NBA 2K9 Review
Written : Thursday, October 30, 2008
By: Michael Finney (GT: EOU Findub)
2K Sports have long since dominated the field when it comes to basketball simulations. Compared to the 2K series, NBA Live is stuck in the developmental league. Being the fourth installment on the 360, could we expect nothing less than dominance this time around? With constant roster updates from the 2K servers, they definitely took a step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, not all the players look this good.
Eye-popping visuals and decent announcing are the some of the first things that were recognizably improved while playing NBA 2K9. While some player models looked absolutely true to their real-life counterparts, a few looked downright oafish. Oklahoma City Thunder's G/F, Kevin Durant looked like a disfigured Shrek; he always had a scowl on his face, even when he was draining 17-footers. This lack of emotion from the players hurts the overall feel of the game. On the other end of the spectrum, Richard Jefferson from the Milwaukee Bucks looks exactly like he does in real life. It's puzzling that some characters look perfect, while others look like they were beaten in the face with a stick.
The announcers, which rarely impress me in any game, were not only decent, they were excellent. When you hit a killer shot or slam home a dunk, both shout into the microphone like a bomb just dropped. It brought a smile to my face when I would dunk on Shaquille O’Neal and the announcers would rub it in my opponent’s face. They also knew almost all the player’s names and seamlessly transitioned from one player to the next when I passed the ball or drained a shot.
Should I drive or shoot?
The controls in 2K9 provide the biggest disappointment. This seems to be the only thing that has plagued not only this series but the College Hoops series as well. Fast-breaks don’t feel fast at all. The players have to completely turn around lest they throw the ball away on a fast-break. By this time, there are at least two defenders under the hoop and you have to settle for a jump shot or risk getting swatted. Blocking is way too easy and it seemed like every drive to the hoop resulted in my shot getting swatted. Even I picked up blocks left and right if the AI dared to dribble down the lane. The ultimate control disaster comes with trying to pull off some of the more advanced moves. Requiring multiple buttons to dribble the ball around and perform lay-ups is too complicated a control scheme. However, if you can master the complicated scheme, dribbling down the lane with Kobe or Vince Carter should net you an easy two points every time.
The Association mode has been tweaked enough to add even more depth than years gone by. You can assign menial tasks that you really didn’t want to do in the first place (like scouting reports) to the AI to complete. Do you want the AI to re-sign/release whiny players? Check off the box at the beginning of Association mode and you'll never have to bother with that again. The wonky menu screens typical of 2K sports games still irks me, but seems much more intuitive in 2K9 than in previous years. News feeds are easy to read; to see which players have been signed, traded, or injured, and simming is a breeze. It generally leads to a good experience overall and you'll never feel overwhelmed by the tasks that are given to you.
The online multiplayer is a disaster. While at the time of this writing, 2K is currently "working" on their servers, getting into a game is rare and having no lag is even rarer. One of the best ideas for a multiplayer game yet, 5 on 5, is being implemented in the poorest setting. After ten minutes of being unable to find a game, I gave up and settled for a 1v1 contest. Even this took more than five minutes to connect and was generally the most frustrating thing of all. If you didn’t have to experience the online, you would think that 2K9 is a pretty decent basketball sim. However, I stumbled onto the depths of online play and was massively disappointed. Another idea that was removed from online play was the lobbies. Gone are the days where you can challenge an opponent to a game. From now on, you have to search the servers for an opponent. While achievement boosters may be deterred, the overall community is being punished. You can’t challenge for that number one spot and could potentially get matched up with anyone the servers choose. Removing the lobbies is a horrible omission from online play that could have saved it from so many issues.
The achievements are typical of all the 2K basketball games (the exception being 2K6) with little imagination infused into 2K9. Getting a certain amount of stats with a star player seems to be a staple for the game. Winning certain rivalry games are back as well as win a certain amount of games online. The single player achievements are easily done while the online ones are a disaster waiting to happen due to the volatility of the servers. Until they fix their servers, I would implore anyone to steer clear of the online play.
Stadium music is typical of what you would hear in a basketball game and the announcers are pleasant to listen to. The music in the menus leaves a little to be desired but how much time are you really going to be spending in the menus?
Some players look gorgeous while others look downright ugly. The stadiums are well done and the fans react to the score of the game. Polished visuals are a mainstay in this game and is definitely something that 2K9 did well.
Slow reactions by the players really hurts this score and game itself. Fast-breaks really don’t seem fast at all and the players who are supposed to be good are un-Godly good. Also, difficult moves are a chore to pull off and most of the time you get the ball swatted back into your face.
Decent game modes that really aren’t that complicated. The annoying 2K menus are back but the options are numerous. Statistic lovers will enjoy the amount they get by looking at player cards and overall season stats. Easy enough to get into a game and flows well enough throughout.
Run-of-the-mill achievements that required only looking back at least seasons edition. No thought or creativity were put into these achievements. At least none of them are glitched and most are attained through single-player play.
Playing this game is fun and will keep you busy throughout the NBA season and beyond. Lack of player emotion is puzzling like the gameplay sometimes. It seems as though 2K is losing its lead over NBA Live and needs to come up with fixed online servers and deliver their promise of up-to-the-minute roster updates. Once again the menus are frustrating but players will eventually get used to them. A decent pick-up if you love the NBA and want to play through a season as it's happening. You won’t be disappointed.