Still, there are a few shining beacons in NBA Live 2002. The most obvious of these is the new franchise mode. As is true in most EA Sports games, the franchise mode in NBA Live 2002 is probably the most robust of any hoops game on the market. Not only does the game let players take part in multiple seasons, complete with trades, drafts, and free agents, but it also includes a variety of subtle details that can't be found in competing products. For example, for every draft, the strengths and weaknesses of each individual player are listed, much like the way it is done in draft previews from hoops publications. Everything from the player's speed and skill level to his commitment to the game is analyzed in these draft previews. Hoops fans could spend hours evaluating players and making decisions about player management. Aside from the franchise mode, the game still features the best free-throw system on the market. It is relatively easy to knock down the freebies with players such as Reggie Miller and Derek Anderson, while making one with players like Shaquille O'Neal can be a real chore, as it should be.
On the visual front, NBA Live 2002 on the Xbox looks a little cleaner than the PlayStation 2 version, but it is hardly a noticeable improvement. Which isn't such a bad thing, because it is still easily the most visually impressive basketball game on the market. The resolution of player textures has been improved, and each of the individual players has his actual accessories and tattoos. If you were so inclined, you could zoom in on the virtual model of Allen Iverson and see each individual tattoo, and they all correspond to actual A.I.'s tattoos. New to this year's version of Live, as with the PS2 game, is a variety of cutscenes. In addition to the player introductions, the game has cutscenes for players entering and exiting the court, arguing with refs, warming up at the free-throw line, talking on the bench, and celebrating after big plays. All this is designed to immerse the player in the NBA experience, but after a few games, the cutscenes begin to get repetitive and we found ourselves skipping them regularly in order to return to the action.
The commentary in the game is virtually identical to that of the PS2 game. The commentators do a good job of mentioning player names during play calls, discussing the general flow of the game, and citing statistics in analyzing team and player strategy. The crowd is also quite attuned to the action on the floor, as they will cheer big plays and boo opposing players. The game does not have any real player chatter, except for in the street-ball games, which is a shame, since it would have worked well in concert with the new cutscenes.
NBA Live 2002 on the Xbox is plagued by many of the same issues as the PlayStation 2 version. The lack of actual zone sets is unforgivable, as it completely ignores an essential aspect of this year's NBA game. The rebounding game, which wasn't very strong to begin with, has taken a hit, as the control schemes for both rebounding and facing up on a player are utterly counterintuitive. As with the PS2 version, there are new presentation elements, and the new franchise mode adds quite a bit of replay value, but NBA Live 2002 seems to be falling behind competing hoops products on the market and didn't improve much in moving to the Xbox.