As far as big American sports go, basketball is the one that’s suffered most when it comes to the gaming world. Outside a few classic titles back in the early-90s, it’s tricky to think of a basketball leaning “must-have” from the last decade.
EA’s NBA Live series has been consistently mocked when compared to the fantastic NBA 2K titles. While the latter is jam packed with features, stunning gameplay, and a realistic basketball feel with unique players, EA’s games have felt a little lukewarm in comparison.
The big hope this year is the introduction of the “Dynamic DNA” system. Think the “Live Season” option introduced in FIFA 09, which updates players’ stats on a continuous basis according to their real world performances, but taken to the nth degree.
The Dynamic DNA system means that your players will change from night to night. If one star was driving for the hoop continuously one evening, expect his NBA Live 09 equivalent to do exactly the same on your console the next morning. It works defensively too, with top guards being almost impervious to deficits the night after a spectacular performance.
For true NBA fans, the Dynamic DNA option is a major plus. In such a fast paced and ever changing sport, now you don’t need to worry that your game will be well out of date a few months down the line. It could even conceivably put paid to yearly sporting updates eventually which will be a major plus for all gamers.
Another major hope for this year is the ease of calling plays. Now it just takes a single button press to bring up the play menu while dribbling, making selection a breeze. Which is particularly handy as your fellow players are incredibly reluctant to make moves and runs unless specifically prompted by the introduction of a play. Thankfully the ease of selection just about negates this little problem, but it’ll be tricky for newcomers to the series to initially get to grips with.
Sadly the “Be A Pro” options are firmly basic here. While other EA titles now offer full careers to control, NBA Live 09 merely allows you to play one-off games as a professional player, or your own creation. A major minus point and could have made NBA Live 09 an absolute must for all basketball fans. And with stats not tracked as in other EA sports titles, there’s little point in being a true team player. A real poor part of the game.
Online too is sadly a little poor, with lag stopping games becoming the kind of free flowing spectacle basketball can be at its best. With a game so reliant on reaction times suffering so heavily from lag, online isn’t really a worthwhile experience.
Even the graphics are a touch below the usual EA standard. While the top players are detailed and appear just like their real life counterparts, the less well known stars suffer from generic looks. Animation and contact between players isn’t quite at the high standards set by Madden 09 or FIFA 09 either.
One big introduction can’t drag NBA Live 09 to the top of the roster. It’s not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination - a real tight single player contest can be as enthralling as any other gaming experience out there. But there’s simply not enough here to make it a top, top game.
Hopefully next year will see a fully fledged Be A Pro mode introduced, and player contact hitting the same highs as the other EA sporting titles. Till then, we’d recommend waiting for your next basketball gaming fix.