DAR Games: Is NBA Live 18 The First Step In Rebuilding?

By @Peagle05

Back in July, I detailed the rise and fall of the NBA Live franchise, and for those that would like to take a look at that, I’m sure True would be happy to provide you with the link (http://www.definearevolution.com/2017/07/dar-games-rise-and-fall-of-nba-live.html?m=0). In my last post detailing a few of the games I was looking forward to this year (yes I know I left out God of War, that’s for a reason), I pointed out that I would be revisiting that post next week. WELLLLLLLLLL, I couldn’t wait until next week.

But first, some backstory on how we got here.

It’s September 2017 and 2K releases NBA 2K18...it is at this moment that the rest of the gaming world notices something. Something that’s gotten bad over the years but we’ve always ignored it because 2K is king right? The microtransactions have gotten out of hand. I mean it’s always been bad but 2K18 felt like it was beating you over the head with it. I saw videos from guys who faithfully played the series who actually took the time to calculate how much money you’d need to have an enjoyable experience in the Neighborhood/MyCareer mode which honestly is the main reason a good number of people play the game.
I mean sure, the franchise mode is cool and well done but 2K has put a lot of effort over the last few years into THAT particular mode, into driving player focus on that mode. Now I’ll admit over the years I’ve turned a blind eye to it, even having that “2K struggle”. If you play the game, you know what I’m talking about..... That moment when you think ”should I??...ehhh 20 bucks ain’t THAT much *click*” and I was sick of that. 

Especially hearing how VC was integrated into 2K18. It’s been widely covered since the release of the game so I won’t go into detail but suffice it to say, the in game economy is SCREWED UP. So I made the choice to not buy it. For me, this is huge. I haven’t missed a NBA 2K EVER. I’ve literally owned every NBA 2K game. I hated that I was skipping this game but I just couldn’t deal with that anymore and more power to you if you still play it. I get it. It’s a well made game. But at what point do we all say “it’s unnecessary”? It’s a sports game. We’re talking about a yearly series in a genre that most gamers, ESPECIALLY in the case of Madden dismiss as a yearly roster update. So why do the rules change with 2K? For all their shortcomings, and there are a LOT of them, EA leaves microtransactions out of the main modes of their sports games. You only see it in the Ultimate Team modes which are still popular but they in no way affect how you play the game. I can play Franchise mode in Madden without fear of having my progress halted because i can’t level anything up without paying. With all of this being said, it’s time we had a honest conversation about NBA Live 18.

I ended that aforementioned NBA Live post with this:
“I mean I know I just dedicated a whole article to you guys, but I just don't care about y'all anymore. And it honestly sucks to say that. Maybe you guys will come back around, but for now, I'll keep firing up this 2K.”

This game...is actually pretty damn good. It’s obviously not a 2K killer yet but I came away very surprised and satisfied with what I’d been playing. I only ended up purchasing this game after questioning the sanity of True (this man owned and played it before me. I thought he was NUTS) and passing on the game when it was on sale for $15 in November. December rolls around and it’s now priced at $9.89. I figure what the hell, 10 bucks won’t hurt. Now I remember playing the demo and being pleasantly surprised that EA had put together a fairly solid package but of course I tempered my expectations because of course it’s a demo. They’ll showcase what they want you to see and hide what they don’t. But still, I saw the potential. 

I fired up the career mode and was dropped basically where I left off in the demo, still a low level PG, and I got to work. It was in the career mode that I started to notice more of the moment to moment gameplay improvements. Passing was well done and encouraged icon passing but unlike 2K didn’t force it on me through egregious directional passing errors. Defense was fun to play and when you were locking someone up, it FELT like you were locking someone up. On the other side, you had the counters to avoid the shutdown defense and hot streaks really felt like momentum changing stretches. Coming down court and drilling a step back 3 with a perfectly timed green meter in the middle of a run to force a timeout felt just like watching Steph hit that shot on TV. More than that, I realized 2-3 weeks later, I was still coming back to the game. It was just flat out fun to play. It was realistic enough to provide a challenge and that’s enough. I honestly haven’t played anything else since I bought the game. Now the franchise mode is a bit bare bones and needs some work, and the animations can take over sometimes to where you feel like you’re not always in control, but I’m willing to overlook these things because these are things that can be iterated on. EA is still rebuilding this franchise. I’m willing to Trust The Process. 

But upon this realization, I then thought that the conversation surrounding these two games needs to start changing. Clearly if EA can keep this up, they’ll have something to truly challenge 2K’s spot as the top Basketball sim and it’s time to start questioning exactly what it is we want from our sports games because 2K is NOT gonna stop with the microtransactions any time soon. So my question to you becomes this: why are gamers willing to put up with a game that is basically forcing them to pay another 40-50 bucks on top of the 60 they paid just to enjoy it? It’s one thing in games like Skyrim and other adventure games because single player content costs money to make. You’re talking about voice acting, storyboarding, and rendering entirely new content meant to add on to the previous content. Say what you want about season passes in these games, but from that perspective it makes sense. But to make people pay for attribute upgrades? In a game that’s getting a new version in a year? That’s ridiculous. It’s not like MLB The Show where your created player gets carried into the next game. THAT’S an example of doing it right. 

But to look at a game like Live 18 that simply asks you to play it, level up, and build your character in a way that’s not deliberately slowed to funnel you into paying on top of an entirely improved gameplay experience? That should be rewarded. It’s time that we get past the “it sucked for a long time so it’ll suck forever mentality” that we have as gamers. Like with No Man’s Sky, if you bought that early, you’re were HORRIBLY disappointed with what you got. A year later and everything I’ve seen has pointed to that game as being everything it was promised to be. And that’s with FREE updates. Yeah you can argue that they should have launched better but when Hello Games is giving you free content to improve the game regularly, it pays to stick around. Give these developers a chance to improve and they just might surprise you. EA has had its struggles with the series but it’s on track to do some great things and if 2K isn’t careful it’s gonna mess around give up some serious ground. But for now? I’m more than happy to say that EA is starting to come back around and I’m going to fire up this Live.



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