While this basketball game has improved its play over time, it's still a second-string simulation that needs a little more practice before tip-off. The Career mode does a great job of respecting the history of famous street ball tournaments, and the love that basketball fans have for pickup games to test their skills. The One highlights famous locales that many NBA stars cut their teeth and high-tops on, like Rucker Park, Venice Beach, The Crawsover League, and others. You're not just playing scrubs, either; apparently other league stars spend their time hitting these pickup games as well, giving you a bit of competition on the blacktop. While it's nice that players can choose to play in either the street leagues or NBA games whenever they want, it raises a few issues. For one, the circumstances feel radically disjointed, especially if you are playing a few games into the season and then immediately leap back to a summer league match. Furthermore, since you earn levels after each game you play (and you can replay summer league games as many times as you want), you can easily build an overpowered athlete that becomes the most dominant player the league has ever seen. It can be entertaining for a while, but over the span of a season, it becomes a bit boring.
But it's more than just the imbalance in the Career mode -- some elements of the gameplay are off. Players frequently abandon their spacing on the court and tend to cluster at the top of the key or around one player. This is more than a double-team or sliding to tighter man-to-man adjustments -- it's poorly handled court play and awareness. Some of this could be leveled at the simplified game controls and play calling, which don't feel as complex or sped up as the sport itself. Court errors also abound, whether it's players committing over and back penalties or traveling when it comes to driving to the basket for a dunk or a layup. These aren't called nearly enough as they should be. On the other hand, other portions of the game are a letdown; for example, while the NBA games have lots of commentary, the WNBA games are pretty quiet by comparison, making them feel like more of an afterthought than a fully embraced portion of the game. It's not to say that NBA Live 18 is all bad -- the presentation of the game is very good, and the visuals can even challenge that of its rival. But overall, this version of NBA Live 18 could use a bit more time in the gym.