NBA Live 2001 provides the selection of real-life teams and players and the honest gameplay that fans have come to expect from the Electronic Arts NBA Live series of basketball games. The camera follows NBA superstars across the 3D court as they pass the ball, set up plays, and take the shot. NBA Live 2001 improves on the standards established by its predecessors with enhanced AI and better player models. The improved announcer commentary, more encompassing crowd noises, and more detailed action in the stands and on the bench make for a realistic, ambient arena. NBA Live 2001 also offers a challenge mode, in which players gain points by performing extraordinary feats like winning by a large margin or sinking several consecutive three-point shots. These challenge mode points can be used to unlock bonus teams and other special features in the game.
I remember the days gone by when all basketball games were played from a TV camera view and woolly mammoths walked the Earth. But those days came and went with the introduction of the first of the NBA Live series and their introduction of different camera angles including the perfect follow isometric camera to give a better view of the court. The problem is that ever since that initial great idea, the series has pretty much stayed the same. The graphics have gotten better and some little things have been tweaked and enhanced, but for the most part, NBA Live 2001 is the same as last year's version. That isn't to say that is necessarily a bad thing.
As usual, EA Sports commitment to excellence in every area of design is apparent. The menu system is easy and slick. You'll find all of the game types that you saw last year. Exhibition will allow you to jump into quick game. Season will give you the chance to play through a season of varied lengths. Playoffs will allow you to skip the elimination process of the season and jump directly into the tournament. Franchise will once again allow those that like the management aspects of the game to jump right back into things and get down and dirty with running a team. And last but not least is the one on one option, which allows you to go pit any two players against each other to see how they fare. You can even pit some all time greats like Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain against each other to see who the greatest is.
Playing the game itself will also be pretty close to the same experience. That can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Some of the more annoying things from the last few years are still in place. Apparently they just can't figure out that whole dunking vs. jump shot thing that pisses everybody off. Why, oh why, does a player like Shaq, when he's standing right underneath the basket with no one around decide to throw up a jump shot instead of dunking, or at least laying up, the ball. It might not be such a big deal if jump shots didn't require timing. But when you're expecting to dunk the ball and pull up and shoot instead, it tends to screw with your rhythm.
And if you do miss that shot, don't expect your computer controlled teammates to help you out at all by rebounding. They seem to have the lazy bug and won't even jump for them half of the time, which means you better switch players to a big man right when you see someone shoot so you can tell him to jump yourself. The same thing applies for loose balls on the ground. I can't tell you how many times I watched Vlade Divac mosey towards a ball only to have it picked up by the computer that started out a couple of feet behind him.
While they didn't fix some of those frustrating problems, the gameplay is very satisfying overall and is the best that you are going to find on the market. Passing and shooting stays pretty much as smooth as always. And while the gameplay may not have changed so much that it's groundbreaking, there were a couple of minor tweaks and changes that most of the Live series fans out there will enjoy. The biggest of these are some new post moves to give you more options down low. Unfortunately it's still is a little difficult to execute them when you want. Most of the time, you'll just have to move the ball around and hope that the computer makes a mistake and blow by them with a little pressure on the turbo button.
Graphics also received a bit of a facelift, almost literally as player's faces have a little more detail in them this year. Although I have to say, some of them are still looking a little strange. Jason Williams is a prime example. He looks a bit like a pinheaded monkey with the hairline they gave him. Other than that, the game looks pretty impressive. The framerate slows a little when everything is on high detail, but it really doesn't need to be turned up that high.
The stands in these kinds of games just keep getting better and better as well, and while the fans may look a little strange when you concentrate on one of them, they really add a lot of atmosphere to the game when looked at as a whole. The animation rate for the fans can also be turned down for those with slower machines.
Sound in the game is once again superlative. The announcers always know who has the ball and will call out the plays accordingly, which is always very nice. The voice work is done really nicely and you get the feeling that you're right there in the action. You can actually hear the players talk smack in the one on one games as well, which is nice. The music is all right as well although I can't say I was overly impressed.
NBA Live 2001 is a really good game. There's no denying that. But those of you that already own the 2000 version of this game will really only be paying for new rosters, some tiny cosmetic upgrades, and couple of new features. I'm, not sure that it is really worth the extra money for you guys unless you are a real fan of the series and just have to catch 'em all. But those of you that don't have a basketball game and are looking to get one, this should definitely be on the top of your list. EA Sports has earned it's reputation and NBA Live 2001 is only going to help it grow even more.
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