EA Sports is making a comeback this year with NBA Live 18. After NBA Live performed poorly in sales for several years since 2K Sports dominated the basketball games market, it’s possible EA Sports didn’t take a one-year break for no reason.
Both EA Sports FIFA 18 and Madden 18 will have a story game mode this year after said feature was positively received in FIFA 17. It’s possible an NBA Live 18 story mode could be planned as well. In the recent NBA Live event held by EA, something called “The One” was plastered throughout the event. Many speculate this could be the name of this year’s NBA Live 18 story mode. If true, its inclusion could pose as a threat to 2K Sports’ NBA 2K dominance. Here’s a few reasons why.
Impact of a Story Mode
Throughout the years, 2K’s NBA games have proven to be better than NBA Live in terms of gameplay. A rundown of overall reviews between the two titles clearly illustrate the disparity between both series. Here’s some overall aggregate reviews from Open Critic:
- NBA 2K14: 82 overall rating based on 19 reviews
- NBA 2K15: 81 overall rating based on 42 reviews
- NBA Live 14: 44 overall rating based on 25 reviews
- NBA Live 15: 57 overall rating based on 57 reviews
2K also introduced a story mode with RPG-like aspects for sports games with NBA 2K14, giving players more reason to pick up 2K’s annual basketball titles. 2K continued adding a brand new story mode in each succeeding entry.
2K’s story mode that caught the most attention is NBA 2K16 as it featured a Spike Lee joint called Livin’ Da Dream. Though Livin’ Da Dream didn’t sit well with plenty of critics and fans due to its bad writing, it was a decent attempt at doing something grand. NBA 2K17 rectified this with a simpler story mode written by one of the writers of Creed, Aaron Covington, that stars you alongside Creed star Michael B. Jordan.
EA Sports only responded to 2K’s story mode offerings last year with ‘The Journey” in FIFA 17. Since its reveal at E3 2016, The Journey caught the attention of the masses. Not only did it sound good that writers from the Mass Effect game series would pen the story mode, each cut scene and interactive dialogue was also sincerely told in both quantity and quality. The main character you use isn’t a simple blank slate rising star character, as the premade character named Alex Hunter has his origins and family fully written well. One of the biggest factors that also make the story mode appealing is the game’s gorgeous graphics, which is mainly due to FIFA 17 running on the latest Frostbite engine, a game engine that prettified games such as Battlefield 1 and EA’s Star Wars Battlefront.
However, NBA Live 18 is reportedly not shifting to the Frostbite engine anytime soon. EA still hasn’t finished their plans on integrating its latest Frostbite engine to all of its games, though they could achieve this task in a few more years from now. While NBA Live missing out on the Frostbite engine is a missed opportunity, NBA Live could still succeed.
Compared to NBA 2K’s story mode, FIFA 17‘s The Journey doesn’t overstay its welcome as the mode can be completed in less than 20 hours. While some see playing only one season worth of content in career mode as a con, it allowed for a better storytelling. Additionally, The Journey isn’t money-hungry on microtransactions, unlike NBA 2K. In The Journey, increasing your player rating can be done by performing well in training drills, winning certain matches, and performing certain feats during matches.
Meanwhile, NBA 2K players can only increase the stats of their custom created characters with Virtual Currency, which can be acquired by obtaining contracts and performing well in games. The higher your stats get, the more expensive it’ll be to upgrade your character. While this concept undoubtedly extends the game’s longevity, it also makes the experience feel grindy. Players can also spend real-life money to automatically boost their character’s stats.
Aside from the grindy way of leveling up your character in the never ending story mode in NBA 2K, your character’s stats doesn’t match the overall narrative of the story. The story mode states your character is one of the best superstars in the league. In reality, your character starts the NBA league with a terrible overall rating and it’ll take dozens of hours to make you as good as other real-life players.
While it’s subjective which story mode is better, it’s clear that FIFA 17’s The Journey made an impact last year against its competitor that doesn’t have a story mode. In football games, the main competitor of EA Sports is Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer (PES). The feud between these two games oddly has some semblance with the rivalry between NBA 2K and NBA Live, though it’s not as lopsided.
PES is known to have tighter and more enjoyable gameplay compared to FIFA. Meanwhile, PES has terrible licensing, something both NBA Live and NBA 2K doesn’t seem to have any trouble with. Soccer fans always had to think wisely which annual soccer title they should get each year, as they’ll be sacrificing one aspect if they only pick one game.
The decision for gamers was easier last year due to FIFA 17’s introduction of The Journey. While tons of critics pointed out that the gameplay of PES 17 remained superior and has even improved on its previous entry in several ways, FIFA 17’s story mode was too good to ignore, especially for those who like single-player content.
The competition between NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18 will be an interesting one, if EA Sports decides to include a story mode in this year’s basketball title. If EA adds a story mode with the same attention to detail in The Journey, gamers might no longer neglect NBA Live, even if the gameplay is still not up to par with NBA 2K.
Many of those who patronize NBA 2K’s yearly games are hoping for NBA Live to make a successful comeback. Some believe that 2K Games will double down on making better gameplay improvements and it’ll have less money-grabbing microtransactions if it gets a worthwhile competitor. Online time will tell if this happens.