NBA Live 09 Review
It has been over ten years since the first NBA Live was released on the Sega Genesis. Since then NBA Live has added new features, create-a-player, and all new ways to enjoy the game of basketball in a video game. If you are familiar with the series then you will be familiar with modes of the game such as Dynasty Mode and the NBA All-Star Weekend. But NBA Live has added a few new wrinkles to their already popular franchise.
When you first put NBA Live 09 into your PS3 you will instantly notice that the graphics of the game are well done. They seem polished, well put together, and the players faces and body language seem natural. If someone else, who was not familiar with the game, were to walk into the room, they might possibly mistake NBA Live 09 for a real NBA game on your television. Sadly though, when you start to play it does not necessarily feel like an NBA game.
NBA Live 09 has all the workings and makings of a solid NBA game, but the execution fails. While playing in a regular Exhibition mode, or even in some of the special modes such as the Rookie Challenge, I always felt that the game did not possess the fluidity that should come with a sports game; especially one that represents a sport that is played all over the world. Strictly speaking on the mechanics of how the player is operated; I always felt as if the game was one step behind what my controller was telling it to do, a lag if you will. The problem is that I was not online at the time, I was offline playing a game against the computer. The game of basketball is almost like a ballet in a sense that your movements have to be fluid and graceful if you are to execute, and instead of getting a standing ovation from the audience I felt as if this game deserves a round of boos with tomatoes being thrown for how rigid and stiff NBA Live 09 plays. Please do not misunderstand, the game plays pretty well, but from a guy who used to play NBA Live 98 on his PSOne when growing up I have to honestly tell you I do not feel much of a difference as far as the fluidity of the game, and that’s disappointing.
As for overall gameplay, it can be fun and interesting. This is definitely not some arcade version of a basketball game where you the player can constantly get away with throwing the ball down court and slamming it in for the score. There are mechanics to the play calling. There are times when you must be patient. If you aren’t smart while you are playing, the computer, even on a standard level, will beat you. In real life players can’t blaze down the court for a score all the time, so it should not be expected to be any different in a video game.
On the subject of gameplay, there is a new feature this year in the NBA Live series that has interested numerous amounts of people; the Dynamic DNA along with NBA Live 365. These are separate and yet joint features that work together for your overall unique gaming experience. First Dynamic DNA; this is basically at its core a statistic and tendency gauge. If you go and look at certain players DNA in your roster, you will see what kinds of play ability they excel in (such as posting up, or spotting up) and what kinds of play ability they lack (such as pick and roll or isolation). This goes a long way in helping you determine what situation is best for your player to excel in any given situation whether it be defensive or offensive. Understanding each players’ tendencies will ultimately give you the advantage because planning and execution will be much easier if you are familiar with the players. DNA also plays a role in tendencies that are in-game. During halftime you can see your entire teams DNA and understand what areas are your strong points, and what areas are your weak points. Not only do you get to see your own DNA during halftime and at the end of games, but you also get to see your opponents’. Again, this helps with planning and execution. During a game you are given the opportunity to see what areas of the field your player excels in. For example, if I am running down the middle of the lane with LeBron James and go left to shoot and score, I will then see at the top of the screen a message such as “LeBron James Middle Perimeter go left 35%.” NBA Live 09 constantly keeps track of your players strengths and weaknesses throughout your gameplay.
And keeping track of gameplay is something that NBA Live doesn’t only do in the virtual world, but in the real world as well. After entering in the code that you received when you purchased NBA Live 09 into NBA Live 365, with internet access NBA Live 09 will automatically update players DNA during the 2008-2009 NBA season. This puts a literal spin on the word “live” and can make strategy that much more difficult for gameplay. Because let’s say Tony Parker is having a great first few weeks, and then he gets cold. A certain play that you ran well with Tony Parker the first few weeks may not work as well the next week because he’s off. This can totally change the dynamics of NBA Live 09 and your experience therein. There is however a problem with all of this. If, somehow, you do not have your box that you bought the game in, or you bought it used and the place you bought it from doesn’t have the box, you then have to go online and purchase (for $10 USD) the NBA Live 365 feature. Once again, to me, EA has taken something that should be free and made it into a recipe for making money. I can’t blame them for trying to make money, but the problem I have is that Madden has been doing updates like this for a few years now and it’s always been free. True, it may not be as intricate as NBA Live 365, but the concept is the same and the idea is not terribly original.
Other modes in the game include Dynasty Mode, which is basically a season long stay with one team while you try to win the NBA Title. Then there is NBA All-Star Weekend which consists of games such as the Rookie Challenge, the Dunk Contest, the All-Star Game, and the Three-Point Shootout.
An interesting mode that is included in NBA Live 09 is Scenario Play. In this mode you can set up a game scenario to your liking. If you want to have the Celtics play the Lakers, you can do that. If you want to have there be only 20 seconds left on the clock with the Lakers up by 2 you can do that. If you want to have there be three seconds left and you try to score at the buzzer, you can do that. You have the power to create any scenario you want and practice, or just play for fun, to see how well you can react to the situation you have put yourself in.
Online play is interesting. The one gripe I have about online play is the lag. As I was attempting a free throw shot I noticed that I would have to press the O button sooner than I would in an offline game. This can get very frustrating especially when your internet connection is in the green. A new feature to online mode (that would be much better without all the lag) is Team Play. This is almost self explanatory as you, and up to nine other people can all control one player on two teams and play against each other. This can be either really fun, or really frustrating in the same respect to how playing a real pickup game can be fun or frustrating. People will ball hog, people won’t know how to play their position, and some people won’t play good defence. Overall, I like the concept so it’s not a total loss.
All in all, NBA Live 09 has a lot to offer on top of what I mentioned above. Be A Pro, NBA Live Academy, and the FIBA world championship are just a few more gameplay options for your NBA Live 09 gaming experience. If you are a basketball fan, you will enjoy this game probably just as much as football fans enjoy Madden. However, the fact that there is more than one professional basketball game to choose from, you might want to look elsewhere for better gameplay, mechanics, and fluidity. NBA Live 09 is probably everything you’d expect from EA and the Live series, but it fails to live up to the enormous hype it can generate from year to year.