SummaryA solid (but not spectacular) continuation of the series.
The GoodNBA Live 99 is a game without any real heights or depths. The best thing about this game is the graphical presentation. The graphics are pretty good without serious hardware demands. The intro & halftime videos are very flashy, the courts shine like they've been polished very thoroughly and every player has his own, recognizable cyber-face (with the exception of the rookies). Real-life players are modeled realistically. There are many different moves you can execute. The motion-captured animations look realistic; a lot of these animations were reused in NBA Live 2000. However you can see clearly when one move/animation finishes and another one starts. The separate animations don't blend together.
NBA Live 99 has all the options you expect from an EA basketball game: exhibition mode, season mode, multiple seasons, custom teams, a player editor, several camera views, replay modes, statistics, trades, four levels of difficulty, all 29 teams & arenas. So it's very complete. The game also has several tactical & strategic options; you decide whether you want to box out or crash the boards, who should defend who, which player should be double-teamed, whether you want to play full court press or not. It also offers many offensive strategies. I find the defensive strategies useful but those 30 or more offensive schemes are rather confusing (more on that later). I usually let the computer pick one.
The BadFirst I want to explain my complaint about those 30-plus offensive schemes. I'm a basketball fan, but I'm neither a player nor a coach. I know what a full court press is and what happens when you double-team somebody. However I don't know what a Hawks 6 offensive play is or what to expect when you call a Zipper play. The manual offers very little help. This is a problem I have encountered with other sports games as well. EA's motto is: If it's in the game, it's in the game. Well, if it's in the game it should be in the manual!
All those different moves you can perform require the use of many different keys. I've got ten fingers and sometimes it seems like that isn't enough. Using the keyboard isn't great, but I haven't found the perfect 10-button PC gamepad yet. The PlayStation version is probably without these problems.
While the play-by-play commentary keeps up with the pace of the game, the color-speech is often non-existent. Reggie Theus doesn't have too many lines. I guess he hasn't been visiting the recording studio very often.
The frequent use of close-ups becomes very annoying after a while since it interrupts the flow of the game. This is especially the case when a player takes a free throw. You have to watch him get the ball from the referee, prepare for the shot and read info about him (Do we really want to know that Damon Stoudamire went to Arizona?). Unfortunately you can't click it away.
The game was brought to the market a bit too early. Top rookies like Paul Pierce, Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter are in the game but have generic faces. Other rookies are missing. Why couldn't they wait a little longer and include the complete 1998-1999 opening night rosters?
The game is too repetitive (in single player mode at least), when you play a season all games look alike. It doesn't really matter with which team you play (or against which team). I mean you can play ten 82-game seasons with 48 minutes per game (which translates to over 1000 hours behind your PC because of free throws & time-outs) but nobody will. You could opt to simulate most of those games, but this is not a management game (the game menus don't suit this way of playing).
My final complaints:
The Bottom LineI realize that the Bad section is a lot larger than the Good section, but this is not a bad game. The gameplay is OK and the game looks good. However the release of NBA Live 2000 has made this game more or less obsolete. NBA Live 2000 has everything this game has, only better and it adds a better franchise mode, a one-on-one mode and five teams of NBA legends including Bird, Magic, Dr. J. and Jordan. I actually traded in my 99 copy when I bought the 2000 version and I never miss this one.