The NBA Live series of EA Sports games have been my favorite for many years (I can remember playing NBA Live 1995 against my friend Dave, on a Sega Mega Drive, no less) so every year I check out the newest NBA Live game to see if it is worth upgrading – I bought NBA Live 2001, and upgraded again last year with NBA Live 2004 (which, in retrospect was a mistake, since there are several huge changes in NBA Live 2005, some of which include:

The Charlotte Bobcats, and the League Shuffle: That’s right, the new expansion team, the Charlotte Bobcats, have been included, and the league has been shuffled around – exactly as it happened during the off season earlier this year. Charlotte is actually not a horrible team – Emeka Okafor, their rookie sensation, and several good players make sure of that. Plus, the New Orleans Hornets are now playing in the Western Conference (although, they seem to do better in the game than in real life).

All Star Weekend: The makers of NBA Live have possibly secured themselves the Noble Prize for Engineering, by coming up with a fantastic engine to run the NBA All Star Weekend events – the rookie-sophomore challenge, the 3 point shootout and the fantastic slam dunk championship, the high point of the game for me. There are apparently over 50,000 dunk combinations to try in this mode, and every single one is fantastic.

10-Man Freestyle: I don’t understand what this is exactly, but its in there.

Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant: With the break-up of the Lakers over the summer, EA Sports have made Shaq and Kobe totally unstoppable – Kobe is just too fast and too talented to be beaten at anything (even though you can beat the Lakers, you can’t beat Kobe) and Shaq is just too big. Plus, you combine Shaq with the quick and annoying Dwyane Wade, and it’s a twosome to be feared.

The game play itself is a little different as well – the camera angles are a little wider than previous versions, which takes a little getting used to – but the biggest thing to get used to is the amount of detail in the players themselves. Player figures, muscle tones, uniforms, equipment – even the courts, stadiums and crowds – all are enhanced and improved over last year, and all look absolutely stunning.

Another thing I’ve noticed in NBA Live 2005 is how good the lighting and shadowing effects are (even for a Playstation 2 game) – definitely of a higher quality compared to most sports games.

While it does have its good points, its clear to see that 2005 is the first attempt by EA Sports to achieve much of what they have tried to achieve with this game – I give it an 8.5 out of 10. It’s the best NBA game out at the moment, but it has its short comings. I’m just looking forward to NBA Live 2006 when some of the little bugs will have been ironed out, and the game is absolutely brilliant.