NBA Live 09 Review

30 10 2008

I’ve written about my obsession with NBA Live before – basically I’ve been hooked on the game for over a decade. I’ve played it on the pc, ps1, ps2, and this year I’m graduating to the Xbox 360. Last year was my worst experience of the game – it was flawed in so many ways and eventually I ended up buying NBA 2K8 and spent all my time playing that instead. This year, with my new 360 console I was looking forward to playing the game as they meant it to be played, with all the new bells and whistles. Only, it didn’t come out when it was supposed to and I ended up getting NBA 2K9 as well. I posted my review of 2K9 and while it was solid I still was looking forward to NBA Live 09. And here is my review:

The first thing you notice coming from the ps2 versions of the game is how much slicker it looks. I was expecting it to be prettier and more developed, after all it is the 360, but I was pleasantly surprised. My test on how realistic it looks is Kirsty’s reaction to it. If she volunteers that it’s just like watching a game then it’s pretty good, and yes, she did say that about this version. The close-ups of the players and the courts are beautiful, the players have a slightly icky sheen of sweat that covers them as the game goes on and the replays are for the most part of dramatic moments. Which is an improvement on the anaemic version of the highlights that 2K9 presents at the end of the game (really? A bog standard jump shot from Maurice Williams is your highlight over the thunderous dunk that LeBron threw down? Really?). Still the visual presentation is not a patch on 2K9. 2K9s crowd and bench player reactions are brilliant, they really get behind your team at the right moments and that does a great job of building atmosphere in the game. In NBA Live most of the players sit there on the bench, seemingly bored with events as the game moves on, only haphazardly reacting to what’s going on. Essentially NBA Live could learn something from 2K9 in the presentation of the game. I quite liked the default camera angle that NBA Live 09 selects for us however, as it’s the view that I usually select for myself anyway.

Ultimately however, I’m less fussed about how the game looks but rather how it plays. Happily NBA Live 09 succeeds for me on that count. I much prefer the way shots and moves are handled through the controller in NBA Live than 2K9. 2K9 was just too fiddly and required much more of an effort to pull anything off. NBA Live 09 on the other hand is smooth, and reacts more to the way I play the game.

I’m finding the defensive aspect of the game much more realistic as well. In 2K9 I had to do a lot of game slider adjustments to get the game to play in a realistic fashion. In NBA Live 09 I’m able to play more realistic defence. It helps that they have a defensive assist function mapped to the LT button and at first I was using that regularly but now that I understand the rhythms of the game I’m using it a lot less. I also like the lockdown defence you can play, and I’m using it in a much more strategic fashion now. It does however cause the odd unrealistic turnover but then players in NBA games do stupid things all the time as well.

I love the new pick and roll control and I use it on most possessions. I also love the new dynamic play calling, very fluid and easy to use and with it mapped to the specific players on the court, much more realistic. It brings the actions closer to what a real NBA game would be like for a coach.

I’ve actually found the gameplay in NBA Live 09 much more realistic than 2K9s. Until I adjusted the sliders radically in 2K9 and found the opposition players sinking an unreasonably high field goal percentage – like 90% kind of unreasonable. It was depressing. In NBA Live it’s much more realistic – sure you’ll get the odd game where one team will be around the 60+% mark but that’s usually due to playing like crap than an obvious glitch. Another area where NBA Live is realistic is in the rebounding, people have to gather themselves before they go for a rebound and that I guess is more true to life.

One of the keys of a good basketball game for me is the dynasty mode and so far I don’t have too many quibbles with NBA Live 09. I’ve been playing as the Portland Trailblazers and they’ve been up and down like most young teams. One thing which I did find however is that it is too easy to acquire top draft talent from other teams – I’ve been able to acquire Michael Beasley and OJ Mayo for my roster as well as a veteran point in Kirk Hinrich. All I had to give up was Raef LaFraentz and Martell Webster for Beasley, Sergio Rodriguez and another scrub for Mayo and for Hinrich, a draft pick and Channing Frye. It felt a bit toooooo easy for me. At least the interface for the Dynasty mode in NBA Live is better than 2K9 – easier to navigate and view all the relevant info.

With the NBA season having just started I haven’t really delved into the NBA 365 feature, but I figure it’ll be a prerequisite when starting a new Dynasty game. I probably won’t replay many previous night’s games either but it’s nice to have that feature.

I haven’t actually delved into the new Be a Pro feature – from the reports I’ve read it doesn’t do anything for me. Maybe if it expanded into a dynasty type mode I’d play it.  

I did find that I had to adjust a few sliders – namely the sliders related to fatigue, but it was nothing like what 2K9 needed.

There are a few other flaws and they are mainly to do with presentation. At times the game glitches and a player will run out onto the court to pass the inbounds ball. And it’s not just a step or two, it’s like a metre or two. At other times there will be a foot on the line during 3 point shots that doesn’t get called. It happens once or twice a game and is really jarring. There are other times when the controller doesn’t match up with what you’re trying to do – especially when you’re trying to throw a lead pass on a break. The solution is to always do a direct pass but it’s frustrating.

Overall I’ve been loving NBA Live 09. It’s a definite return to form and the fact that I am well into December in my Blazers Dynasty having played every game is probably a good indication of how much I’ve been playing and enjoying it.




10 10 2008

As I blogged yesterday I was all set to enjoy playing NBA Live 09 today. Usually the courier from the company i buy from drops things off around 7.30 so I was looking forward to playing it when I got up. Only there was no package. Weird. I go online and find out that all the NZ retailers have it listed as being out of stock. There’s stock of the psp, Wii, ps2, ps3 versions but no 360 stock anywhere. I flick an email to the company I use and they answer:

Unfortunately the NZ supplier has just informed us that the release date for NBA Live 09 ~ Xbox 360 has now changed to the 17th October 2008.

wtf guys? Come on EA, you’ve done this in the past with previous versions and now you’ve done it again! It’s not like there’s not a competitor I can turn to. I already was disappointed with your product last year and now this? Jeez guys. I KNOW Australian stores got the game – did they not order enough for NZ?

You guys kinda ruined my day and weekend here!

It better be good.

NBA Live Day Tomorrow!

9 10 2008

Tomorrow is NBA Live Day, the day I finally get my hands on the 09 version. I’ve sneakily arranged to take the day off so I’ll be able to immerse myself in it. Needless to say I’m kinda amped about it 😉 The reviews I’ve seen so far seem to be mostly positive though it still seems that NBA 2K9 is the more favoured game. As I mentioned in a previous post I’m getting Live but it’s good to have a backup!

finally a NBA 2K9 preview!

17 09 2008

Finally it looks like there’s a preview of NBA 2K9. Unlike NBA Live the 2K crew seem to have this “tell no one” policy about their upcoming release. If NBA 2K9 is as good as this preview makes out its going to be fantastic. I’m still going to get NBA Live 09 (I’m too invested in it now to not get it – check out my reasons here) but it’s good to know there’s a back up if Live sucks like it did last year.

NBA Live 09 demo

15 09 2008

I downloaded the demo of NBA Live 09 through Xbox Live over the weekend. The demo is short – a brief time in what will be the NBA Academy part of the game and two 2 minute quarters of a game between the LA Lakers and the Boston Celtics. It’s just enough to get you interested which I guess is the point of the demo.

So how did I find it? Well the gameplay seems to be improved over last years but I had trouble accessing many of the features. I only managed to get the new lock on defence working once while I struggled to get the direct pass feature working. Of course a chunk of my confusion might come from my unfamiliarity with the Xbox controller over the ps2 one. I usually sit there with the manual beside me for the first few games so I imagine that problem will be solved when the main version comes out.

Also I don’t know if it’s because I only have a 21 inch screen but it was hard at times to tell who players were. It looks beautiful though. I almost tempted to blow our savings plan to buy a 42 inch HD screen just to experience it.

I did have a great time though. I sat there cackling like a maniac, especially when I played as KG and Kobe and I was swooping in for dunks. The key for me will be how the Dynasty feature works. That’s what really holds my attention and last year it was bung. If they’ve fixed that it should be a cracker.

I realised while playing the demo how much I have missed NBA Live so I’m looking forward to October 10 when it gets released down here.

My obsession

2 09 2008

Every year round about now, maybe a bit earlier, my obsession starts to kick in. I start to prowl around looking for the latest updates on IGN, I walk into every games shop I pass with the bizarrely optimistic notion that it might have shipped early and I can get a month or so before the release date. The source of my obsession: NBA Live.

I’ve played it since 1996 so I’m an old skool gamer. In those days it was a struggle to see the NBA down here. We didn’t have Sky and they’d stopped showing games on free to air. If I was lucky Kirsty’s family would tape me the occasional game but that was infrequent and we’d often miss the end of games. I used to get this weekly newsprint mag with all the boxscores and games in it but it was an Aussie mag and half of it was devoted to their league. So NBA Live was how I grew to know and love the NBA.

I bought every version that came out, at first for the pc, then the playstation then the ps2. My favourite players were Kevin Garnett and Tim Hardaway. I went through the puzzling years where the Bulls were champions but they had no Jordan and instead had R. Player (roster player). When they brought out the Dynasty mode I loved it. I’ve probably spent more time playing NBA Live than I have doing almost anything else in my life.

Even when I was over in Europe last year travelling I still missed my NBA Live. When we had a stopover in Thailand I managed to pick up a bootleg version of it. Not surprisingly it didn’t work; still I had the “real” version to look forward to.

And then I played it. The PS2 version sucked. I don’t know if it was just my copy but when the best rookie in the league turns out to be Josh McRoberts you know something is broke. The Dynasty mode was awful – things just didn’t work. And the gameplay wasn’t great. The love affair was broken.

I ended up buying NBA 2K8 and that was okay. I enjoyed it but it didn’t capture me like NBA Live did. It had its bugs as well.

But as the release of the 09 versions has drawn near I’ve almost convinced myself that the problems are because I had an old console. This year I have a 360 and I’m looking forward to the new releases. I’m going to buy NBA Live 09 and I’m going to rekindle that love. My loyalty over the years means I owe it that. It can’t get worse? Can it?