NBA 2K9 Review

While NBA Live 09 struggles to find an identity for itself as the series continues to rebound from the 07 debacle, NBA 2K9 shows yet again why the 2K series has usurped Live as the King of the Hardwood.

Compared to NBA Live and the other basketball offerings, NBA 2K is still the top dog in terms of gameplay. The series has long been loved for its realism and true-to-life demeanor, and 2K9 takes that a step further than ever before with what may be the best presentation in any sports game yet. If you’re a basketball fan who watches more than the playoffs and NBA Finals (or SportsCenter), you know that players have their own style and flow; that it’s rare to see multiple players (especially All Stars) play with a similar form. NBA 2K9 captures this element of NBA basketball more than any game prior to it, and the signature animations and shots are plentiful.

The realism does come at a cost, though. NBA 2K9 is not an easy game to master. In order to give players full control over their on-court behavior (changing hands in mid-air, up-and-unders, shake-and-bakes, etc.) the game features an incredibly difficult to master control scheme. The right analog stick is used for shooting and layups (drive towards the hoop and flick the right analog stick towards then away from the basket to perform an up-and-under reverse, for example) and adds a new element of frustration for many casual gamers.

That should have been enough for Visual Concepts to maintain their lead over Live 09, but obviously that wasn’t enough. When EA announced Dynamic DNA, Visual Concepts and 2K were quick to announce Living Rosters. Not as in-depth as Dynamic DNA (it updates once per week as opposed to daily during the season), but the concept is the same: as players change and evolve during the season, that will reflect on their in-game personas. The unknown “2K Insider” is the man responsible for these changes. No one knows who he is (even if his avatar looks like Stephen A Smith), so there’s no telling how accurate his assessment will be. If Kobe, LeBron and Chris Paul all end up mysteriously traded to the Knicks in one update, I guess we’ll know whether or not Stephen is the dude responsible.

Perhaps my second favorite feature in 2K9 (behind the presentation) is the 10 on 10 mode. For the first time, you can go online and compete with 4 friends against 5 other people in a full game of virtual basketball. It’s the closest a game has come yet in capturing the old playground feeling of playing pick-up ball growing up, and when the online portion is functioning correctly it’s a load of fun. (Amazingly, people who play this seem to know what to do with or without the ball; a testament to the average 2K fan, maybe?)

Even though the game is fantastic, there are two gripes I have with it. First, free throws can be ridiculously hard. Even great shooters will often miss if you don’t do it just right, and the unique free throw animations make timing the release more difficult than ever. The other issue involves sporadic stuttering. At times, the game will get choppy. There’s no real rhyme or reason–it just happens sometimes for a few seconds.

Despite those two issues, everything about NBA 2K9 blows NBA Live 09 out of the water. The presentation of players is better; the presentation of fans, on-screen stats, and arenas are better; the gameplay is better; Association 2.0 blows the Dynasty Mode out of the water. If you’re a basketball fan, NBA 2K9 is easily the game to get this season.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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