I sit here writing this review, a bit stunned to think that the NBA season is only weeks away from getting underway again. Being a big Lakers fan, I am still trying to recover after the major debacle we had in the NBA Finals against Boston only a few months prior. With the new season obviously comes the next iteration of the NBA video games, and the first one we are checking out this year is NBA Live 09 for the Xbox 360, a game coming off an solid outing last year. So can EA continue to push their NBA title to the top of the ranks, or will NBA Live 09 fold like the Lakers did in the NBA Finals? Read our full review to find out!
NBA Live 08 was a real turn around year for the NBA Live franchise, it was a year where we finally saw EA manage to put a few things together on the Xbox 360 and PS3. Before that outing, the game had really lacked depth and a solid feel, but with some really crucial added features to last year’s game can EA continue to improve their basketball experience in NBA Live 09 on the Xbox 360?
So what has changed in NBA Live 09? Well let’s first start with the game of basketball which hasn’t changed all that much from last year’s game but has gotten some nice new additions. There have been a large number of new animations and the computer AI has been retooled in a big way to offer up a much more realistic game of basketball. What this means is that the defense does a much better job of grasping situations, and does a better job of being balanced. When the game is down to the last few minutes the defense properly fouls and puts on full court press. With the AI improvements you really feel like your getting a better feel for the game of basketball at hand.
A lot of this is due to some other improvements on court like the ability to effectively run the pick and roll. By asking for a pick you have a nearby teammate throw on the pick and often times that will do the trick and when it doesn’t the roll part of the play finishes the deal. Calling plays in game are easy as well as you can pick quickly from a number of plays and with the help of onscreen indicators can easily be called and performed with relative ease.
The big new feature that we haven’t got to yet in our review of NBA Live 09 is the Dynamic DNA feature which before playing the game I thought was going to be another Press related gimmick. One of those features that try to get gamers excited but in actuality this new DNA feature really does have a solid impact on the game. Really what it is, is a stat feature on steroids. When the NBA season starts the new feature of NBA Live 365 which watches trends and updates your game daily for the entire season. Its an interesting idea and one that seems to have a great impact on the longevity of NBA Live 09.
Online play for NBA LIve 09 is a big aspect as well and it seems like EA has done a lot this year to improve the online experience for all of their sports titles. You can play full 5 on 5 games (with 10 consoles), join leagues, play quick matches, and do a number of things that really makes NBA Live 09’s online play standout among its competitors. Having now encountered the online play on both the PS3 and Xbox 360, I have to say that things ran much smoother on the Xbox 360 version. From most of my experience it was easier to find games, keep games, and the lag was even less of an issue on the Xbox 360 version.
Overall NBA Live 09 takes the direction of last year’s game and makes the necessary improvements to make this year’s game extremely impressive. Although I can’t say its a perfect playing basketball game, it sure is close to it.
Visually NBA Live 09 is a mixed bag of great and problematic. Let’s get the bad out of the way, there are still a number of frame rate issues both in game and in replay. What I found is that the frame rate seems to stutter on fast moving action sequences. So if there is a steal, or a long pass down court, the game does seem to get caught up a bit. The slowdown is not necessarily as tragic on the Xbox 360 version which seems to run a bit better. The slowdown is much less of an issue on this version which helps the whole outlook on the visuals for the game.
On the plus side, NBA Live 09 has some of the most beautiful and awe inspiring character and arena models to boast. If there was one game that I thought captured the NBA style, NBA Live 09 would run away with the prize. Overall even with the issues, the visuals for NBA Live 09 are solid and will suit your HD set well.
I was a big fan of last years outing for NBA Live, I thought it had turned the series around and really was moving towards making a real solid outing this year, and in fact that is exactly what the guys and gals at EA managed to do. There are two things that I really think make this game stand out above the rest. First its flexibility, there is just a ton of depth to the game, and the ability to have it update daily really makes it a very deep experience. And secondly and possibly more importantly NBA Live 09 is extremely enjoyable, with all of these modes the games AI truly tests your basketball knowledge and makes it enjoyable from start to finish.
NBA Live 09 is the real deal when it comes to a great video game basketball experience. There isn’t a new mode that takes the game over the top, or a new feature that makes it best out there, but it is the combination of a vision and the hard work to get through some rough years to get to this game which is by far the best NBA Live game I have played in a long, long time.
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.