NBA Live 09 PlayStation 3
Published by: EA Sports
Developed by: EA Sports
Release Date: Out Now
Over the years we've been fortunate enough to see quite a large number of EA Sports titles but the one series we haven't seen much of is NBA Live. The first version of the game we had the chance to look at was NBA Live 06 which arrived early in the life of the Xbox 360 and the game was just too light on game modes and suffered from performance issues. Last year's NBA Live 08 (which we looked at on both the PS3 and 360) was certainly a better game but it still wasn't as good as the NBA 2K basketball games we've seen. Needless to say then that we were hoping for another improvement with NBA Live 09.
I think it's fair to say that NBA Live 09 is a better effort than NBA Live 08 but given the general level of excellence in the rest of the EA Sports titles this year, it definitely feels like it's the weak link in EA's otherwise splendid 09 sports titles. Most of the game's new features work well and help to make this the best NBA Live game on the current generation of consoles. The big new feature this years is the Dynamic DNA system that provides daily updates for things such as tendencies, hot & cold streaks, line-ups and roster updates. This allows your game to mirror the real world as closely as possible and it's a feature that hardcore NBA fans will no doubt appreciate. These updates also include a feature known as NBA Live Rewind which allows you to replay a game that's just been played with the tendencies from the real game present in your game. Effectively it's like a dynamic, real life scenario mode, if you want it to be.
The game also includes a few new game modes and control options which help to enhance the experience from last year's game. Be A Pro oddly enough doesn't allow you to a take a custom player through a virtual career. You'll simply get to play in one-off games as a player of your choice and it's a mode that essentially serves no purpose. You can also play a five-on-five online game if you choose to. The NBA Live Academy allows you to brush up on your skills by offering a series of challenges. Whilst these challenges will keep you busy for a while they can be rather tedious and it's difficult to see many gamers bothering with the mode for long. Some of the new control options are certainly more worthwhile. Signature Play Calling allows you to switch between a handful of plays during a game. It works really well and you feel like you have a greater degree of control over your side's tactics. Various Quick Strike moves have been added and these add a little more intricacy to the control system. Other new manoeuvres include Pick & Roll Controls, Lockdown Defence, Low Post Offence & Defence and an enhanced Free Throw control system.
Last year there were a few problems. Free Throws were too inaccurate, the players missed too many easy shots and the AI seemed far too good at scoring. Even the three-pointers were no problem for the AI and this made the game quite a testing experience. This year those problems have mostly disappeared but in their place we now have weak defences. Games tend to be unnaturally high scoring as the defensive side of the game is rather weak. Even the AI seems incapable of putting up an effective defence.
NBA Live 09 certainly looks good, particularly on a HD display but there are a few issues. The frame rate is not as good as it could be and there's noticeable slowdown, particularly during replays where the frame rate is rather erratic. Animations aren't as smooth as they could be and there are a few rough transitions making some moves look quite unnatural. There are some clipping issues here too. These graphical issues are disappointing because they let down what is quite a visually appealing game with great player models and some rather impressive arenas.
It's the usual story when it comes to the deaf gamer friendliness of NBA Live 09. Game commentary isn't subtitled. Comments made in the NBA Live Academy mode are not subtitled but basic instructions/objectives are shown in text meaning there are no real problems. Deaf gamers will also be unaware of the ESPN radio news that's streamed whilst you're on the main menus (which isn't really a problem in all honesty). Hints appear in text too in the NBA Live Academy mode and on loading screens. There are no problems in the Be A Pro, Dynasty mode or FIBA World Championship mode as all of the important information is shown in text. On the whole, none of the omissions will cause any problems but it's still a shame that not all of the verbal content was subtitled.
NBA Live 09 is a game that sees the series in transition. You do get the feeling that the series is beginning to feel a little more at home on the current generation of consoles but it still lacks the polish and quality that this year's other EA Sports titles have. The Dynamic DNA features and daily updates will appeal to those hardcore NBA fans out there and the new features will make a difference to how the game plays that will impress most people. The game still has a way to go before it can challenge the NBA 2K series however. Performance and technical issues need to be sorted out and the defensive side of the game definitely needs work. Still it's a solid effort and a decent alternative to the NBA 2K series.