprised by their versatility. But even I was pleasantly surprised by "NBA Live 2000", which qualifies as one of the better titles to emerge from their stable in the past year.

"NBA Live 2000" is an incredibly full-featured basketball simulation, designed specifically for all you hoopsters out there. The variety of options is simply mind-boggling - there are six different game modes available, each of them guaranteed to at up hours of your time. There's arcade mode, which is a fast-paced game between opposing teams; exhibition mode, which is a single game between any two NBA or custom teams; franchise mode, in which you take on the responsibilities of team manager and build a basketball dream team over twenty-five years; the all-new one-on-one mode, which lets you go head-to-head against any veteran NBA player (including my all-time favourite, Michael "Air" Jordan); three-point shootout, which lets you shoot three-pointers; and the all-important practice mode, which lets you practise your moves on the court. Whew!

All this flexibility means that "NBA Live 2000" is sure to have something for you, regardless of your skill level. And regardless of whether you're a rookie or not, the player line-up is sure to have you gasping in awe - "NBA Live 2000" has digital mock-ups of "the greatest players of the last five decades", and allows you to play either alongside or opposite them. This latest version also allows you to import a photo scan of your own face into the game, and plaster it on one of the players to add an additional touch of realism.

Of course, a sports simulation is all about AI - your team versus the opposing team. And it's here that "NBA Live 2000" truly shines. The AI is excellent, with both attacking and defending teams moving well, blocking each other, passing shots intelligently and following intelligent plays; you can also define which plays get called when and watch as your players follow it to the letter.

Another useful feature is the ability to play as a specific player all the time, rather than game control automatically switching to the player with the ball, since this gives you a much greater sense of actually "being there". Players have a number of shots available to them, depending on whether they're attacking or defending; however, be prepared to invest a fair amount of time in memorizing the keystrokes necessary to execute them quickly.

A mention should also be made of the new "franchise" mode of gameplay, in which you act as the team manager and are responsible for tracking team accounts and player salaries, player development, and team building. Given the complexity of these tasks, this could itself be spun off as a separate game...but I'm glad that EA decided to include it in "NBA Live 2000", since it's something I haven't seen before.

The courts and players are modeled well, and EA has used its graphics engine intelligently to provide the same feeling of realism seen in titles like FIFA 2000 - although the crowd animation and player movement is still a bit jerky at times. As always, there are a number of TV cameras tracking all the action, allowing you to pan and zoom across the court, or watch replays later.

If you're the kind of person who follows the NBA, buy this game - it'll allow you to bring a little bit of basketball heaven home with you!

This article was first published on 18 Oct 2000.