As we approach the end of our EA Sports fall preview week, it was only a matter of time before we landed on, for lack of a better way of putting it, a problematic series: NBA Live. Say what you will about the franchise, but it has made solid progress over the last couple of seasons. If what we’ve seen of NBA Live 19 is any indication, it seems that more improvements are still very much in the cards.
Equality for All
Before we dive into the updates to The One, an extremely noteworthy update to the player creator has been made. You can now create female players! After last year’s addition of WNBA teams and rosters, the next logical request from the community was the opportunity to create and customize their own future WNBA star. But that wasn’t all EA had up its sleeves. The company went the extra mile and made women players available across all modes.
Ultimately, this is a seismic shift when compared to the rather segregated nature of NBA Live 18’s WNBA integration. This goes even one step further in The One, which now includes fully integrated rosters. Everything from unlockable gear to the entirety of the player progression system are available to both genders. A move of this magnitude should be applauded. It is a fantastic step in the right direction, as far as inclusivity is concerned, and is a direct response to community feedback.
Fresh off of this announcement, I dove into my hands-on session with NBA Live 19′s The One and created a female character as my digital doppelganger. Thank Christ she doesn’t actually look like me though, because that would be downright terrifying. Your star starts out at ground zero, trying to work his or her way to the top of the respective organizations. Much like NBA Live 18, players will get to pursue success in both The League and The Streets. I’m unsure if this will carry over to the full game, but in the build that I played, I was able to bounce back and forth between both paradigms.
As a player levels up, they unlock points that are used to improve one of your character’s three key ability categories. These abilities directly coincide with the playstyle specified during the character creation process. More of the abilities categories, beyond the initial handful, will become available the further you progress in the campaign.
Additionally, there are skill modifiers that can also be applied, which can be used similarly to NHL 19’s loadout system. These modifiers can be situationally swapped out in the pre-game menus, in order to give yourself an edge when trying to counter the skills of the opposition. All stats and abilities unlocked across The League and The Streets count towards the progression of same singular The One character.
When starting out, everyone is stuck with a handful of mismatched characters to cobble together a roster. Once you start leveling up, opening up gear boxes, or winning games, newer, far more notable teammates will become available. In pre-game lobbies, these teammates can be mixed and matched, in an effort to have the best intergender team on the court. There are other uses for players, aside from being a member of an active roster, but I will have more details on that in a future preview.
Building the Narrative
Easily my favorite aspect of what I played in NBA Live 19 had to be their methods of weaving together the narrative. EA has recruited a handful of key “influencers” in the basketball community, to provide feedback in the form of their respective signature bite-sized video styles. These clips stitch together the live video commentary with a grainy style video, consisting of actual highlight moments from the previous game. These highlight clips are presented from a fan’s viewpoint. It is almost as if all of the videos were pulled directly off of a shaky-cam or cell phone. After every game, I was curious to see who would be dropping my name, which sure beats the hell out of a dull post-game studio session.
As much as I liked the homegrown highlight clips between exhibitions, there were some moments over the course of an actual game where these videos would be tossed to, as well. I can only assume this was done to show a different angle on a player’s celebration or huge shot. Personally, I could have done without these cut-away moments, as they took me directly out of the action. When you are trying to focus down the back-stretch of a tightly contested match, the last thing that you want is an interruption. Thankfully they can be skipped over with a quick button press.
Throughout the course of the campaign, players will have several encounters with current NBA stars. These interactions can be as simple as a handshake or as involved as a recorded exchange of trash talk. I’m genuinely excited to see all of the big names that have been recruited to help build out the complete world of The One. I was only able to get a brief taste of what’s to come, and it left me wanting far more. I can’t wait to explore this further when the game releases on September 7, 2018.
Make sure to check back over the next few weeks, as this isn’t the last you’ve seen of our NBA Live 19 preview coverage. We have several pieces related to specific modes and new features, coming very soon. You won’t want to miss it!
Our hands-on NBA Live 19 PS4 preview was done at an event. Travel and accommodations were provided by Electronic Arts.