Thanks to the wonders of EA Access on XBOX One (a great value), I was able to download and play the retail version of EA Tiburon’s upcoming basketball sim with one of the game’s developers. Having played for less than 2 hours I can’t provide a full review, but I can certainly give my initial impressions: After skipping through a series of abrupt and forced tutorial sessions, we were able to dive into a game of our choosing. I chose to suit up as the great Orlando Magic (bad choice) and my friend chose the Houston Rockets. It was immediately obvious the work that had gone into improving the game’s visuals, particularly the animations. The game is much more fluid this year and the high-resolution player models easily impress. This year’s game provides some much needed player feedback as well. Player and shot status indicators are present, immediately reinforcing the most important pieces of player feedback, such as whether you released the ball early or late. One thing NBA Live handles strikingly better than its 2K counterpart is ball physics. Typically we see the ball glued to players hands, transitioning strangely at times between characters and animations. That’s not the case here, even when Dwight Howard catches a high rebound with one hand and slams it home. Even scrutinizing that play further in the handy dandy replay mode couldn’t reveal any unnatural movement. Very impressive. The presentation is also strong, using familiar ESPN and NBA themes, graphics, and personalities. Back to our matchup: I came out of the gate strong, building an early lead on those pesky Rockets. My quick start quickly subsided though, and by the point I wrapped my head around calling plays and properly executing them, I was already down double digits (my fault for skipping the tutorials!). I had a difficult time defending Howard and Hardin, but nothing felt unfair and I didn’t feel any “catch-up-code” was at play. The gap is most certainly closing between long standing champ NBA 2k 15 and the new contender NBA Live 15. If Live’s online play is solid, I can see plenty of online basketball warriors jumping over and enjoying EA’s new offering. Definitely Recommended.