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The trouble with dribbles
NBA Live 06: Pretty colors, hard controls, really hard CPU

Last week marked the beginning of the NBA season. Unless you live in Miami, San Antonio, or Detroit, you don’t really care. If you don’t live in any of those cities (okay, I could add Cleveland to that list), then your home team is all but irrelevant. Thus is the NBA. NBA Live 06 is the great equalizer.

The visuals of NBA Live 06 have got it where it counts — the parquet floor shines just as in real life — and the new graphics engine allows for some eerily real-looking players. An all-new animation system makes for (mostly) smooth transitions off the boards and also provides for some devastating slo-mo shots of your Superstar dunking — think the slo-mo action from Double Dribble, only with distinguishable characters and much better graphics. Unfortunately, your Superstar also emulates his real-world self by celebrating after every basket. At least the shirt popping is held to a minimum.

The game boasts an all-new Freestyle Superstars mode, with six game-breaking moves from the top players. Holding the left trigger and tapping one of the four face buttons will put a smile on your face when Shaq nails a monster jam. But more often, as is the case with Steve Nash, no-look and behind-the-back passes end up in the third row or in the other team’s hands.

The Dynasty mode features Player Evolution, where you can create a player and follow him all the way from skipping out on college and entering the draft to signing a comically large shoe deal before he’s even played and then ending his career as a Vin Baker–esque drain on his team. You can also hire key support-staff members like trainers, scouts, and paternity lawyers. Okay, maybe not that last one, but a Hot Coffee–esque crack should hit the Internet by the time you read this.

The learning curve for NBA Live 06 is fairly short, especially when you’re playing as the San Antonio Spurs or the devastating Phoenix Suns, whose starting line-up includes at least four Freestyle Superstars. (If real-life were anything like video-game life, Shawn Marion would be MVP every year.) Playing as any other team, however, may cause you to shout expletives at the screen as the computer wipes the floor with your sorry ass. And though the game boasts an up-tempo pace, you’ll actually have more success if you slow down your gameplay.

But perhaps the most impressive thing about NBA Live 06 is its attention to detail when it comes to certain players’ attributes. You can’t just blindly shoot jays all day long — you need to know which players (aside from Peja, of course) can take outside shots, who can rebound, and so on. This means that instead of flailing around and attempting impossible shots, you have to move the ball around the key to find the open man. There are some offensive and defensive plays that can be accessed by the D-pad, but since my skill at video basketball dwarfs my knowledge of the actual game, I rarely used this feature — and by rarely, I mean never.

Score: 7.0/10.0

Issue Date: November 11 - 17, 2005
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