NBA Live 09 Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | Wii
NBA Live 09 box art
System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP Review Rating Legend
Dev: EA Canda 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: EA 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Oct. 7, 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-4 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
No Championship Ring
for EA this Year

by Pete Richards

To some gamers, the NBA Live name has become somewhat tainted over the past several years. Though it once ruled the court against 2K’s take on basketball simulation, poor gameplay mechanics and choppy animations have resulted in many ball fans siding with the competition – especially after 07’s offering. While EA has made some improvements with 09, it’s evident the developers have attempted to compensate for continually frustrating gameplay issues with several new features such as the highly publicized Dynamic DNA and Live 365.

NBA Live 09 screenshot

The ability to download updated player statistics and keep the game refreshed with what’s happening in the actual NBA makes Live 09 pretty revolutionary. 2K has done something similar with their new Living Rosters feature, though it is less detailed and features weekly updates as opposed to EA’s daily information. As players are traded, rosters will change. Lineups will change depending on different coach’s decisions around the league. In-game, player skills will change depending on their current statistics. This is definitely a cool idea that will probably alter sports games as we know them. How well it actually works throughout the season is yet to be determined. The new feature may be attention-grabbing for basketball fans, though it’s certainly not a big enough reason to purchase the title on its own. In its first year, Dynamic DNA and Live 365 are sure to have glitches and only time will tell how well the system functions throughout the next several months. The same goes for 2K’s very similar and far less publicized new feature.

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Dynasty Mode has been given a little upgrade that lets you choose your goals from the beginning, whether you want to take your team to the championships or simply rebuild your franchise from the ground-up. Be A Pro mode is back, which puts you in the shoes of one athlete throughout a game. The mode translates to online play, which allows up to ten different players to take control of all athletes on the court, which is also offered in NBA 2K9. The Be A Pro mode in NBA Live 09 is incredibly disappointing, however. Whereas similar modes in other EA titles such as NHL or Madden allow you to play as a specific athlete throughout an entire season to build stats and earn your ranking as one of the league’s most elite players, Be A Pro mode in NBA Live 09 only spans one game. That’s right, one measly game.

NBA Live 09 screenshot

Another thing that makes EA’s basketball title unique is the inclusion of its FIBA Tournament, which has been upgraded this year to include 24 teams representing countries around the world. EA recognizes the international appeal of the sport as well as the impact athletes from around the globe have had on the NBA, which has been rapidly increasing in recent years. Again, this simply may not be enough to entice basketball fans.

Game modes aside, the biggest flaws in NBA Live 09 are found during in-game play. Though EA has made a few significant improvements from last year, creating a realistic basketball sim is flawed by too many noticeable errors on the court. First of all, NBA Live 09 isn’t much of a defensive game. It tends to be more about weaseling your way to the basket by posting up or combining a couple of trick moves to deke through defenders. EA has implemented new functions to try to make their NBA experience more realistic, one of which is dubbed Quickstrike Ankle Breakers. Spin moves and crossovers are completely controlled by holding turbo and flicking the right analog stick. If you’re using someone with decent handles, you can simply keep flicking randomly until you eventually make your way to the basket depending on how many players are trying to stop you.

NBA Live 09 screenshot

Pick and Roll Control is another new mechanic designed for fundamental two-man play. Controlling the ball handler, you’ll call plays and set screens with another teammate, at which point you’ll be controlling both players at once. You’ll decide whether you want the screener to fake a screen and head to the basket, screen and head to the perimeter for a jump shot, or simply pick and roll to the hoop. The new mechanic works very well, adding more variety of scoring opportunities, and it is a technique that will separate more seasoned gamers from the newbies.

However, you’ll find that even using the new mechanics often become irrelevant throughout a match. The game relies far too much on its rubber band effects both when playing against the CPU and during multiplayer. Matches are kept close by hindering one team’s abilities, while inexplicably speeding up players on the other team to allow them to get back on defense. In one game, I was up by over 30 points when I suddenly fell into a huge cold-streak where nothing would go my way, turning the ball over possession after possession, as the match got as close as coming within two points. Sure, momentum is a major element of basketball that can switch at any given time, which is why you call timeouts and make coaching decisions. It just happens far too often when playing NBA Live 09. Good players turn into bad players and bad players turn into good ones for absolutely no reason other than the poor rubber banding that occurs.

Screenshots / Images
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