Review: NBA Live 09 & NBA2k9- Fight!
Hi Ho the Ballers are back! Baseball is winding down, and we’ve all been busting heads on the gridiron in Madden and now comes the bright lights of the NBA. The two heavyweights of the division are back with their 09’ editions and we are about to hit you with the down low on NBA Live 09’ featuring Tony Parker and NBA2k9 anchored by the now “certified” Kevin Garnett.
First I have to let you know right now. This isn’t really a fair fight. NBA2k9 is the better game… PERIOD.
Now I’m an Old G gamer who went to war with EA Basketball since Bulls Vs. Lakers in Sega Genesis heyday. NBA Live 95’ was a turning point for all Bball games and EA was the defacto sporting game champ. It wasn’t until the year 2000 on Sega’s Dreamcast that a fledgling company name Visual Concepts really emerged to take on the mighty EA Sports in football and then basketball that made gamers really take notice.
Not only had a company dropped a sport title worthy of the mantle of “the best” they shook up the game by in this reviewers opinion trumping EA right out the gate in the then “Next-gen” sport titles. Brash and announcing their new age moniker with the 2k brand (this can live for another thousand years) Visual Concepts was here to stay.
Fast forward to the present, where we’ve seen EA outright purchase the opportunity to make football titles (because they had begun to lose a heap of market share to 2k due to an unprecedented $19.99 price point at launch). We have 2k on solid ground as the Best Basketball game on the shelf. NBA Live has not been helped by the fact that their game just wasn’t fun. 2k had Live reeling because they just couldn’t produce the same level of detail in the actual representation of basketball.
When I speak about sport games, I tend to not talk about “features” like GM mode, Association, Slam Dunk contents or who or whom are not in it. Because all of these features should be secondary to the core gameplay. What are we really trying to do here? Become GM of a league and manage salary caps or get lost playing as the best in the world? I vote for the latter. Back in the days we were stuck on which game had the best “graphics” but come on now when we were looking at this
and calling it the best we were fooling ourselves.
Now I must admit, that on the surface the players in NBA Live 09 “Look” more “Realistic”, the facial definition is phenomenal and each of the players are instantly recognizable…in replays. The default camera is so far away, it doesn’t really matter that you can see Tony’s nose hairs.
The 2k9 models are more workmanlike; per usual the stars will get the top treatment but they lost detail and the faces are just plainly textured. Are they still recognizable? Yes.
Let’s talk about the gameplay. For some reason NBA Live 09, straddles the line that we’ve come to know as Arcade/Sim but is hurt by that because it’s not enough of either to really resonate with either audience. Let’s examine the jump shot for example. In it’s heyday the timing of the release of the button and the animation sync’d up perfectly and just like real life, you KNEW when it was going in. When Live made the transition to 3D (when it’s problems began), the J’s became flat and it was literally a challenge to know whether or not it was going in. The devs figured that since they couldn’t get the jump shot right let’s make awesome dunks and lay-ups. This broke the game defensively to this day. It is just too easy to score baskets. Then when it comes down to the other end when you need a big defensive stop; you are sweating bullets hoping for a turnover.
Now 2k9 goes in the other direction… you have to work to get your shot off. And when you do and you make it, there’s a certain sense of accomplishment. Kinda like in real life. When playing a sport, any sport, the opponent isn’t going to just let you go right by. You have to work for it. Think one step ahead, execute your plays, pass to the open man and then be rewarded for your hard work.
The trick with 2k9’s J is that they have so many unique animations. They attempt to mimic player’s real life motions. To its credit the variety of taking a J with a Peja versus Ron Artest is totally different…as it should be. You are rewarded for getting to learn a players mechanics and tendencies and their range. Tight game, you hit the open man and bang, the feeling is a bit remarkable when you cue Larry Brown “Play the Right Way”.
Now mind you, I know that some people would love to just run around and dunk all day. 2k9 allows you to do both, tweak a few settings and you’re off to the races. The key is that it allows you to play your game, while Live just doesn’t hold up under the circumstances.
If NBA2k9 didn’t exist, people would be able to enjoy Live 09 as a great basketball game. But guess what, it does. So once again cop it.