The NBA 2K series of video games has always been MVP when it comes to overall digital hoops enjoyment. 2K Sports brings out the freshest paint and shiniest textures every year, and seemingly every 12 months, the newest NBA new basketball game from 2K Sports outdoes the competition. Yet while NBA 2K9 is easy to recommend over EA’s outing this year, it’s hard to recommend NBA 2K9 over NBA 2K8.
NBA 2K9 isn’t going to lose its throne of high-quality graphics and playability anytime soon. In fact, NBA 2K9 is ruling the kingdom with an iron fist. Everything from the crowd to the lighting to the huge arenas looks fantastic, and it’s easy to get lost in the beauty and realism. The intense work done to achieve realism stretches to every aspect of the game, especially the players, whose likenesses are spot-on, even after bringing in the bench. Players react angrily to fouls, display shame after missing their tenth straight free throw, celebrate comebacks and get incredibly antsy when forced to ride the bench. With the new addition of live roster, players update to match how well they are currently playing, too, a nod to the “shakeup” that EA made with its Dynamic DNA feature. This also allows for roster updates, and the announcers’ dialogue matches all the intense action.
The playability also earns its keep, as the controls are sleek and easy to master, but the AI — no, not “Allen Iverson” — leaves something to be desired. In NBA 2K9, your teammates are content with standing around on offense and watching while your chosen player does all the work. If you don’t move much, the AI will sometimes get the hint and try to get open, but not always. Making matters worse, the opposing AI is aggressive and will gang up on you to take advantage of your spectator-like teammates.
Things pick up on the defensive end, where your teammates seem to have increased motivation and are actually pretty good at blocking and rebounding. But once they get the ball, they basically force you to run the show on offense.
The game offers plenty of features, as well, including one cool move by which you push the shoot button while rushing toward the net. This activates a tricky layup or aggressive dunk, and your player will realistically attempt to get around the defenders. But on the whole, very few of the gameplay features in NBA 2K9 are new from last year. The sliders are once again available, and since they save, you can adjust your and the CPU’s abilities and rest assured that you won’t have to reset them the next time. Coaching is also easy, with a simple timeout letting you switch-in the bench to get the starters some rest. All the games modes are back as well: Slam Dunk Contest, Three-Point Shootout, Street Ball and Online Play. The one new addition that’s nice is five-on-five online games, but even they can get out of hand if you have a bunch of stranger ball hogs filling up the roster.
But really, not much has changed from NBA 2K8 that will really compel you to buy this latest edition. Free throws are still much more difficult than they should be, and the advertising is still smothering. Are roster updates and full online teams worth $60? Really, that all depends on how much your Gamerscore is worth to you, because you can rack up Achievement Points in a hurry. Otherwise, stick with NBA 2K8 and see what 2K…10(?) holds in store.
- Score: 8
- Still the best NBA game you can play, without question. However, the lack of new features may prevent it from being a slam dunk worthy of your $60.
— John Dempsey