NBA Live 16 Review for Xbox One

NBA Live 16 screen

The most frustrating thing about the disappearance of NBA Live several years ago was that it was actually improving each year and was a pretty fun basketball game at the time. Then EA decided to put it on the shelf for a few years to polish up the game and try to make it better. Instead what happened was that their game got worse when it finally came back while the competition got exponentially better over that period, which left NBA Live in an even deeper hole than when they started. NBA Live 16 is the third game since the return of NBA Live and it is still trying to climb out of that hole. It is definitely a better game overall than Live 14 or 15, but still has a long, long way to go to topple NBA 2K.  

Game Details

  • Publisher: EA Sports
  • Developer: EA Tiburon
  • ESRB Rating: “E" for Everyone
  • Genre: Basketball
  • Pros: Gameplay is okay; the presentation is okay; lots of modes
  • Cons: "Okay" isn't good enough when the competition is great


NBA Live 16 has a solid feature set with plenty of modes to keep you busy. Career mode and dynasty are the long haul single-player modes you'd expect, but there are a lot of quick play modes that let you re-live big real-life moments as well as play along with your favorite team game-by-game during the season. You can also play a basketball version of EA's Ultimate Team card game (because of course, they would put Ultimate Team in every game). Online play is a little more interesting in that in addition to normal NBA-style games, there are also fascinating multiplayer co-op games where you and your friends play other teams in streetball games to 21. Online play is fairly stable, as well, which is one area Live does beat 2K at least.


There is potentially a lot to do in NBA Live 16, but the clunky gameplay out on the court means you won't be super motivated to actually do any of it. Live 16 isn't terrible or anything, but it doesn't feel particularly good to play, either. Nothing you do is smooth. Moves don't feel connected to each other. The controls always feel like they're a half-second behind when you actually push the button, which makes it hard to get into a rhythm when you're shooting and it seems like you're always a step behind when trying to play defense. On the other hand, stylish offensive moves and driving into the paintwork a little too well and are a bit too easy to pull off. The A.I. is also fairly atrocious and your teammates just don't play smart or realistically. There's just no balance to the gameplay. Even in a vacuum where 2K didn't exist, we don't think you could come away from Live 16 thinking it played well. 

There are a couple of things we do like in NBA Live 16, however. Similar to NHL 16, Live 16 has an option on-screen indicator to teach you how to play properly. It shows you your shot quality percentage (based on distance, skill, body position, etc.) as well as a percentage of how well the defense was covering you. The idea is to learn how to get into more open positions and take better quality shots. We like this feature a lot. We also like that the game offers a wide range of sliders and options to make the gameplay however you want. We love sliders in sports games since not everyone wants a realistic sim. Sometimes we just want to shut our brains off and play arcade-style basketball, and it is very easy to set that up in NBA Live 16.

Graphics & Sound

The presentation is improved over that last couple of NBA Live releases, but still not up to 2K's level. The courts and arenas look good, and the real world streetball courts actually look pretty great, and the players look better than ever. Not as good as 2K16's uber-realistic sweaty dudes, but the player models are easily the best the Live series has had. There is quite a bit to be desired in the animations, however. Individual moves look fine, but trying to put multiple moves together is very jarring as the transitions between them are pretty poor. 

The sound is also only okay. The soundtrack on the menus is very hip-hop heavy, but the tracks are well chosen and work well here. The commentary is very lackluster, though, with lots of repeated comments (that should get better as the real NBA season gets started and they have more stats to work with...we think) but there is no passion whatsoever. ESPN commentators Eric Breen and Jeff Van Gundy sound totally disinterested, though the visual aspects of the ESPN presentation to make it look like a TV broadcast are pretty nice overall.

Bottom Line

In the end, NBA Live 16 is an improvement over the last two Live games, but there is still a lot of work to be done. We honestly liked NBA Live 09 and 10 quite a bit back in the day, so it is really disappointing to see the series fall so far after it was supposed to be getting better by taking a break. Like we said, up to being "okay" at best isn't good enough when your competition is so good, which is why we can't recommend NBA Live 16.