Although developer and publisher EA is well known for having franchises across all of the major sports and leagues (FIFA, Madden, PGA Tour golf, NHL and UFC), their NBA Live series has been struggling for several years. Following the release of NBA Live 10, EA decided to reinvent the franchise by making NBA Elite 11 but when the game was cancelled due to a lack of polish, the series headed into a downward spiral. There was no NBA Live 12 and NBA Live 13, which were going to reboot the series, as they ended up being cancelled too.
EA did eventually revive the franchise with NBA Live 14 in 2013, but the game was unanimously panned for having poor animation, physics, glitches, and for gameplay that didn’t look or feel like it belonged on current-gen consoles, which caused the developer to write an open letter apologizing to fans. NBA Live 15 was received much better when that was released last year, but compared to the NBA 2K games which had thrived as NBA Live floundered, EA still had a lot of work to do.
So could NBA Live 16 be a worthy competitor to NBA 2K16? During their E3 2015 press conference, EA revealed a brand new trailer for the game and announced the new gameplay improvements for this year. The leading ‘back of the box’ feature is the new Live Motion physics system, which has been in the works at EA Tiburon for two years. Instead of presenting canned animations, Live Motion combines run-time physics and motion capture for “thousands of new animations” that should feel a lot more realistic.
Additionally, EA also showed off a new face-scanning app called GameFaceHD. To demonstrate how the app works, EA brought the NBA Live community manager ‘Hoop God’ on stage. After scanning Hoop God’s face with the front-facing smartphone on a camera, in just a few seconds, he was able to see a realistic-looking version of his face on the body of a virtual NBA player who can then be played in NBA Live 16‘s career mode.
While some may argue that EA should only be focusing on core gameplay features, GameFaceHD could be a serious selling point for the game. Last year, NBA 2K15 made headlines as players shared grotesque images of characters where the 2K face scanning technology had gone wrong, so if players are that eager to see themselves in the game, EA is showing how well that can work with NBA Live 16.
Some smaller NBA Live 16 improvements include a “rebuilt” passing and catching system, fresh improvements for shooting, and new controls for pick-and-roll. Given that the offensive gameplay of NBA Live 15 was something which frustrated players in particular, those improvements will certainly be welcomed with open arms.
NBA Live 16 will be released on September 29, 2015 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.