Man, oh man, we never saw this one coming. On the heels of the two well-received Madden and NHL games this fall, EA had hit their stride with next generation titles - or so we thought. The shockingly bad NBA Live 07 completely floored us, for all the wrong reasons. Gameplay is abysmal, visuals are dreadful (well, only when there is actual motion involved), game modes are limited, even the online aspect is completely busted. It all adds up to a big fat letdown, especially when compared to the competition: 2K's fantastic NBA 2K7.
It took about 5 minutes for us to realize that something had gone horribly wrong in the labs at Electronic Arts. The menu screens and opening animations kick ass - but sadly, that's by far the best part of the game. While waiting in the loading screen, you can shoot some hoops with Tracy McGrady in a way-cool futuristic gym. Once that's finished, you're whooshed off to a regular game, All-Star weekend, franchise mode, or online. And that's when the trouble starts.
Right from the tip-off, it's immediately apparent that the gameplay is choppier than the ocean during hurricane season. Players clunkily move around, stiff and strange, taking weird, high-arching shots that would only make World B. Free proud. Trying to time the release point is terribly difficult, so you'll find yourself wrestling with the controls rather than intuitively rocking the rim. Dunk and layup buttons are separate, but don't always seem to react the way you intend them to. Overall, playing a game is akin to watching old 8mm movie reels - jumpy, awkward motion interspersed with brief moments of clarity.
A broken Total Freestyle Control mechanic rears its ugly head here, and only adds to the frustration, since judging when to let go of the rock is nigh impossible. About the only consistent scoring you'll be able to accomplish will be down low in the post with a fearsome power forward or center - think Amare or Shaq types - by using the right trigger/dunk button combo. Free throw shooting is another debacle, with even the best in the biz being relegated to fifty-percenters by a far-too-touchy right analog stick - and don't even get us started about the post-shot animation (let's just say it involves a partial run to the baseline but gets, um, interrupted).
We finally realized that what we had in our hands was simply an unfinished product that must have been shipped to match a release date as opposed to being complete. It's really a shame, since you can clearly see some promise.
The player models are incredibly realistic, and the courts reflect the arena scoreboards and lights extremely well. The integration of ESPN updates, scoreboards, and video content is also great (especially for those of us who are hooked on podcasts).
The final nail in the coffin is the online play - it's an unplayable mess that actually hurts your eyes. The framerate drops like a brick, disconnections are frequent, and nothing short of Xanax will let you enjoy yourself out there on Live. Toss in the fact that there are no leagues or in-depth stat tracking (assuming a patch would make basic gameplay work) and you're stuck with a clunker every which way but loose.
If you're mulling over a b-ball game for your 360 this fall, the only direction to look is away from NBA Live 07. It's a disaster from the word go, and never should have made it out of training camp.