Review: NBA 2K9 for Xbox 360

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Another year and another round of sports franchise games for consoles and PC. What is so compelling about these games that makes me want to purchase this year’s when nothing has really changed from 2006. Ok, maybe that’s being a bit sensationalistic, but I think you know what I mean. It’s sort of like Doug’s review of Tiger Woods for the Wii. What’s going to make me drop $60 if nothing has changed save for a few cosmetic updates? “Don’t the players look realistic?” I often reply with a blank look and say, “oh yeah, totally.”

So how does 2K Sports’ NBA 2K9 do this year?

General Overview

The game is much improved over last year’s offering and hardcore basketball buffs will come away impressed. The graphics are much better and more life-like. Yeah, I know, but it’s true. 2KS went ahead with some new motion captures for players that will leave you in awe at times.
What I really liked about 2K9 was the overall broadcast style of the game. It’s like watching a game on TBS, which might not matter to some folks, but it’s something I noticed and grew fond of. Cheryl Miller, Clark Kellogg and Kevin Harlan are your commentators for this year and they’re sort of ho-hum IMO, but anyone other than Bill Walton is a plus in my book. That’s more or less the cosmetic changes made for this year.

How’s the gameplay? I’ll be honest, I hate overly complicated control schemes and basketball games fall into this category. But that’s a good thing too. They didn’t just stop at the cosmetic stuff. 2KS made changes where it really matters and that’s on the court.

Here’s the quick and dirty. The defensive scheme is a tad better than last year, but it’s not perfect. These sorts of things will never be perfect when compared to real-life, though. You can lock into your opponent via the left stick, but you can’t seem to do much when they don’t have the ball. Would be nice to keep Lebron from getting the ball, but what can you do? Which leads me to another point worth mentioning. Star players like Lebron or KG will make more buckets whereas last year you had to basically hit that jumper at the apex to score. Basically, shots they would normally make are now money in the bank. The AI has been tweaked to be a little more real this go around as well. You can send your teammates to make cuts to the hoop or set a pick. You can also modify your shots mid-air, which comes in handy when a big tree like Shaq gets in your face.

Another cool tweak that I first saw at E3 was the introduction of player’s Ambitions. It’s more or less a set of things that players are known for or look for from teams they play on. Example, if you want to trade a player that wants to play for a winning team to a team that sucks then it won’t happen.

You can also cut and edit your own highlight reels and show them off to other NBA 2K9 players if you’re into that sort of thing.

Multiplayer

This was probably what stood out to me the most. With Total Team Control you can play online with nine of your friends for real 5-on-5 games. Of course, some of the people you choose to play with can be complete donkeys and screw up the game, but it’s kind of fun to sit back and watch. It’s the closest you’ll ever get to playing a real game of basketball. Heh. Go outside and play for real, fatty. ☺

Living Rosters

This is 2K Sports version of EA’s Dynamic DNA for NBA Live 09. It updates player stats throughout the year, so if a player gets injured or they start doing some funky move then those get updated in the game. It looks good from what I can tell, but we won’t know for sure until the season stats.

Overall

I’ve never been the biggest fan of basketball games, but 2K Sports’ titles usually win me over long enough to play through an entire season. It’s much improved from last year, but the real draw is Living Rosters and it remains to be seen how it will compete with EA’s Dynamic DNA. But I give this one my seal of approval and recommend you pick it up.

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