It all began in 1891 with a soccer ball and a peach basket. Invented by Dr. James Naismith, the sport which we know today as basketball has become an international phenomenon. NBA 2K9 is the latest basketball offering from 2K Sports, and luckily for gamers and the audience alike the sport has evolved into a fast paced (well, it is up until the final two minutes anyway) high flying, high scoring, action packed affair. NBA 2K9 offers up a huge roster of teams and players to satisfy just about everyone young and old. Legends of the past, future legends, and everyone in between make an appearance. There are also plenty of extra modes to play just in case you want to just shoot the ball around. So strap on your Jordan’s we’re going to go shoot some virtual hoop.
NBA 2K9 is probably one of the best looking basketball games to date on any system. On the one hand with the camera panned out you probably can’t even tell that you’re playing a video game because the high definition graphics look so realistic. In fact, two different family members were wondering why exactly I was holding onto a controller while watching a basketball game. It wasn’t until they took a closer look that they realized that I was playing a video game. And that is indeed the highest compliment that I could pay any game. And then, you get some of the close-ups. While most of the players do look very similar to the real life hoopsters there are quite a few who don’t. In particular, and this is probably being very nit-picky, the announcers graphics look extremely ugly. That said, though, the animations are silky smooth and look very realistic. There are also several of them for each player including distinctive dribble styles and free throw routines. Heck, they’ve thrown in stuff like LeBron James biting his fingernails (or whatever it is he does) while play has stopped! That’s truly impressive. The game looks terrific and is a pretty sight provided that you have a high definition TV set to display it on.
I’ve got to say being a self-proclaimed hip-hop head, I thoroughly enjoyed the soundtrack that NBA 2K9 has to offer. A nice mixture of new tunes with some slightly older tunes makes this a very good selection. What’s really cool about the game is that the sound effects are all done so well. If you’re at your teams home court and the crowd is cheering loudly and the opposition sinks a basket the crowd goes silent. They also do things like cheer on the defense, boo at perceived bad calls, etc. Referee whistles, the squeaks of shoes, and the players yelling on defense are all very cool touches to what is a great sounding game. Add to that a pretty good set of announcers that while sometimes repetitive, don’t entirely detract from the enjoyment of the game. Maybe the only unfortunate part is that these guys (Clark Kellogg and Kevin Harlan) are typically college basketball announcers and aren’t usually heard calling the pro-game, so they’re probably not familiar to NBA fans, but again that’s probably me just being nit-picky. As with any sports game the dialog gets repetitive after a few games and after some time you’ll probably want to turn it off, especially when playing a season, but all in all this is a very good effort on the part of the good folks at 2K Sports.
This is my first foray into the NBA 2K series since the days of the Dreamcast, so it’s been quite some time. So, needless to say since I last played things have definitely changed. The controls have gotten a lot more complicated and like most sport games those gamers who are willing to learn every nuance of the game will be highly rewarded. Those who do not will probably be relegated to the easy setting lest they get trounced by the computer every time. Luckily, with a little skill you will be able to go through the ins and outs of a game with just the basic knowledge of the control scheme. Those who choose to learn the more difficult moves in the game, things like calling plays, taking a defender off the dribble, using pump fakes, driving the lane, using the backboard, etc. will be rewarded with more wins than losses. All of this results in, first and foremost, wins against opponents be they artificial or real life people, but it will also increase your enjoyment of the game because NBA 2K9 is a real deep experience and if you really want to get the most out of it you’ve got to work for it.That said, it really feels like the computer lets you walk all over them in the first half of the game and then tightens things up at the end when they begin to block every shot, steal passes, and worst of all rebound every miss that was a made shot in the beginning of the game. Sure, this stuff happens in real life, but not to the extent that it might in this game. Plus, they take players not known for their scoring prowess and turn them into Wilt Chamberlain reincarnated, where they can easily go off for 30-40 points and miss only a handful of shots the entire game. Still, that kind of stuff only motivated me to turn around and increase my own skill so that I could beat them handily. Included are some handy modes that will let you increase your skill in the game.
Things like the 3 point shootout, really give you a sense of the timing needed to nail those shots from “downtown” while in the game with a defender blanketed all over you. If you choose to play Season or Association mode you can increase your player’s statistics with various practice and training sessions. Navigate cones while dribbling and using the various dribble techniques, practice your free throws, three pointers, and lots of other advanced techniques to gain those difficult wins and lead your team to the title. You get what you put into NBA 2K9, master the game and you’ll really enjoy yourself and be able to take on the world online. Just want to play as your favorite team and beat their dreaded rival? You can do that. Like I said, there’s all sorts of modes and extras in NBA 2K9 for hoops fans to have fun with.
Speaking of those modes…NBA 2K9 lets you try your hand at the aforementioned 3 Point Shootout, Dunk Contest, Dunk School, and more highlighting what is just a very complete package. Plus, there’s always online for you to challenge everyone and their mother to a game. How about Team Up? True 5-on-5 matches for what could be the most realistic experience ever. Not into that? How about editing a video and setting it to music, then uploading it to share with the world? Yeah, you can do that too. Plus, there’s probably one of the most innovative new features to the game called Living Rosters which gives up to the minute stats and player tendencies, which can influence your game throughout the season. Watch players improve over the course of the season and see it reflected in the game. How awesome is that? Very. This is one of those features that only the “next-gen” can bring and something that gamers will continue to enjoy and see improve in the future.
Most of NBA 2K9 is awesome, but you’ve really got to want to learn how to play the game and get in-depth with the game. Spend enough time with it and you’ll get the hang of it enough. But, it’s a steep learning curve and those not willing to give the game its due time will get turned off rather quickly. Plus, the computer AI is relentless, they don’t miss shots and they punish you for your foolish mistakes. They won’t just roll over for you because you are who you are. But all in all I found this to be a very deep and thorough game. Fans of the NBA, or basketball in general, who are willing to give the game a little time and effort will be rewarded with one of the best basketball games ever.
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