2K Sports has been in the mix of sports video games for years now, and there is no doubt in anyones mind that their NBA title is their premiere sports title. Like EA has Madden, 2K Sports has the NBA 2K franchise which for the past couple of years has been battling EA’s NBA Live franchise for the top spot on the high definition gaming platforms. 2K is back this year with NBA 2K9, and today we are checking it out on the Xbox 360. So does 2K have the necessary ingredients to put together a great basketball experience? Read our full review to find out!
Each year with a sports game you have a decent idea of what to expect going into it. The core gameplay usually stays relatively the same, with of course some minor differences, and then you have some new features that hope to put that game over the competition. So we have NBA 2K9 a game that wants to build upon the best basketball game of last year NBA 2K8 and continue to reign supreme in 2008. So does NBA 2K9 have what it takes to be #1?
NBA 2K8 was trying to be the simulation title for the NBA in last years outing, and the game managed to be the best NBA simulation. But gamers don’t necessarily want a direct simulation of what we can watch on TV, which can at times be rather stagnant. What ended up happening in 2K8 was the pacing was a bit on the slow side, or shall we say it ran at a snails pace. So since most of us want the pace to be picked up just a bit, that is exactly one of the key areas of improvement in NBA 2K9, the pacing, which moves a few steps quicker then last years and boy what an improvement that has made.
The shot stick which is still not my all time favorite shot mechanic has been adjusted in this years game to allow a bit more flexibility in the shot. Its been tweaked just enough to have a noticeable difference but nothing to major. The AI has gotten a bit of a touch up as well especially given that there is much more team play in NBA 2K9. The play calling actually works rather well now and more then anything the experience feels a lot more interesting then in last years game.
The Association (fancy way of saying franchise) is back in The Association 2.0 and to be honest I would go with 1.3 instead of the full jump to 2.0! There have been some improvements but navigating around the menus is down right horrible and makes any of the new features pale in comparison. The mode is extremely deep however and if you are one that spends a good few months in a franchise mode there are some interesting new additions here including 3 team trading which I tried on many occasions with very little success.
To me 2K has always dominated in the online realm and they continue to do just that in NBA 2K9. There are plenty of modes including the 5 on 5 ability which of course has been a staple for many sports games this year. No matter what the game it can be hard to get these to work perfectly but if you have enough friends to pull it off, it is definitely worth the trouble. Online play on Xbox Live is smooth as butter, I only suffered lag on games with 5 on 5 and even that wasn’t all that often. The online code is smooth and makes for a very competitive game of basketball online.
The issue for me is two fold, NBA 2K9 could easily be the best playing game of basketball on the market today but they over complicate things. For new players, or casual basketball fans they throw far to much at the user. For me I love the NBA and I am still a bit overwhelmed by the extremely advanced control scheme. They finally have gotten the pacing of the experience to a perfect level, and I think there are only two areas that really need overhauling for this franchise to have a great playing game of basketball and that is a better menu system and less complicated controls, outside of that NBA 2K9 is the real deal.
The animation system for NBA 2K9 has always been fantastic since its reached the 360 a few years back and continues to improve on this game. Where NBA 2K9 lacks is in the little areas, crowds aren’t all that spectacular, there are weird detection issues, and some choppy animation. That is not to say NBA 2K9 is a bad looking game as it still offers up a beautiful game, the signature shots help give the game a realistic feel. The game still looks solid from top to bottom and has the opportunity to be great, its just not there yet.
Last year I really wasn’t sure what to give the Fun Factor score for NBA 2K8, but NBA 2K9 is a great game of basketball. Its just a shame that a few other minor annoyances get in the way of that. However the adjustments that were made to improve the speed of the game really do help make NBA 2K9 a more exciting game of basketball to play.
NBA 2K9 comes as another solid outing for 2K Sports, its not a huge leap forward like some of us would expect. The Living Rosters feature which updates the game daily is a nice feature and will be great for hardcore basketball fans. Overall NBA 2K9 is a solid outing that deserves a look for fans of the franchise, it just may not be the best we have seen from 2K in recent years.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.