NBA Live 09 Review

Despite its bigger brand name and history, the NBA Live series just hasn’t matched up to the 2K offerings in the last several years. From abysmal outings to “good but only a stepping stone” ones, year after year Live seems just a bit closer towards what it’s hoping to accomplish, yet so far. Last year was an exercise more in maintaining a solid ground than taking a new leap forward (blame NBA Live 07 for the developers’ apparent fear in overhauling the system) but this year we’re back to the solid formula of one or two big additions piled on top of several minor tweaks.

The big, touted feature this go-round is Dynamic DNA. How it works is simple. Throughout the NBA season, several NBA Live staffers will be monitoring real life trends and events, then applying those to the players’ stats in the game. For example, if Kobe starts clanking 3 after 3 for a ten game stretch, expect his 3-point shooting rating to drop until he gets back to normal. Likewise, if a normally mediocre player suddenly heats it up for a month and starts averaging 20 points a night, his offensive capabilities in the game will rise dramatically.

Dynamic DNA affects the AI as well. As players are injured or change their playstyle, the computer will reflect that. Been noticing that Carmelo somehow turned into a defense stopper? (Remember, it’s just an example.) Then pay attention to that if he’s guarding you in NBA Live 09, because he’s not going to be the defensive pushover he’s widely known to be.

While an awesome theory in practice, the full extent of how much Dynamic DNA impacts the game won’t fully be realized until the NBA season is well under way. If you’re a hardcore fan I’m sure the thought of your computer teammates playing like their real life counterparts makes you giddy, but for casual NBA Live players it’s yet to be seen how much it will alter the Live experience.

Other noticeable changes to the game include how you pull off on-court moves. Pick and rolls can now be called by holding the left trigger and releasing it at the time you want the player setting the screen to break; the timing of your release determines if the player will roll in towards the lane, or out to shoot a jumper. Pick and rolls are nothing new to any basketball game, but it’s nice to have a quick one-button option to call the most-called play rather than having to bring up the play menu then remember which button called for the good ol’ Stockton-Malone connection.

That leads us to this year’s Live’s New Feature Which Causes More Issues Than Solutions: Quick strike ankle breaking. Basically, it takes the traditional Live mechanics for pulling off jukes and other dribble/spin maneuvers, and adds in a new dimension. Pull the right trigger and use the right analog to start the move, and if you notice the defender going for the steal or falling for the juke, tap the left analog stick the way you want to go and your ball handler will make a quick cut in that direction. Awesome in theory, but unfortunately it’s way too easy to pull off no matter who you are. The result is forwards and centers dancing their way through the paint to the rim, and if you’re using a great handler like Iverson or Kobe it’s almost always a guarantee you’re going to get open.

Toss in the usual Live problems (not realistic feeling at times, physic detection issues, clipping, awful camera angles, etc.) and that’s Live 09 for ya. Like usual, this latest iteration of NBA Live has brought us several cool ideas. Unfortunately, the core gameplay elements and the engine are still tremendously lacking compared to NBA 2K, and the new additions likely won’t be fully realized until they’ve been tweaked for another couple releases. It’s certainly a step in the right direction for the Live series; it’s just not a very big step.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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