A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
What's it about?
While rival franchise NBA 2K has been the hoops king, the NBA series from Electronic Arts draws very close to supplanting them in the race to create the best basketball simulation game. EA's latest release, NBA LIVE 09, adds a ton more options and yet it still needs a little polish on the court. The pro basketball simulation allows players to guide their favorite NBA team to victory in exhibition and full season modes.
At the core of the game's overhaul is Dynamic DNA. After inputting a code from the game box, players will be able to receive daily, online updates on players' rankings, stats, and tendencies. Results are broken down in a stat strand detailing their preferences. This strand will change throughout the season depending on that player's real-life performance. Another area NBA Live 09 improves is its practice mode. Using the NBA Live Academy, players can practice an array of moves, from defensive rebounding to pick-and-rolls and fast breaks. For new players, this is a great way to learn the game before heading onto the court. Among the new player modes is Be a Pro, an exhibition game where you control only one player throughout. As you play, a meter on the screen will grade your performance.
Is it any good?
On the court, the action has been simplified in subtle ways. Playcalling now moves to the shoulder buttons for easier access. Each play is mapped to a specific star player. So, if you're playing as the Spurs, you may have a post move for Tim Duncan or a screen play for Tony Parker. Pick-and-roll has been greatly improved as well. Holding down the left trigger, a computer-controlled player will set the screen. When you let go, the player will move toward the basket or away from defenders for an open shot. As for presentation, it's perhaps the best of any NBA title, with nearly photorealistic player models and loud, vibrant arenas.
The action is pretty enjoyable, but lags in two areas: smoothness and tempo. Animations are solid but players often don't look very smooth transitioning from one move to the next. Computer-controlled teammates also aren't very effective at running the fast break. Instead of charging to the basket, they'll often stop near the top of the 3-point arc. This forces you into playing a half-court style offense almost all the time. Once these issues are addressed, you may encounter a new champion in the NBA circuit. When trying to decide between NBA Live 09 and NBA 2K9, here's the bottom line: choose NBA Live 09 for younger players and those new to the game, and NBA 2K9 for seasoned hoops gamers.
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