Lockout, schmockout: 'NBA Live 99' delivers
(IDG) -- Marcale Wallace: "NBA Live 99" for the PC is the basketball game you've been waiting for! It has great gameplay, all the way through. And it comes complete with an Arcade mode which provides you with the crazy, unrealistic slams of NBA Jam and a simulation mode that puts you courtside. This year, the simulation feature comes with a franchise mode that lets you play up to 10 seasons and watch players progress throughout their careers, bringing new replay value to the series. Combine that with the ability to call over fifty NBA plays on the fly, and you've got yourself one of the most entertaining basketball games of all time.
Of all the new features, I'd have to say that my favorite is the revamped create-a-player function. You'll now be able to create your own NBA superstars, each with individual facial expressions (laid back, hyped, etc.), skin tone, height, weight, facial hair, hair color, and physical ratings. And should you choose one of the last names currently recorded in the game's huge audio directory (e.g. Jordan, Wallace, Miller), the announcers will call out his name as if he actually was in the NBA.
Nash Werner: I agree with Marcale. And I have to add the fact that Live 99 is 100 percent more fun than its predecessor. Maybe it's because of the new franchise mode, the sheer amount of new dunks, or the new image-captured faces. All these little quirks usually have nothing to do with gameplay, but combined, they create something incredibly hard to put down.
Marcale: EA Sports leads the industry in the graphics department. All its franchise sports games are the bomb, and Live 99 is no exception. The 3D models in Live 99 have amazing detail, with new textures and faces that help virtual players look just like the real thing. The stadiums themselves are beautifully re-created, too, showing off the championship banners of the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, or even the Los Angeles Lakers.
The only downside is the fact that Live 99 is a processor hog. I ran Live 99 on a PII 266 with a Voodoo II accelerator, and gameplay was very sluggish on maximum detail. So be warned: some of the great details I've talked about might not even be possible on your P166 or 200.
Nash: Live 99's strongest feature is its player faces. The painstaking process of image-mapping the faces of hundreds of NBA stars (all your favorites are here) has resulted in that "watching television" feel. Check the animation of players' lips when talking trash after a dunk or growling after a rejection -- these are the most lifelike video-game basketball players ever!
Marcale: Live 99 sounds crisp and clear from the start. You'll hear everything from the scuff of the sneakers on the hardwood to the rattling of the rim during a dunk. You can hear the players in the background chatting to each other, telling their teammates to watch the cut or to double-team an opposing player.
The audio commentary gets annoying, though. The announcer calls out players' last names every time they flinch (O'Neal shoots! Hardway misses!). I like commentary, so toggling it off isn't exactly an option. Maybe EA Sports needs to make the announcers less frequent. Or better yet, make it adjustable (e.g., Ref Strictness).
Nash: When it comes to game music, EA Sports usually secures great soundtracks (all except for Chumbawamba, that is). You'll find that Live 99's soundtrack comes alive with modern jazz, funk, and blues. But Marcale's right, the announcer gets very old after a while (try the first quarter).
Marcale: 9.0 (out of 10)
Live 99 comes through with some of the most stunning graphics ever seen in a basketball game. Sure, there's some 3D clipping, and easy dunks are sometimes missed when they should've been driven home. But with the players' facial expressions, franchise mode, enhanced play calling, and the planned downloadable rosters, Live 99 is the best basketball game for the PC.
Nash: 8.5 (out of 10)
While Live 99 performs almost flawlessly, don't let the anti-aliased pixels fool you. Live 99 isn't perfect. All-star players sometimes miss very easy two-point shots (even when they're wide open), 3D models are often the victims of strange collision detection (e.g., Shaq getting stuck on Kidd's elbow), and the infamous clipping-dunks (phasing through defensemen) that plague all polygonal b-ball games plague Live 99, too. But I still say it comes close to a perfect 10.
Note: "NBA Live 99" is also available for the Sony Playstation and Nintendo 64 game consoles.
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