The NBA is one place where EA Sports now plays the role of the underdog. That isn’t a familiar scenario for them. How did they react with NBA Live 09? Improved gameplay and a big investment in the future. While the game still had issues it provided an enjoyable experience with fully functioning modes and a variety of features.
NBA Live 09 had the most innovative addition of any game this year with Live 365. While its value to the game remains questionable it does offer a great deal. Not only in providing a daily roster update, but changing the way the game plays and offering the opportunity to view some fascinating data that NBA fans normally would never have access to. This multi-year exclusive deal with Synergy showed that EA is serious about the franchise and would be attempting to achieve what they have done recently with FIFA and NHL. That is changing the perception around a franchise that lagging behind a competitor. While 365 hasn’t shown enough to justify it as a paid add-on next year it has proven it does have some value.
While gameplay is always going to be subjective, Live’s showed some big improvements this year. Additions such as the Pick and Roll Control and new play calling system were of big benefit. Despite that there were several areas that the game struggled with. Some of those include rebounding, lack of aggressiveness for loose balls, broken fast breaks, and terrible directional passing. The Lockdown Defense and Quickstrike Ball Handling were disappointments too. The animations keep the game from being as fluid as 2K9 and that flow is probably the most striking difference between the two titles. Presentation is still in need of an upgrade however the commentary is by far the best of the NBA offerings.
While Live 09 didn’t have a real Be a Pro mode, it did come through with the NBA Academy and excellent online performance and options. Online Team Play continued to run smoothly and bringing in the Clubs provided more reason to play it. Hopefully next year they go the MMO route seen in NHL 09. I also have to stress the importance of what the NBA Academy provided. Being able to practice specific situations not only provided opportunity for improving skills but it also added a new element to franchise mode with the team practices. More drills should definitely be added on next year.
Live and 2K9 easily could be flipped in order since they offer unique strengths while carrying their own weaknesses. Neither one offers the full package. The online performance and options, attempts at innovation, familiarity and accessibility, as well as general direction the franchise is headed pushed my preference towards Live. This was a great year for basketball gaming with three quality titles that excelled in their own distinct ways.