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Sports Games on The iPhone
The world of sports games has truly come to the iPhone this year as EA Sports has decided to release NBA Live, Madden 10, and FIFA 10 to the App Store. On the consoles, NBA Live has been considered by some to be second-class to 2K Sports' stellar NBA 2k series. However, on the iPhone, EA Sports' offering is the only one of its kind. As such, if you want a basketball fix, you're going to have to live with this version of NBA Live for the time-being.
Because of this current exclusivity, the all-important question for any basketball video game fan is: is this game worth $9.99? We'll take a closer look at this question by assessing three aspects of the game: gameplay, graphics, and miscellaneous (such as sound, network, etc.).
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To put it bluntly, the gameplay of the iPhone version of NBA Live feels constricted. The way the controls have been set up either make it very difficult or impossible to do many of the moves and actions that are necessary in a basketball game.
On offense, NBA Live's controls only consist of moving your character, doing one of four possible dekes, passing the ball, and shooting it. The dekes are very hard to pull off because you must flick a tiny blue button in one of four directions. Since there are only three controls to choose from, offensive strategy pretty much consists of dunking the ball or shooting a 3-pointer.
On defense, the controls are frustratingly limited. One can only move, jump, and change character. Essential controls are missing such as stealing the ball or setting the feet to draw a foul. In a real basketball game these actions are vital for strategy, yet none of these are available in NBA Live.
While the limited controls might be a deterrent for some, the gameplay isn't too bad overall. It's brisk and exciting, and the game redeems itself with a couple of cool features. One example is the shot indicator. Appearing as a ring under the player, this indicator will turn different colors depending on your chances of making the shot. Another cool feature is the playbook. Even though there are only three offensive and three defensive plays included, it's good to run the odd play in NBA Live.
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NBA Live's strong point in the console world has always been its graphics and the iPhone version is certainly no exception. The arenas and players all look about as detailed as one could expect, given the iPhone's limited processing capabilities. Some people may take exception to the lighting as the players and court don't look particularly vibrant. However, this seems like a very minor detail that certainly won't ruin the overall enjoyment of the game. The frame rate is fluid for the most part, although sometimes it can dip when there's a lot of intense action on the screen.
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Here's where we discuss some of the miscellaneous factors that will sway one's perception of this game. Firstly, the sound in NBA Live is not very good quality. There's a very, very limited amount of commentary and what's there sounds very compressed. To be fair, commentary uses a lot of disk space so that may have been the reason for its exclusion.
Another obvious shortcoming is the fact that NBA Live does not include any form of multiplayer. This is very disappointing given how cool it would be to play this against friends. Considering the price, it seems like an outrage that EA didn't include any multiplayer functionality.
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So, the question we posed earlier is: is this game worth $9.99? The answer to that is much more murky than we'd like it to be, primarily because of the fact that there are so many good points mixed with bad. Basically, if you really enjoy basketball games, then we encourage you to get this. If you hate basketball games, this one won't change your mind. Finally, if you're somewhere in the middle, see if there's a friend who'll let you demo the game. Overall though, we'd recommend you purchase it.
As a final note, overall NBA Live for the iPhone receives my recommendation and a final rating of 7/10.