NBA Live 18 begins on the streets. With lavish video production, EA’s development team takes a steady cam to iconic streetball locations. They shoot the rim against a sunset backdrop or sweep the court, narration praising the site’s influence to the community. It’s beautiful insofar as showing what basketball can do (and does) for lower income, often poverty stricken Burroughs of New York or Compton. Basketball matters. When NBA Live puts things in order, fewer simulation sports games better understand where pro athletes comes from. Inclusion of the WNBA amplifies this message.
Certainly, at a corporate level, EA grabs at the opportunity to catch fans in basketball’s grip. The overwhelming draw to high-dollar shoes takes a prolific spot, offering Nike, Adidas, and other branded footwear for the taking – ever so slowly. These dole out in lootboxes, predatory as the shoe sales model in real life, locking onto under privileged communities seeking status. To see that digitized is disheartening.
Once on the court, NBA Live 18 becomes a stubborn basketball game, beguiled by the motion of the on-court play. Nothing in NBA Live feels natural. Rarely does this look or feel like pro ball, rather a stilted and flustered team sport with limited sense how the game moves. As much as NBA Live 18 understands the background, the stuff in the foreground stumbles.