Throughout modern video game history, there has never been a shortage of sports video games. For every all-time great like Tecmo Bowl or NBA Jam, there exist dozens of schlocky cash-ins that prey on consumer’s love of sports and unfamiliarity with the overall gaming market. NBA Now by Game Evil on Android pushes the bounds of expectation in a ham-fisted attempt to separate gamers from their cash. Perhaps even more upsetting, the game fails at incentivizing real-world spending.
NBA Now’s core game modes places the player in the seat of a general manager, giving them the ability to draft and add players to their squad in a quest to form the best possible team. Once a team takes shape, the core game begins. Gameplay consists of jumping into the start of a two-minute fourth quarter after the first three quarters have been simulated and attempting to either regain a lead or protect one.
Controlling players happens by way of three buttons on offense and two on defense. On offense, every NBA athlete has the option to drive towards the basket, shoot from wherever they are on the floor or pass the ball. On defense, they can either focus on staying in front of their cover, or focus on blocking a shot. Can you time your opponents dribble and attempt to steal the ball? No. Can you shade towards one side of the floor to cut off your opponents drive towards their dominant side? No. Can you throw an alley-oop? No. Can you perform a basic cross-over? No. Is there another mechanic that makes NBA Now enjoyable? Yes, turning it off.
This reductive approach to basketball could succeed given tight physics and the ability to run plays or implement strategies, but those features don’t exist. Instead, players have the option to appoint a coach who buffs certain types of shots and defensive options. This, in essence distills down what a coach does, but with the absence of a playbook, it affects virtually nothing.
Seemingly, no one tested the game’s economy to make sure that it wouldn’t give out the best stuff almost immediately. At the time of writing, the highest ranked player in the game’s roster consists of athletes that have achieved ratings of 72 and below. The game freely awards base players, who are upgradeable, at 60+ overall in the first two hours of the game. Like many sports games, NBA Now seemingly divines player ratings out of tea leaves, awarding a superstar like Anthony Davis a 48 while guys whose player pictures are scraped off the bottom of a roster can easily be rated twelve points higher. Players earn in-game cash in the thousands after each victory or defeat. This all happens while advertisements for real-world spending options that exceed $40 crowd the main menu.
Leaving the Arena at Tipoff
NBA Now’s presentation further lowers the bar for enjoyment. Player models are mostly generic, consisting of three or four skin-tones, two head shapes and a handful of hair styles. Every athlete must be under the same fitness regimen because the game offers no variety in body-types, only in height.
The developer’s solution to the issue of lackluster graphical representation of players is placing the in-game camera about 60 feet above the court. The decision of camera placement only presents one minor short-coming–identifying players, mismatches and defensive coverage is incredibly difficult. Unfortunately, saving players eyes from such laughable graphics doesn’t save them from the joke that is the gameplay.
The audio presentation opts to show up with all of one song, the same hip-hop beat played on a twelve second loop. In-game, the basketball and players move perfectly silently through the court, no sneaker squeaks, ball bounces or rims being rattled. Basketball played in the vacuum of space would make a similar amount of noise.
NBA Now by Game Evil ties its laces together and trips itself before it even makes it out of the locker room. Players will be hard-pressed to find an element in the game that has even a sniff of effort from the developer. The game wants your money, but much like an athlete that refuses to go to practice, it doesn’t work for it. Failing to compete in a crowded market of basketball games, NBA Now doesn’t deserve playing time.
NBA Now by Game Evil attempts to recreate the GM experience for basketball fans while giving players some control over how the game is played. A lackluster effort, poor mechanics and dysfunctional economy stop the title from ever getting off the bench.