The demo for NBA Live 18 was released yesterday, and in an effort to entice those on the fence, EA also announced that those who pre-order the upcoming title will receive a 33% discount when they purchase at select retailers. I spent a few hours with the demo and wanted to give my first impressions ahead of the game's September 15th release.
Captured on PlayStation 4
The first thing I want to establish is how good it feels to see an NBA Live title back on the market, and to see EA giving it their all to compete with the juggernaut that is the NBA 2K franchise. EA clearly wants their piece of the market back, but the question is whether or not this is going to be enough.
Seeing as this is a demo, I won't get into a lot of the nuanced details that I would if this were a review of the full game, but rather some notes about the good and bad that stood out while I played.
The arenas themselves are gorgeous. The lighting, shading, and detail creates more of a cinematic feel as opposed to 2K's broadcast aesthetic. The game has it's own look, separating it from its competitor, establishing itself as a different game. With that being said, the gameplay itself is marginal. Players lack fluidity in their motion, feeling weightless on the way up to the rim, and incredibly heavy on their way down. Slashing in the lane can come at an incredible, almost aracadey, pace. The ball itself does not feel like its own object; it has the feel of an item that doesn't react to the movement around it. Meaning that if a player closes a passing lane and knocks the ball loose, it's more likely to spike into the ground than to roll or bounce in the proper direction.
Player models are hit-and-miss, where some faces are very photo-realistic—almost to the point of looking like photos attached to animated bodies—while others are more of a, "yes I can tell who that is" level of quality. It's as if you could discern what level, or tier, a player is based on the amount of care that was put in to developing their model. One thing I will note, the game looks much better when played on a PS4 Pro on a 4K display, as opposed to when I played on a regular PS4. All of that aside, the game isn't a chore to play. I enjoyed the full four-quarter game in Play Now mode, although I felt I made way too many shots. The controls make sense, the in-game displays aren't intrusive or cumbersome, and the menu navigation is superior to its 2K counterpart. It's an incredibly promising demo that should prove advantageous to EA for getting it out this far ahead of its release. The game looks, feels, and plays, like a step in the right direction for the beleaguered franchise, and basketball fans who may be tired of playing the 2K series, do have a healthy alternative this September.
Again, these are impressions of a demo, an unfinished product. The game itself hasn't gone gold, so there is still time for EA to take any feedback or criticisms they may receive and tighten up anything that needs it. I look forward to seeing the full, complete, game next month.
Alex is the host of the 48 Minutes podcast. You can find his real-time journal of hopes and dreams here. If you want to document how much HBO he watches, add him on PSN at owl-x