• It’s a cheap jibe at a sport that is obviously very popular among millions of people, particularly in the States, but basketball would surely benefit if they scrapped the opening 58 minutes of each match and simply cut to the last two, ensuring we wouldn’t have to sit through nearly an hour of preposterously tall people taking turns to play catch, racking up 100 points each before events finally turn interesting and a winner is found.

    The authorities continue to persist with the tired and tested format though and as such EA have ported their annual NBA series to the 360 with all 60 minutes intact, giving you the chance to guide the NBA team of your choice to glory.

    With this series now over 10 years old, you don’t need me to tell you that, with it being an EA game, the visuals are exceptional. From the opening menu screens to the final whistle, presentation is largely top notch.

    NBA Live 06

    As with FIFA, the player’s faces are instantly recognisable, while the TV-presentation style moves effortlessly throughout, with stats popping up between plays and replays available after each basket should you wish to see them. Most of the animations are also extremely good as players battle for space ‘in the paint’ and race away to perform various extravagant dunks.

    However there are problems with how these animations link-up as they sometimes jump from one to another, something you shouldn’t expect to see on a new console.

    There is also one huge problem for the majority of 360ers who don’t yet have an HDTV. Much of the text in NBA 06, especially on the stats pages and in-game menus, is incredibly difficult to read on a normal TV. It is clear that the game has been developed for optimised gameplay on an HDTV, but to sacrifice playability for those without such luxuries is bordering on criminal.

    The game also seems to suffer with some basic physics problems, with the ball almost teleporting between players on certain passes while there is often a vacuum effect when a player who looked nowhere near the ball ends up with a crucial rebound.

    Naturally there are all the usual sliders and options for you adjust the game to your choosing. You will probably find that you will want to increase game speed, because on breakaways especially it seems noticably sluggish. If you get fed up with the incessant penalty calling of basketball you can lower those too to make the game more free-flowing.

    Besides, free-throws are impossible unless you drop the slider to around 10.

    In terms of audio, there are no such problems. The commentary is excellent, with plenty of varied asides and anecdotes by the two commentators, while the crowd whoop and hollor like only Americans can. The crowd is beautifully animated by the way and add genuine atmosphere to games.

    As far as options go, it’s all here and you can tweak to your heart’s content, but there is no franchise mode. Whether EA forgot or they just thought you didn’t deserve one is still not clear, but it seems to be a running theme with 360 EA Sports titles that there are fewer gameplay options than previous incarnations – not entirely acceptable in my view.

    Those who love the sport may be happy to wait for the ESPN game but EA veterans will know what to expect here – a glitzed-up version of the original Xbox game but with the same old gameplay problems. The glitchy and horribly laggy Live does no favours either. Disappointing.

    Score: 6/10

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