Words By S. Cadet
Pics Property of TeamXBox
So here we are.
Another year, another basketball video game. As, arguably the reigning king of the hill, NBA 2K9 brings forth new modes and features that are customary additions to any annual sports game. That’s great and all, but does this year’s game have a breakout season or just go through the motions?
Perhaps NBA 2K9’s biggest feature is the new “living rosters.” It enables free weekly roster updates to your console throughout the season. I got 2K9 the same week that Allen Iverson got traded to the Pistons for Chauncey Billups. The Nets played the Pistons that night so I was obliged to roll with Dr. Carter n’ ‘em. Lo and behold, not only was Iverson on the Pistons, he was their starting point guard since Stuckey was injured. Good stuff.
NBA 2K9 features a revamped lock down defense system. You can adjust how tight or loose you defend the ball handler. You can’t hassle and blatantly push players out of bounds or into the back court anymore. Defenders that use lock on don’t have the spirit of Gary Payton imbued in them though. Defensive liabilities matched up with nimble guards or swingmen will get blown by almost every time from the perimeter. These were noticeable issues from last year’s game so it’s good that 2K Sports fixed them. Additionally, there’s a bigger emphasis on overall D this year — abusing lead passes in the lane won’t work anymore. Help defense is much easier to come by depending on your play settings. The Adaptive AI is quick to notice double teams though and WILL knock down a lot of open 3’s. Plus the AI will swat the hell out of the ball or at least foul inside more often on the higher difficulty settings.
Not to be left behind, there are small, effective improvements on the offense end. Off the ball movement is much enhanced & scorers make more cuts to the hoop or try to break free for an open jumper, especially with the shot clock winding down. Bigs with range manage to execute proper pick and fades time to time. This doesn’t mean that offense is a breeze. But it’s a lot more manageable than having to deal with 4 players who stand around. Also, gamers might want to spend time experimenting with the juke and low post moves since some of them changed. Overall all though, it, along with other changes, help make scoring that much easier.
Let’s get into the two other major modes: The Association and online play. The Association opens with a mock NBA.com homepage full of the latest news around the league. You can still develop, trade, sign and waive players as usual, or you can have the computer handle the paperwork and scouting reports for you. Other teams offered me some pretty fair automated trades. You can get away somewhat with some slightly suspect deals. With that in mind, teams will at least ask for draft picks on counter offers. Online play has some new tricks as well like Team-Up mode. It lets up to 10 other online players in on 5 on 5 games. Regular ranked or unranked games, user created leagues, and tournaments are back as well. The living rosters apply to online games too. I didn’t notice any considerable lag although I mostly played on late nights. Hosting games can be a pain at times. The servers act up occasionally. Doing something as simple as joining a friend’s game can be more difficult than it ought to be. There’s no classic 2K view in online games. Some other views like the baseline view follow the action okay for the most part, but are a bit slow in team-up games.
NBA 2K9 is another solid entry in the series. There aren’t any mind-blowing gameplay innovations at hand. With that said this is one of the most feature-heavy sports games out. The graphics from small details like jersey animations, sweat, to player models, and stadiums, look great. The animation, aside from occasional glitches, is even better than last year’s game. Small issues add up (especially with in-game management and subbing being slightly clunkier this time around) but the good outweighs the bad. Music provided by The Cool Kids, NERD, and The Pharcyde among others is welcome. Last year’s NBA Blacktop mode rounds things out pretty well but there aren’t any new additions to it outside of events taking place at Rucker Park. In closing, if you’re a sim sports head give NBA 2K9 a shot.
For more info, visit www.2ksports.com/games/nba2k9.
Over the weekend, we’ll be giving away THREE NBA 2K9 prize packs for Xbox 360. More details on the way.