NBA 2K9 Review

The evolution of the genre of basketball video games is one that represents what many NFL fans and gamers wish could have happened to their favorite sport instead. In comparison to what has happened with the NFL and Madden, the NBA games are still a fierce battle which has seen both sides take incredible strides in the past few years towards the perfect replica of NBA basketball.

2K Sports has been the king of the hill in past years mainly due to their incredibly realistic gameplay, and with an increased focus on presentation this year on top of an already solid foundation, they look set to once again retain the NBA crown.

Courtside

The stalwart of the 2K series has always been its incredibly solid gameplay, and over the past few years 2K has been adding and improving to its “Signature Style” at a rapid pace. This year is no different and NBA 2K9 really takes it to a new level with its defensive signature styles, signature dribbling and improved signature shots and animations for nearly every player in the game.

In years past you would find Rajon Rondo might dribble the same exact way as Deron Williams or some no name point guard, but with the inclusion of signature dribbling this year you can really see Rajon’s own unique skipping up court style in the game. This goes for nearly every big name player in the game and really goes a long way to immersing you in the game and gives every player their own personality on the court.

More importantly though, is for the players to play like themselves, and this year 2K has really nailed this aspect of the game with its AI. Out of the box the game plays very well on default Pro difficulty and you will see big name players getting the touches on offense that they should, so don’t be surprised when Lebron drops 35 on you in your first game. Having players play like themselves means that you won’t see KG taking threes from outside, but you will se the Celtics run plays specifically to establish him deep in the post early on a possession, and then kick it out and swing it around the wings just like they do in real life.

In years past computer opponents have often played a bit too robot-like in their execution, but this year the AI is able to read and react to your play quickly and effectively and will even utilize things like passing out of a shot, something that is usually reserved for human players in past games.

This isn’t to say that the AI upgrades have extended only to your opposition, far from it in fact. This year your teammates will no longer stand around uselessly waiting for you to do something as they all seem to be following the “2 second rule” of never really standing in the same spot for more than a few seconds at a time. Your teammates will cut to the hoop, curl off screens, set picks at the top of the key and roll or pop out for the J, and that’s all without you even calling a play. The spacing issues of years past where the lane would end up with 5 people crowded into it and nowhere to go are long gone thanks to the AI’s movements off ball, and the game flows a lot better for it.

Isomotion may be a little trickier this year than last with the alteration of how the aggressive modifiers work, but thankfully 2K has seen the light and included a full tutorial in the game which will get you up to speed if you take the time to do it. On offense many of the same moves and controls from last year have returned albeit slightly modified in the new Isomotion itteration.

Long time 2K fans will welcome the return of the ability to change your shot in the air this year and it really adds to the realism of the game when you can alter your shot the way Kobe might do when faced with an outstretched hand. You really have to see it in motion to appreciate the way 2K has incorporated these animations, and best of all you will get to see plenty of them as this year even the AI opposition uses these moves.

On the other side of the ball, the defense has certainly been tightened up this year. Last year’s “Lock on D” feature was one many thought made playing defense too easy. Thankfully 2K has listened to its fans and improved drastically on the way Lock on D works for 2K9. No longer can you just hold the left trigger and hope to stay with you man, this year you have to move your feet and are able to choose how far off to play your defender, and best of all, which side to shade him towards. Just like real ball, shade your guy to the base and hopefully your shot blocking centre will be there and waiting for the swat.

Blocks in years past have sometimes felt a little weak but this year 2K has really stepped it up. The first time you see KG swat someones weak-sauce layup off the backboard and then outlet for the fast break you will be left breathless. If huge blocks aren’t really your style 2K still has you covered, as if you play good positional defense and move your feet this year you will get the charge call. After being seemingly absent from games for a number of years this is a godsend to those after a more simulation style ball game.  Finally, defense has caught up to offense in the NBA.

With its improved Isomotion controls and overhauled Lock on D, NBA 2K9 plays the absolute most realistic game of NBA basketball to date.

Graphics

The NBA 2K series has always been viewed as something of an ugly duckling in comparison to EA’s NBA Live franchise, which from the start of this generation has offered incredibly shiny, albeit not so realistic graphics.

This year 2K has taken on the task set down by fans to get their game to look as good as it plays, and boy have they risen to the challenge. In high definition NBA 2K9 looks glorious, players drip sweat by the end of the third quarter and the detail on everything from the jerseys down to individual facial features is unmatched.

Player faces are far improved over last year and even bench warmers have had their likeness modeled almost exactly. There are the odd exception that has gone out of whack somewhere, Kevin Durant we are looking at you, but overall 2K is spot on the money.

Not only are the players looking great but this year 2K has stepped up the visual detail on its coaches and fans as well. Previously coaches had looked decidedly out of place and last gen when placed alongsided 2K’s player models, but this year they are almost on par. While a small detail to some, it really does improve the suspension of disbelief by having the coaches look like they belong this year.

Arenas look better than ever this year and you can really see the visual difference in the stadiums via banners, seating, aisles etc. One issue that has cropped up is the blurring of logos on the court in certain camera angles. This seems to be due to the way 2K’s depth of field is working and the issue is soon forgotten once gameplay is underway anyway.

Presentation

By focusing on presentation this year, 2K has really come into their own and NBA 2K9 almost harkens back to the glory days of the NFL 2K series in this area. This year you will find real life player footage introducing you to the stars before exhibition games, dead ball highlight packages that show things like bench scoring, hot players or great defensive efforts and best of all, end of quarter highlight packages that show the action from a variety of TV like angles.

There are stat overlays this year, showing scoring streaks, statistics from your season in Association mode and other various tidbits, but they don’t go into huge depth. Along with that is the ticker returning this year, which when hooked up to an internet connection will display realtime scores and info from the NFL, NBA and MLB if you so choose.

The end of game package is exactly the same as last year, with Hot Zones, Top 3 Plays, Signature Highlights and Player of the Game all available. This area hasn’t seem much improvement for whatever reason, but we were happy with it last year and it does just fine again in 2K9.

Overall, all of these elements add up to make NBA 2K9 even more like watching a real broadcast on TV, so much so that you shouldn’t be surprised when your watching the end of quarter highlights and your significant other asks you who is playing.

Sound

The first thing you will notice if you played 2K8, is that the commentary is almost exactly the same as last year, only with Clark Kellogg speaking Kenny Smiths lines from last year. This is disappointing and we aren’t sure why 2K went this route instead of getting Kellogg to just re-do the script. Overall this is one of the weakest areas of 2K9 and we really hope the 2K team goes all out for 2K10 and scraps all the old lines.

The crowd and arena announcers are the best they have ever been this year with all the player specific boos and chants you would expect to hear in a real NBA game. Hearing the announcers trademark C-P-3 Woooo after a Chris Paul bucket really does add to the feel and 2K has added a tonne of new sounds this year.

Off the court, the soundtrack is quite impressive with artists like Gnarls Barkley, The Cool Kids and The Pharcyde filling out the roster. It offers a diverse range of music, and if you don’t like it you can always turn it off.

Association Mode (Offline Play)

Last years association mode bought with it player personalities and this year NBA 2K9 has taken that a step further. The main screen in Association mode this year is an NBA.com like interface which shows around the league news and statistics. Just a button push away are all your teams stats, league leaders and messaging as in last years game.

The new introduction this year is player ambitions, which adds a fresh feel to running your association as players progress throughout the season and their ambitions change. An up and coming player might want to play for a winner at the start of his career but by then end he will want security in the form of a big paycheck. Things like this really add a new element of depth to an already voluminous association mode from last year.

Trading and signings are also improved this year with the addition of “bird rights” allowing the option of resigning players, and a slight change in the mechanics of scouting a player. Instead of being able to see every players rating on other teams around the league, now you will have to scout them to see a numerical rating, which gives a bit more realism to the mode.

Overall Association 2.0 is really an impressive improvement on years past, whilst still remaining accessible for those who have played 2K before and newcomers alike. If you want to get lost in a dynasty mode for months, this one is a sure bet.

Online Play

Straight off the bat we noticed that Lobbies were missing this year from online games. This is a strange move by 2K but one that they are standing behind in aiming for a better ranking system. Their train of thought for the removal was that lobbies for ranked matches allowed better players to prey on the weaker ones just to boost their rank. As such, all ranked matches are blind this year so you won’t know who you are up against. We can’t say this is something we really agree with, but 2K has stated that lobbies are still there for Player Matches, just not for ranked games. Overall its a bit disappointing but we are willing to wait and see what happens once 2K’s servers can handle the load.

Perhaps due to issues beyond their control, 2K’s online portion of their game is seemingly broken at the moment with many players unable to even join a game. This extends to the 5 on 5 Team Up mode, where we have attempted numerous times to get a decent game going. Often times the game will not even start or when it does the lag is so unbearable that five seconds of actual game time can take over a minute with “Waiting for Player” messages popping up. When Team Up mode was announced we wondered how the 2K servers would handle the load, and the answer is, not at all.

The other game killer for online players is the removal of the “2K cam” which 2K has become synonymous with in past years. This camera view allows for complete view of the court and is the first choice of many gamers around the world. Unfortunately it seems 2K couldn’t get its framerate up online when using this camera so they simply removed it from the options leaving many out in the cold.

In its current state, the Online portion of NBA 2K9 is its weakest aspect, which is a shame because there is so much potential in its Team Up mode. The good news though is that it is all things that can and should be fixed by 2K. The lag and congested servers can be fixed via back end load balancing and the 2K camera could hopefully be patched in at a later date. Until then NBA 2K9 online is a non event.

NBA 2K Insider/Living Rosters/2K Share

In past games you have had to wait months for a roster update, which left many gamers to tweak and take on the task of updating their own games. This year however 2K and specifically the 2K Insider are shouldering the load. Promising to update the games rosters & ratings and even updating animation packages to reflect real life happenings 2K Insider certainly has potential to be a great feature. At time of writing however the season has yet to get underway but we will be sure to take a look at how the 2K Insider feature pans out in the future.

2K Share in NBA 2K9 works much like it did in College Hoops 2K8, allowing users to upload their own sliders, rosters, and created players for others to use and rate. This is a great incorporation into NBA 2K9 and there are already a plethora of great Michael Jordan CAP’s and rare team rosters available for download.

Closing Comments

The 2K sports team have once again out done themselves this year with NBA 2K9, but we almost wanted to review the game separately offline to online. As it stands NBA 2K9 plays the most realistic game of ball to be found on any console, and has the potential to be an incredible online experience. Of all the basketball games available this year, if you can choose only one and plan to dig deep into offline play, NBA 2K9 should be the one. Its strong presentation values have combined with incredibly deep simulation style gameplay and AI to recreate the game as faithfully as possible. Any and all true NBA basketball fans would be wise to pick this one up.

Ratings

Gameplay – A-

Simply the most realistic and best playing basketball game on the market.

Graphics - A

Improved player models, textures and lighting add to the overall top notch graphics this year.

Sound – B+

Let down by some sketchy commentary, some players might like to just turn it off and take in the incredible arena and crowd sounds.

Online Play – C-

Totally and utterly lacking in all areas, NBA 2K9 is simply not functional in the way it should be at this stage. It is early days and we have faith that 2K can repair the damage via patching and back end tightening.

Overall – A-

NBA 2K9 is once again the basketball game to own this year. Improving on its predecessors in nearly every area it is only let down by its shaky online play. Once this is cleared up however, we are confident that 2K9 will flourish both online and off.

NBA 2K9 Living Rosters Trailer

Check out the recently released trailer for NBA 2K9’s Living Rosters & NBA Insider feature which explains exactly what you will get once the season tips off.

Already in the past few days there has been updates to the rosters since the game released and we look forward to seeing how the added animation packages and updated player attributes pan out during the course of the season.

Stay tuned in the coming days as we will be bringing you our comprehensive review of NBA 2K9, plus a whole heap of NBA 2K9 features, guides & breakdowns in the coming weeks.

NBA 2K9 Demo Impressions

After what seemed like an eternity last week, the NBA 2K9 demo was made available for all to play with its release on PS3 & XBOX 360.
Over the weekend we sat down with both versions and have given them a thorough going over.

If you haven’t played the demo by now, you really should, as it showcases what NBA 2K9 is going to be like far better than any gameplay videos or screenshots ever could.

To get a decent feel for the game before the retail release this week we have played the demo numerous times and on both systems to see how the two vary. Unfortunately there was no PC demo available at the time for us to compare but we are assured that one should be coming in the near future.

The first thing we noticed upon playing was just how improved the visuals looked over 2K8, specifically the player models and facial features. On a decent HDTV the game looks gorgeous, and runs seemingly flawlessly. Once we got over how good the game looked in the intro to the game and player warmups we were even more awestruck upon seeing all the new animations and fluidity 2K has bought to the game this year.

Players really have taken on personalities of their own through 2K’s use of “Signature Style” and the first time you see how Rajon Rondo dribbles in his own intricately animated way and weaves in and out of the D as he should, not just as a certain package dictates, you will be suitably impressed.

Throughout the demo on both versions we saw a huge variety of new animations in the game over last year, Kobe has his own incredible acrobatics again this year, and coupled with the ability to change your shot in the air it makes for some jaw dropping baskets.

The demo doesn’t allow for play calling as such, but it does showcase the new AI of your teammates that helps to make the game even more of a complete sim experience. Players move and cut off the ball hard and with purpose, instead of jogging to their spot on the court like last year, which in real life would get them sat on the pine.

Overall the game plays incredibly well in this demo, even though it is very limited in scope you can still get a feel for how far along 2K9 has come since last year.

Playing both the 360 & PS3 versions side by side, we found that the 360 version had considerably brighter colours and an overall vibrancy that seemed to be lacking on the PS3 version. This was on identical HDTV’s running at 720p. There have been complaints from both camps as to the depth of field effect present in the demo which is noticeable at certain distances and blurs out logos around the arena. We are hoping that 2K will make improvements to the way the effect works via a patch if needed in the full game, but its certainly not a game breaker.

NBA 2K9 is shaping up to be the king of the court once again this year and our hopes are higher than ever after this demo. With release literally only days away now the excitement for 2K9 has reached a fever pitch.

NBA 2K9 releases on XBOX 360, PS3 & PS2 on October 7.

NBA 2K9 Demo Released!

Even Paul Pierce Has a Headache from Waiting for the NBA 2K9 Demo For So Long

After a long wait, the NBA 2K9 Demo is finally here!

The much anticipated NBA 2K9 demo has just been released on the PSN for PS3 today. The announcement was first made over at the 2K forums which you can find below.

” According to Sony, the demo for NBA 2K9 will be up today on the Playstation Network and available on your PS3’s (I have been told that happens by 4 PM PST). The XBOX 360 demo will be out within the next couple days. I am just informing you of what I was told by our contacts at each company. The XBOX 360 server maintainance backed us up and made it unable to go up today. We have been assured that it will be going out in one of the subsequent batches. I hope to get an exact date later today.”

Unfortunately 360 owners, perhaps for one of the first times ever, will have to wait a few days longer than PS3 owners. This is said to be due to Microsofts scheduled maintenance in the past few days backing up the workflow. Whatever the reason we are sure that it will get pushed through as a priority in the coming days and 360 owners will be able to experience NBA 2K9 in all its glory.

Stay tuned as we will be weighing in with our demo impressions in the coming hours.

NBA 2K9 PC Version Confirmed! (With Minimum Specs)

Lebron James & Co Are Coming to a PC near you

Lebron James & Co Are Coming To A PC Near You

2K Sports recently confirmed what many had suspected, that NBA 2K9 will indeed be released for the PC as well as the console versions. Not only will it be available on PC, but it will be a port of the Xbox 360 version of the game rather than the last gen PS2 version which many had suspected. This is great news for PC sports gamers around the world as this is the first time the crowning basketball game has come to PC in all its glory.

The announcement was first made on the official 2K Sports forums, right here.

Basketball will be coming to your computers this year. Many of you have already seen that NBA 2K9 will be released on the PC on various sites, and I wanted to confirm that. The extra bit of news, however, is that the game will be an XBOX 360 port. It will be released October 21st in PC gaming stores everywhere!”

We are not yet fully informed as to just how moddable the game will be, but if its anything like EA’s efforts on PC you can expect a huge modding community to crop up around the game upon release. With any luck everything form jersey textures to facial animations & arenas will be moddable.

Also released just today were the official System Requirements for the PC version, which you can find below. Considering this is a port of the 360 version these requirements are fairly lenient, but expect to need something a bit beefier to play with all the bells & whistles turned on.

“Minimum Requirements:
OS: Windows Vista, XP, or 2000 CPU | CPU: Pentium 4 2.4 Ghz Single Core
processor or equivalent (2.8 Ghz for Vista) RAM: 512 MB or more (1 GB for Vista) Disc Drive: 8x or
faster DVD drive | Hard Drive: 10.5 GB or more free space | Video: DirectX 9.0c compatible * | Sound:
DirectX 9.0c compatible | Input: Keyboard or dual-analog gamepad
* Video card with 128 MB or more memory and one of the following chipsets is required: ATI x1300or greater | NVIDIA 6600 or greater | DirectX 9.0c compatible card with Shader Model 3.0 support.

NBA 2K9 is set to release in just a few weeks now on October 7 on Xbox 360, PS3 & PS2 and October 21 on PC.

Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics and The Cool Kids Headline NBA 2K9 Video Game Launch Party

This past Thursday Kevin Garnett & “The Cool Kids” along with a host of other celebrities and NBA players celebrated the launch of the soon to be released NBA 2K9.

Star athletes, DJs and celebrities were in attendance to support the launch of the upcoming NBA 2K9 video game including Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics, Andre Iguodala of the Philadelphia 76ers, Brook Lopez from the NJ Nets, Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics & Olympic Gold Medalist and World’s Fastest Man Usain Bolt, Kristen Davis from Sex in the City, Bobbito, DJ UNK, and The Cool Kids. In attendance from the New York Knicks were Danilo Gallinari, Nate Robinson, Quentin Richardson & Patrick Ewing, Jr.

The full version of NBA 2K9 was playable at the event and from all reports the game played incredibly well. Be sure to check all of our NBA 2K9 coverage right here.

NBA 2K9 will be available on the Xbox 360, PS3, and PS2 on October 7, with a demo set to be released in the coming week.

NBA 2K9 Developer Diary (OS)

The NBA 2K9 information just keeps on coming as Operation Sports has released the first of their Developer Diaries in an article written by Lead Feature Designer Erick Boenisch.

Erick speaks in depth on the new features added to NBA 2K9’s Association 2.0 mode, which many gamers will have heard of by now. He touches on the new player ambitions which sees players follow their own goals and could determine whether they stay with a losing team due to loyalty or move on for higher money or to play for a more successful team.

“With NBA 2K9, they have advanced AI models thanks to our all-new Player Ambitions feature. Integrating seamlessly with our Roles/Personality system, Player Ambitions drive the way players act and think in ways not yet seen in a franchise mode. Every player is rated in the following three categories: Their desire to Play For a Winner, their desire for Financial Security, and their Loyalty. Every decision a player makes during their career will be based on the Ambitions.”

Erick also talks at length about the newly added NBA.com integration in the game, which is sure to spice up the Association mode over previous years which have grown stale over time. Many of the features of the real NBA.com have been carried over into this in-game version so users of the real site and stat freaks alike should be right at home come tip off time.

” NBA.com is much more than just an interface where you can read the news though. We’ve added a ton of new content with the sole intention of making NBA.com as authentic as possible. NBA and Team Records have been added to The Association this year. The records are broken down by Single Game – Season, Single Game – Playoffs, Season, and Career. If a player breaks one of these records during the season, you better believe you are going to read about it on NBA.com. If you want to write your own history, you can do that by wiping the record books clean. Another feature we’ve added this year is the addition of advanced statistical analysis, or as we call it, our Metric Stats screens. Measuring player ability by raw stats is, simply put, not the best way to assess your talent. We have introduced stats like Efficiency, True Shooting %, Effective Field Goal %, Pure Point Rating, Assist Ratio, Turnover Ratio, and more to ensure that you have the best information possible on every player on your team. Also, there is no need to go Google what those stats mean. NBA.com defines each one for you so you know exactly what the numbers mean. Taking these stats to the next level, during the season, NBA.com will dynamically generate and deliver custom reports ranking the top players in the league in each of the categories. With NBA.com, every cause has an effect; every action, a reaction. In short, if it happens, you’ll read about it on NBA.com.”

Be sure to check out the full article over at Operation Sports as its well worth a read. Rumour has it that the NBA 2K9 Demo is set to be released today, Thursday 25 September, but we are yet to confirm this with 2K themselves.

NBA 2K9 is set to release on October 7, and until then you can find all of our NBA 2K9 features leading up to the release right here.

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