NBA Live 09 General Impressions

Posted October 6th, 2008 at 9:04 am

For the past week I’ve been writing about some of the features in NBA Live 09 and posting up videos showing off the game in action as well as spotlighting those specific features. While I’ve mentioned a few thoughts relating to them I’ve withheld most of my overall impressions for this write-up. Continue on to read my full impressions of NBA Live 09.

There are certainly a lot of gameplay improvements. I’m not going to list out everything just some of the things off the top of my head that makes the experience this year more enjoyable.

  • The shot timing feels good and the release affects trajectory and success % rather than making the shot look awkward. Since I always released the button at a natural time even when it wasn’t necessary last year there hasn’t been any transition involved in getting used to it.
  • You are really rewarded for playing good offense and defense. Running plays and using the Pick and Roll Control are necessary to play efficient offensively.
  • The rebounding is so much better. One thing I learned through the NBA Academy is to avoid jumping as early as I was. Using LT to box out is critical and feels really good when doing so results in grabbing the board. There are still some issues with rebounding but overall I’m pretty satisfied with it.
  • I love that the passing icons are up automatically when inbounding the ball.
  • While there are still the separate buttons for layups/dunks and jumpshots this year they made it so if you are out of position for a layup or dunk then you will take a normal shot. This is a nice change for those who tend to accidentally hit the wrong button as you won’t be attempting a layup from 20 feet out.
  • Alley-oops are vastly improved and don’t seem to be exploitable. Throwing them too far out from the basket will result in a player going up and pulling the ball down or the ball going loose for a potential turnover.
  • Boxing out with the LT works really well. Through the NBA Academy I found I was jumping too early and that it really pays off to body up and box out.
  • The play calling system is awesome. After the community event I was really loving the quick play with Y. Now though I’ve found the regular play calling to be more natural than I felt it was back then so I’ve been using that more. I love how the A icon will light up when you are supposed to make the pass in context of the play.
  • The balance of fouls seems pretty decent. There aren’t too many, but there are enough to keep it in the back of your mind as a possibility. If you are overly aggressive and reach-in for steals you’ll pay for that. I also like many of the contact animations that result in either a foul or a no-call.
  • The commentary remains one of the strengths of the series.
  • With the way the game plays this year the quarter length will need to be probably right around 9 minutes in order to produce realistic scores and stats.
  • The new free throw system is great. I love the old school feel. It might be a little on the easy side but I’ll take that over what was there previously. I used to just hit B for the player to shoot at their percentage so I’m happy to be involved in shooting them again. It definitely is harder with really poor shooters but once you get into the decent to great shooters is where it could possibly be seen as too easy. Online though with the very slight delay it offers more of a challenge and actually turns out really well.
  • The Pick and Roll Control is a fantastic feature. I can’t say how much fun it is to run P&R with a duo like Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer. It feels pretty well balanced too, not something that really seems to be exploitable. With the numerous options it provides it can be quite effective when run well.
  • The atmosphere is decent but I’d still like the crowd to react a little better. They seem to get into it in the 4th quarter of close games. But there are times where I’ll hit a three as the home team and just get polite applause.
  • Played a couple online games which were very smooth and responsive. Seems like EA Canada is reliable for that now. One thing I’m not sure I like is they have your little EASW avatar face on screen at all times near the bottom but high enough up that they display over top the court. I didn’t find it to be distracting or cause any problems, but the first time I saw them I wondered if they would be bothersome. Still waiting to get started on the OTP Club!

NBA Live 365

This is the big advertised feature and it really looks to be a significant innovation. It is free this year with the code included in the case of all new copies. Recently this has been a hot topic as to how they are charging for the download of 365 for anyone without a code. This is basically a way to encourage new sales as opposed to used ones which EA would make no money off of. Going forward by doing so they’ve planted the seed of this being a premium feature so they can charge for it outright if they find that consumers value it that much.

This was a major discussion at the community event and I even detailed that in a full paragraph in the article about 365 following the event. I am somewhat amused that not a single person cared enough to comment back then on it but now everyone is acting surprised. Regardless I didn’t believe this would be a feature many people would pay for if they had to and that was when I was imagining it would be $5 or $10. At $20 I definitely don’t think so. Even for myself most of what I take out of 365 is a daily roster update. And that is a great addition on its own. Now whether Kobe Bryant drives left 44% of the time vs 39% I’m probably not going to notice anyway. One thing to mention is that even if someone doesn’t have 365, any and all online games use the latest data. It would just be offline that they wouldn’t have access to it.

NBA Rewind

I still find this to be a compelling part of Live 365. You can replay any game from last season or this season (games will be available the very next day) using the data from that specific game and the rosters from that specific game. So you could go back and play a match-up with rosters pre-trade or pre-injury since they are accurate to that game. This will probably be most valuable after a memorable game where people will want to replay it in the days following. Click here for a closer look at Rewind.

NBA Academy

I’ve been touting this addition since the community event and it did deliver. These drills really help get you accustomed to the new features. The full team practices are even more valuable. Even better is how they all tie into dynasty mode. I went through with a look at all 15 different drills. Part 1234.

I only had issues with a couple things in the Academy. I was locked into controlling the second teamers against the starters in the team practices and I wasn’t able to find an obvious way to switch it up. I also wish the other drills would use the players from the team you have set for your gym instead of random players, some of which have no business being involved in specific drills.

I’d like there to be more of an element of teaching involved. You get thrown into practice something like quickstrike ball handling but there is little explanation as to what you can do with that feature or how to do it other than using the right analog stick. I still don’t really have any idea of how to use quickstrike most effectively.

They should definitely add more drills for next year. Free throws is one that would be nice to have.


With the exclusive FIBA license this is an area that Live will have as an advantage over the other NBA titles. They did a good job getting in the official FIBA courts and rules and included most of the teams that people would be expecting.

EA Sports World

I’ve loved the ability to upload screenshots and highlight clips in previous EA titles and it has even gotten better here. The screens are very good quality and a larger size but even better is the highlights. Now you can edit a replay by using markers to break it up. Within each section you can vary the speed and camera angle. There are 10 locked in cameras and a free floating one that you can place anywhere and adjust the zoom. It also includes sound which makes a significant difference in how enjoyable they are to watch.

It’s a bummer that there isn’t a way to save replays from online games in order to edit and upload at a later time. I realize with a football game it can save by each play and in basketball there can be a lot of back and forth without a stop in action for some time. I’d like them to figure out a way to do this though for online games. I know the 2K9 titles have highlight uploading for online league games so they did something over there to make it possible.

EA Locker

The EA Locker allows for sharing of rosters (including DNA updates), sliders, and scenarios. The ability to share slider sets is especially valuable.

Online Team Play

I haven’t even had the opportunity to play the mode I have been looking forward to most, that being the improved Online Team Play with the addition of Clubs. The Pasta Padre club (360) is already set up and just waiting on people to invite! The improvements made to the mode should make things even more fun than last year. Once we get rolling I’ll have a full write-up on it.

Be A Pro

Again this would be hard to describe as a mode since it is just a one-off game. I’ve found it more useful as a way to practice for Online Team Play than anything. They have a base to work from for future years so a full Be A Pro mode should be coming soon. I’ve always felt this type of mode would work better in a basketball game than any of the other sports so I’m looking forward to that. Click here for a closer look at Be a Pro.

Issues with the game

  • Did we seriously need the Live 365 trailer to be forced upon us when starting up the game? Just like the demo they made it un-skippable. Make sure to save your profile or else you’ll be forced to sit through it more than just the first time you fire up Live 09.
  • Fast breaks can stall due to various reasons. At first I thought the opposition was just getting back too fast, and not just a couple players but all five of them. However I’ve since come to think it is more about a lack of aggressiveness with my CPU teammates running the break. They don’t seem to be sprinting and in many cases don’t run towards the hoop. I keep anticipating them to do so and then they slow up and back out which kills any opportunities.
  • While the directional passing was terrible at the community event it has improved but is still one of the most glaring issues with the game. When something as simple as attempting to pass it into the post or kick it out to the perimeter ends up sending the ball cross the court (many times resulting in a steal) that is very agitating. I’ve started to become accustomed to getting around it with more icon based passing, but have a directional pass go somewhere that makes no sense in a crucial situation as I did and that’s all you’ll be able to remember.
  • A player shooting free throws experiences a pause after shooting as he lingers standing thereĀ  uncontrollable for a second or two. If the shot is missed this is especially problematic as players run right past him as he remains standing still there locked into some animation. This happens in other situations too such as after made baskets, but usually the players aren’t locked into standing there for too long to be detrimental.
  • You lose control of all players after a made shot. They’ll automatically run back on defense vacating the backcourt. Unless you are in full court press this could be a big problem as there is no way to manually pressure a ball handler after the inbounds and there is no one around to make an intentional foul late in a game. Precious seconds run off the clock before you could even get anyone near the ball handler to foul. Why we aren’t able to control anyone during that period baffles me.
  • The CPU just does not miss open shots. Of course those should be much higher percentage but you leave them open and I’d say they’ll make it 90% of the time. It’s one thing to make you pay for double teaming or somehow leaving a man open. But it just feels extreme.
  • Tying into that is a feeling that there is really no way to contest a shot other than taking a leap of faith on a shot block attempt. This is because of the delay in pressing the shot block button and when the player actually jumps, but also because you can’t get your hands up without standing still and that is accompanied by that same delay. Why can’t I move my player while keeping his hands up? I’ve also found once the CPU gets the ball near the paint even double teaming will not prevent a near automatic score.
  • Defense other than that is more fun to play thanks to the defensive lockdown addition. There is advantages and disadvantages that come with playing tight so it adds an element of strategy. However sometimes I get stuck in that animation and can’t pull my player off. This is especially an issue when it is someone like my center stuck pressuring a point guard and I can’t pull him away.
  • I’m finding when I kick the ball out to the corners the shots going up from there are many times for two. I feel like if a player has set himself up there he is naturally going to be behind the line in a case of catch and shoot. I don’t like when I kick it out to an open man for what should be a three but it ends up was just a really long distance two. I shouldn’t have to catch the ball there and then back up before shooting. By that point the defense will have closed in.
  • I keep wanting to pull up for a shot but in many cases it instead carries me into a leaner. This is seen especially in fast break situations when I want to pull up but it pulls me into a leaning shot that % wise is much less likely to go in.
  • There seems to be some sort of menu lag that affects the buttons, triggers, and d-pad. I have to sometimes hit them several times to get a response. The analog stick moves through things pretty smoothly though.
  • The gameplay in general doesn’t feel as fluid to me as 2K9 or even NBA 09: The Inside. There is some give and take with what that means and I’m not even sure how to explain it exactly. I think you lose some sense of full control when becoming that smooth but I can’t help but like how that feels when playing the other two games.
  • Some other random things: I really would like some sort of tangible home court advantage. There is no diving for loose balls but that has been known for quite some time. I wonder if there is an easier way to do for subs on the fly to be implemented (maybe a way to shift full control to CPU temporarily?) because I can’t control a player and do the subs at the same time. Why do they continue these ESPN Radio updates when they are always outdated? I’m still hearing about the Devil Rays going up 1-0 in their series which happened four days ago.

Overall NBA Live 09 Impression

Despite many of the small gripes I have with the game I’ve found it to be a lot of fun and still have the OTP to look forward to. I keep wanting to go back and play more and at the very least that is a good sign for longevity. If they can patch some of the issues I laid out NBA Live 09 could really be fantastic. As of now though it is a fun game with some frustrating flaws and great features.