NBA video game wars are back on

You may not have noticed last year, but EA Sports’ NBA Live series did come back. Kyrie Irving was the cover athlete.

It is OK if you did not notice. It was the first edition in NBA Live since the failed NBA Live 10 with Dwight Howard on the cover. The supposedly revolutionary NBA Elite 11 that featured Kevin Durant on its cover did not make it out of the development room. Andrew Bynum Jesus was too much to overcome.

Durant is now the cover athlete for NBA 2K15. 2K Sports’ NBA series has dominated the marketplace. Fans, players and video game enthusiasts have rained praise upon the series for its realism and simulated game play. It catches the essence of the NBA.

I mean, watch the latest advertisement from 2K for the latest edition, featuring Ernie Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal:

Even with programmers still adjusting to the new generation of consoles — this will be the second edition of the game available on XBox One and PS4 — the game still looks beautiful. The gameplay will probably be fine too.

Some might argue the gameplay has gotten a little stale with the lack of competition. I have personally found the gameplay a little clunky — and, frankly, the AI has very little basketball sense in my opinion, frustrating for a guy that plays like the Spurs like me and avoids one-on-one play. It largely does not play like a video game.

It was not too long ago there was a second option.

EA Sports tried to resurrect NBA Jam, but the arcade-style game did not catch on more than the nostalgia of a “boom shakalaka” after a physically impossible dunk.

What the NBA Live series had, at least in my mind, was the feel of a video game. A smoother game that sacrificed some of the realism to please the non-NBA junkie with something simpler.

Damian Lillard will grace the cover of this year’s game, and like NBA 2K15, NBA Live 15 looks really pretty:

Will Live surpass 2K? Not this year. Probably not by a long shot.

2K is too established as the best. It has all the critical acclaim. It has all the built-in fan base. Every NBA or basketball video game, no matter how much designers try to simplify things, will be living up to the base that it has created. There is no reason to think that will not continue. NBA2K might even be replacing Madden as the top sports video game among fans (it has already done so with critics).

Competition though tends to bring the best. If NBA Live can return to some level of competition — it was once the best NBA franchise — then it will make things better for the consumer. That is, for both the hardcore NBA fan and the casual NBA fan still learning the niceties of the game.

One thing is for sure, shelling out $60-$70 for a video game may have just gotten easier to do with the potential for options.

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily