NBA Live 09 Review

Long has the NBA Live series been the whipping boy to the NBA 2K series. Every single season since 2006 NBA Live seems to have put out an inferior product and has always been seen as second rate. While 2009 is no different, Live has closed the gap significantly. The real question is, has 2K slipped or has the Live series actually gotten better? Unfortunately for Live, it is almost certainly the former.

Apart from the assumed upgrades like visuals and the rosters, NBA Live 365 is something unique that EA brings to the series. With 365, users can enter a code and get up-to-the-minute roster changes and ratings on how a particular player is currently performing, which also catalogues a unique player's tendencies. If Vince Carter is driving the lane more often in the real world, his “DNA” will change to reflect that in the game. This leads to the next “upgrade” to the series. DNA is introduced to show every single aspect of a players game. Obviously Shaquille O’Neal is going to be pounding out his points in the key while pure-shooters like Michael Redd will be hanging around the 3-point line. Player’s DNA reflects these tendencies in the game to a degree. I didn’t really see much of a difference with players that had different DNA. Obviously Shaq isn’t going to be sitting at the 3-point line nor will any center for that matter (barring a few notable exceptions). While a great concept idea, implementing it seems to really have no effect on the game. No matter how awful of a game Kobe Bryant had the night before, he will always drain wide-open 15-footers.The DNA doesn’t really change the dynamic of the game, and with something as intuitive as this, I expected more.

A clothesline manoeuvre is not technically legal.

The graphics are what really sets this game apart from the 2K series. The player models look fantastic and true to their real-life counterparts. I wasn’t expecting much because when you first check out the rosters, you see that they don’t even have the real pictures for 99% of the players. Instead, they have the 3D models and they look even better than some of the real pictures. The in-game visuals are simply gorgeous. The stadium environment is excellent with the crowd booing if the home-team is getting blown out and going crazy when they hit a huge shot. EA also took stadium creation to a whole other level; every stadium looks like it would if you stepped inside one yourself. The character creation shows great improvement as well with every aspect tweaked to whatever you want.

Dynasty mode continues to be a mainstay with all of EA sports games. NBA Live’s dynasty mode is easy to master and even easier to navigate. Training your players, hiring and upgrading staff, and other coaching/managerial decisions continue to be a piece of cake. This is one thing that EA has always done well with all of their games and blow 2K out of the water with the ease of their menus. A new mode that has been introduced is the FIBA Tournament. In the wake of the Olympics, it is obvious that the world has caught up with the United States in terms of basketball and can now challenge the once perennial superpower. With over twenty international teams and their accurate rosters, this is one of the best aspects of this game. Want to try to beat the U.S. with South Korea? You get your chance here.

High Five!

Gameplay is what hurts this game the most and the fluidity of the game was lacking to an extreme. The game felt like it was moving in slow-motion, even worse than NBA 2K9. Fast-breaks move at a snails pace and the turbo button is non-existent. I could never get in front of my defender, even with the fastest players in the league such as Tony Parker or Dwayne Wade. The lack of a “lock-down” stick doesn’t matter for defense because the players are ridiculously slow. Defense comes easy as you essentially just need to stand in front of your opponent to stop them. Shooting is still difficult as you need to master all of your player’s unique shot-types. It was great that EA decided to include almost all of the NBA player’s shot types, but mastering most of them is a pain. This game had so much potential, but is ruined by inferior gameplay. When you want to simulate a season instead of playing with your team just to get through a season, it's the sign of a fairly poor game.

Setting a pick...or doing his best Michael Jackson impression?

The online play is such an improvement not only from last year's title, but from NBA 2K9 as well. Live 09 has all the offering that one would expect from an online title. Lobbies (which 2K9 DOES NOT have) and leagues are common place. One mode that was introduced in 2K9 that I found was incredible was 5v5. Five users could take on another five users and play the game as a certain position. Unfortunately for 2K9, it was marred by lag and there was always four or five people that would quit before the game was started. With Live 09’s take on 5v5, you can get together with three to five of your friends and create a club with your favorite team. From here you can challenge other clubs with little to no lag. In all of the 5v5 games I played on Live 09, none of them were laggy. 1v1s were seamless and the leaderboards were up to date. I can honestly say the online aspect was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

When I first looked through the achievement list, I originally thought that this was going to be an easy 1000 and a pretty boring one at that. Whilst my initial thought was right (you can easily get the full 1000 in under 10 hours), this is actually a fairly good list. EA really put some thought into these and while there are only 23 achievements on offer they all require a little bit of time not to mention a dash of skill. While I would have appreciated a larger list of achievements, at least they didn’t put in anything completely uncalled for like “Press Start.” for 35 G. For once EA have scrounged together a list that will actually test your skills while still allowing the full 1k to remain firmly within reach.

Essentially non-existent unless you are in the menus. Basic noise such as announcers and crowds are good enough to not be annoying. Not much to be said about the audio for a sports game.

Players look true to their real-life counterparts. Even players who ride the bench have been given the time to make them look incredible. Even when looking through the rosters, the 3D, cartoon style make-up of the players look like they would if you took a snap-shot of the players. The visuals are really the crowning achievement for this game.

Clunky movements and poor shot response really hurts this game. After first turning on the game I expected so much more and when I got around to actually playing a game, a severe case of disappointment left me wondering what went wrong.

A basic Dynasty mode that you would expect from an NBA Live game is present with a great addition in the FIBA World Championships. However, the modes get old quickly and you will soon find yourself turning to multiplayer after awhile. Which is a fine aspect to the title.

A quality list from EA. The only achievement that will take you any time is upgrading your staff in the Dynasty mode. This was also a list that shows a little bit of thought rather than just handing over 1000 points. It’s certainly one of the better lists for a sports game.

While NBA Live 09 made great strides in the right direction, it seems like EA enjoys taking two steps forward and one step back. The addition of DNA brings a new aspect to the game, but is it really enough to set it apart? No. Even though NBA 2K9 might be a better choice this season, NBA Live isn’t a bad option if you don’t want to go the 2K route.

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