The NBA Live series has had an extended offseason -- three years to be exact since the last version hit store shelves. The developers have used that time to re-evaluate a franchise that once was the pinnacle of basketball simulation and made some key decisions that could reinvigorate the series.
One of the key decisions the developers made was to release NBA Live 14 on only next-generation consoles. This allows them to focus on hardware that will be around for the next 8-10 years as opposed to trying to develop for the current- and next-gen hardware.
Another important move was the use of a new engine. EA has developed the Ignite engine, which will be used in all of its next-gen sports titles. The engine allows for greater control over dribbling in both basketball and soccer games, making the ball feel more alive and the outcomes more unpredictable.
NBA Live 14 executive producer Sean O'Brien discussed how the new engine will change the way the game plays.
"For us personally focusing on all gen-four stuff is a huge advantage for us. Leveraging EA Sports Ignite engine I think provides us an opportunity to talk about something like what we're talking about today with BounceTek. Actually releasing the ball, the physics when you're dribbling. Giving you unprecedented control."
The control O'Brien was referencing to was on display during a hands-on preview running on the PlayStation 4. The demo featured Cavs star and NBA Live 14 cover athlete Kyrie Irving in a gym by himself. The focus of the demonstration was dribbling and shooting from the perimeter.
Dribbling with Irving was fluid and very responsive. Inside-out, hesitation, crossover behind-the-back and between-the-legs moves along with a bevy of other dribbling moves are mapped to the right analog stick, which will be familiar to series veterans. Holding the L1 button while flicking the right stick in one of six directions triggers signature moves for star players.
The developers said that more than 40 players currently have six signature inputs. The series is also continuing to leverage its relationship with Synergy Sports, which is a data provider for all 30 NBA teams that charts an overwhelming amount of statistics on every NBA player. What players like to do on certain spots on the floor, when they like to drive to the rim or pull up for a jump shot. All of that data will be added into NBA Live 14 -- O'Brien said within an hour after the game ends.
The biggest strides the team has made since the last release of NBA Live is the fluidity from dribbling to shooting. There is little to no delay from breaking out of a dribble move and going right into a jump shot, which makes split-second decisions easier to pull off. There was also little herky-jerky movements that plagued previous NBA Live iterations. The team still has some strides to make with drives toward the rim that still feel a little stiff, but with the game scheduled to be released along side the next-gen consoles, the developers have time to iron out some of the kinks and add on multiple layers of polish.