NBA Live 04

Review: NBA Live 2004

Yeah it is that time of year again, EA's new editions of all licensed sport titles have gone 'gold' and among them of course NBA Live. Hoop fans better hope that this is a good one, because Sega didn't release its ESPN line to the cube this year. Well, for this fan it all starts well with his favourite player on the cover; let's see how things go from there.

10-man motion capture:

EA introduced the first ever 10-man motion capture, which means all players manoeuvre over the court in a truly unique way. All players participate in every play instead of just standing on their standard positions like zombies waiting for the point guard to call a play or following their opponent blindly. Also character animations are much more dynamic, the arms in the air when they're open, evading screens and dives to the floor when trying to get the loose ball all adds realism to the gameplay.

For the character models they have (and this is a fact) paid more attention modulating the NBA stars then to the 'regular' players although their improvements are minor compared to last years edition. One thing you can't miss is that they replicated every NBA arena and did it with a lot of thrills. Little recognisable details such as retired jerseys, the ceiling lights and skyboxes are all authentic. Hell, I even think I saw Jack Nicholson cheering for his favourite Lakers team on the front row.

Realistic ballgame:

Always a delicate subject of EA sport titles is the Artificial Intelligence. There have been some noticeable changes compared to last year's title. Every effort is made to present a game scenario that is much like a real NBA match. We have to think of double-teaming, intentional fouls during clutch time and even team-, and individual play styles. In this year's edition all of these things have been improved to reflect a real-life NBA game as much as possible. The New Jersey Nets for instance, are well known for their fastbreak offensive and surely in NBA Live 2004 they play this strategy like no other.

But its not all positive, the CPU is often confused when it comes to switching between players in rebounding the loose ball and also, they still seem to have that frustrating 'keep score close' feature in the game. Where suddenly during a double-digit lead you'll miss open shots and free path dunks executed by the best performers while your opponents make shots from every possible angle. Also, you can't disable this feature anymore, although on the other hand there are an incredible amount of possibilities to change the difficulty of the game. From short-range shots to steal ability to rebounding skills, all of this can be altered in order for you to have the best game experience.


Another new feature introduced in NBA live is the management mode. Although by no means you should compare it with a stand alone manager game, there are a reasonable amount of managing options to help build a successful franchise. This can be achieved by trading and signing players, but also by earning points every game. In a task list you can check the requirements needed to get these points. Examples are winning by more than 10 points, get at least 5 assist in one quarter by a individual player or get a 20+ game by one individual player.

With these points you can improve your team by acquiring a training specialist for a certain amount of time, like a rebound coach so your rebound abilities improve during his stay. Or you can spend these points for the more expensive training camps so your players' stats will improve permanently.


All dribble moves have been integrated into the freestyle scheme (controlled with c-stick), so there is room for other new moves. One of them is the 'pro-hop', in which a player takes a 2-count rhythm and then jumps with both feet towards the basket hoping it will trick his defender and, in the process, is open for the basket.

Also new are the shoot options, divided into a dunk and a jumpshot button, no longer you'll make a close range 'J' when you want to slam-dunk the board with furious power. That leaves us to the controller flexibility of the cube. It's inconvenient to use two buttons at the same time with the cube controller, posting up and make a hookshot, for example, requires a lot of unnatural finger positioning, probably resulting in avoiding these moves. A lot of this has to do because one of your shoulder buttons is reserved for the direct passing system. Even worse, you cannot manually change the controller set-up to your personal settings.

Final Say:

EA has pretty much card blanche this year for the cube as far as basketball games concerned, but that didn't stop them to turn up the gameplay a notch. They spent a lot of time on the AI, aiming for a more authentic type of ballgame. Hardcore players will surely appreciate the gameplay experience and overlook the little control issues. But should you have any doubts then there is always next year.

N-Europe Final Verdict

A successful ‘upgrade'

  • Gameplay4
  • Playability4
  • Visuals4
  • Audio4
  • Lifespan4
Final Score



Improved animation
Improved AI


Memory blocks required
Controller struggle

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