A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Players need to know that NBA Live 19 is the latest installment of the basketball franchise for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It highlights love of the game as players travel the world, establishing themselves as a dominating baller on well-known street courts before leaping into the pros. It also promotes friendly competition and teamwork, although players can choose to be selfish on the court. Unique to this year's game is an expanded role for female players and WNBA stars, who can step onto street ball teams and contribute their skills on the court. While gameplay is easy to pick up, some AI mistakes and harsh AI judging of in-game performance for character progress can frustrate some players. Gamers should also be aware that there's a huge amount of branding for Nike, Adidas, and other products that can be purchased in the in-game store and worn by your players. They'll also be exposed to personalities and branding from ESPN, Complex News, and YouTubers promoting moments from the game's The One plotline, which is also free promotion for their shows, websites, and channels. Players can also spend real money to build their blacktop squads or home court teams.
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What's it about?
NBA LIVE 19 is the latest chapter in the long-running basketball franchise from EA Sports. Many of the elements from last year's game make a return appearance here, so players can choose to lead their favorite team to a championship through the Franchise mode, or they can cobble together a squad of stars through the Ultimate Team mode. Players can hit the courts of the WNBA with quick matches as well. Created players still dominate in The One mode, but instead of being a top-rated college athlete, you're a young baller fresh out of high school who chooses to take his game global. As a result, you can decide to dominate street courts around the world before you choose to enter the NBA, adding the best athletes to your squad players. In fact, street ball is probably the largest focus of this year's game, with a flurry of modes built around proving that your squad is the best. The largest one is called Court Battles, where you create and customize a home court that's essentially your base of operations. You set up a defending "B" team and define your court's set of house rules (like dunks score three points, or blocked shots score one). In the meantime, your created player goes on a campaign, invading other players' courts to try to beat them on their turf.
Is it any good?
While the focus on street basketball breathes a lot of new life into this year's game, the AI errors, inconsistencies, and missing content really keep it on the bench. NBA Live 19 doubles down on the popularity of the street ball tournaments from last year, adding new courts around the globe. Players can now take their skills to courts in Paris, the Philippines, and Rio, along with other popular U.S. tourneys. Beating teams lets you add players to your squad to make your personal dream team, which you can then take into the Court Battle mode to invade other gamers' home courts. These courts have defending squads and house rules, like playing a set number of minutes in a half, a game to 11, or other details, with bragging rights and fame at stake. It's also impressive that this year, you can field mixed squads of NBA and WNBA athletes, so you can take advantage of the skills of players from both leagues. It's definitely something to see Diana Taurasi or Sue Bird get someone like Allen Iverson or Joel Embiid off balance before hitting a jump shot over their head. With players having a chance to create their own rules, you'll always face a challenge.
But the depth of the street ball game could be why the rest of the gameplay is so disappointing. For example, while you can create female basketball players, you can't take them into the WNBA with their own "League" story, so they're essentially street ball role players. Plus, the League story, if you can call it that, essentially consists of minor dialogue choices and YouTube influencers reacting to your play on the court. In many ways, it's forgettable, even if it tries to make you think that your play is catching the eye of basketball fans. Worse, there are still lots of AI issues on the court: Players will abandon many of their assignments during games for no reason. Even trap plays are half-hearted, leaving too many players unguarded. The number of over and back penalties that aren't called are just infuriating, and many players will sometimes establish themselves out of bounds during pass plays. On top of this, the commentary is seriously lacking. At times, there's dead air as plays are developing and the commentators say nothing. On the other hand, you'll hear the same phrases in virtually every game, which becomes tiresome. Even worse, nothing's been done to improve the commentary in the WNBA games, where players' names aren't even mentioned. It just feels like for every two steps forward that NBA Live 19 takes, like the expansion of street ball and more inclusion of WNBA players, the issues with the gameplay move it almost the same amount of distance backward.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about consumerism in sports games. Does including corporate and clothing logos add to a game's realism? Does the inclusion of sports reporters, YouTube personalities, and websites add to the believability of the hype surrounding players, or does it just seem like free publicity?
Does the inclusion of WNBA players in NBA Live 19's court battles highlight how skilled these professional athletes happen to be, regardless of their gender? Do you think this could foster additional interest in the WNBA by gamers?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.