NBA 2K9: Hands-On

NBA 2K9 takes everything positive from last year's game and adds a whole lot more. The question is, will that be enough?

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Each year the stakes get a bit higher and game developers are put into the difficult position of one-upping the games from a year ago. The best example of this may be basketball games, where both the NBA 2K and NBA Live series must top not only last year's iteration but also each other. Luckily for them both, they seem to be delivering year in and year out, and this year is no exception. NBA 2K9 takes everything positive from last year's game and adds a whole lot more.

Shutting down Chris Paul won't be as easy this year as the defensive lock-down controls aren't as effective as in last year's game.

As has been the case with each release in the NBA 2K franchise, the game's presentation has seen its share of improvements in NBA 2K9. While the player models are still not on par with those in last year's NBA Live 08, they do appear more lifelike than NBA 2K8's players. Players will now scowl after a disagreeable call and nod their heads tauntingly on "and-1" opportunities. There may be additional emotions that come out, but these are the only ones we have seen firsthand. There is a thin layer of sweat on everyone's forehead (independent of the player's physical exertion up to that point) that appears too glossy to be lifelike, but this may still be an element that 2K is tweaking.

Like the players, the crowds appear more dynamic in NBA 2K9. They react to events in the game, and it's difficult to spot any repeat fans at a quick glance (if they exist). After each game you will be greeted with a highlight reel of the biggest layups, dunks, and rejections from the game. These replays are shown at full speed from a variety of camera angles and are meant to mimic the commercial preludes used in TNT's NBA broadcasts. As a result, these segments don't include commentary that may have given the feature a more postgame recap feel.

Speaking of commentary, NBA 2K9 includes a new broadcasting team. While Kevin Harlan will still be bringing you the play-by-play, he is joined in the booth this year by Clark Kellogg, replacing Kenny Smith from last year's game. Similarly, instead of Craig Sager (colorful suits and all), Cheryl Miller takes over the sideline reporting this year.

The presentation improvements give the gameplay a more authentic feel as well. New animations have been added for backward dribbling (only when walking), reach-from-behind steals, diving out of bounds to save the ball, and even stripping a player as he goes up for a shot. An animation has been added for step-throughs if you manage to get your defender up in the air on a fake, and talented dribblers can dribble out of double teams.

While signature animations were included in NBA 2K8, this year's game applies the same principle to defensive players for the first time. Premier perimeter defenders like Bruce Bowen, Shane Battier, and Ron Artest now have access to unique defensive animations as will shot blockers such as Marcus Camby and Kevin Garnett.

In addition to the more-cosmetic improvements in the game, new gameplay features have been added to make the game more realistic than NBA 2K8. While the breadth of plays has carried over from 2K8, the off-ball movement of your AI-controlled teammates is more consistent with the real NBA. Players automatically set off-ball screens to free up open teammates, cut to the rim when their defender cheats toward the ball, and generally space the court better. For those who do prefer calling set plays, 2K9's addition of inbounds plays should make the final minutes of close games a bit more technical.

The improved AI applies to pick-and-rolls as well. After calling for an on-ball screen (done by pressing down on the right analog stick this year), players will either roll or pop depending on their actual tendencies.

While the shooting remains mapped to the right analog (shot) stick this year, NBA 2K9 will let you modify the type of shot in midair (by directing the shot stick in a different direction) to avoid getting blocked. Though the practical application of modifying your shots in midair may require an unreal understanding of how different animations interact together, it does open the door to some sick double-clutch moves.

The transition game should also take a turn for the better in NBA 2K9 with the ability to queue multiple passes. This should make give-and-goes more seamless in transition and even open up new possibilities in the half-court against aggressive opponents. In fact, there may be more application for give-and-goes than in years past. NBA 2K9 lets you set a defensive strategy for each of your players individually. You can direct your AI teammates to conservatively maintain position, to play aggressively to force turnovers, or even to leave their man to double a particular player when he receives the ball (yep, Rondo's inability to shoot will hurt Celtic players this year).

Like the AI defense, the user-controlled defense will see its share of changes this year. Gone is the old "lock-on defense" trigger that would enable Shaq to man up on Chris Paul. In its place is a new adjustable lock-on feature that simply directs your defender three to four feet in from of the ball handler. A small meter that looks like a cellphone bar will appear below your defender and will show you how far off you are from your opponent. While holding the lock-on trigger, you can push the right analog stick toward your opponent to close the distance and pressure the ball or even favor a particular side.

While 2K9 does include a healthy dose of gameplay improvements, the physics in the game are still not as sharp as they could be. These include herky-jerky animation transitions (especially when the user changes his mind mid-animation), offensive players not falling to the ground on a charge or block (the defenders do though), play immediately stopping when the whistle blows following a foul or violation (the ball immediately drops from the player's hands), and small guards sometimes sinking seemingly impossible shots while surrounded by bigs and other times getting rejected from behind (it seems arbitrary). You will still run into occasional clipping issues, but the 2K team has tweaked the game to eliminate the missing wide-open layups. The majority of the above are known issues, though, and are still being worked on.

All of the game modes from NBA 2K8 return in this year's game. While the blacktop and dunk contests are similar to last year's modes, NBA 2K9's franchise mode (the Association) has been improved to provide a more immersive experience. The Association includes additional in-game tutorials to make the mode more user-friendly (a knock against many 2K games in the past). In addition to a new trading AI, which should provide a more authentic franchise experience, trades involving more than three players/picks per team are now possible (though 2K wouldn't say how many). Although the Association has seen additional upgrades as well, the rest is still under wraps at this point.

One game mode that should add a new element to the game this year is five-on-five online play. Judging by some of the off-ball controls that 2K has added, the developers have clearly benefited from seeing a similar feature released earlier this year in NBA Live 08 (via a patch). Additional controls have been provided for players without the ball, including the ability to hold and grab your opponent (though a foul will occasionally be called). On the other side, players attempting to get free from a defender can slap hands away and make fake first steps to create separation. Even the controls for setting picks and drawing charges seem as though they will be important to online play. To provide you with a better view of what your player sees, each player will play with a unique camera angle that will dynamically reposition itself to follow the action, though you can always switch to the default camera if you don't like the perspective.

New animations, such as blocks from behind, will have you looking over your shoulder on every drive to the hoop.

Going a step further, 2K has also added a grading system that will let you provide feedback on how pleasurable your online experience was with each of your teammates. This will allow users to flag teammates who never pass the ball, who put up wild shots, or who refuse to defend their man. These "grades" will appear next to each user's name the next time they join a game.

Fans of the 2K franchises will be happy to hear that NBA 2K9 now supports 2K Share. This will let you share rosters, sliders, franchises, and even created players with your friends online. Now instead of thousands of players attempting to make Jordan, one person can just share his created Jordan with the rest of the world. Hopefully this will lead to the creation of some realistic old-school teams.

NBA 2K9 is better than last year's game in every regard. Everything that made last year's game such a success has been brought over, and new features such as an improved franchise mode and online five-on-five should add to the game's experience. Though with all the improvements in NBA Live this year, consumers may have a difficult choice this season.

Discussion

76 comments
snlmex
snlmex

ok i got the game for ps3 but i dont know how to create a player or team if u know please message me !! i need to know how

Amir29
Amir29

It will be another year before I finish "Association" on NBA 2K8, so I'll be skipping this year. But I have to say I liked 2K8 over Live by a lot last year. I'm glad to see that both are making such drastic improvements and have seemingly listened to us (the players). Well, I was just passing through to chack on things and already I'm saying to myself, "DAMN!! I can't wait for 2K10"!!

kenczx85
kenczx85

Know what I'm going to get this game for the sole reason that it's region free. Mine is an import x360 so regions matter. Just to show my support to 2k games for taking this great leap forward. I'll buy it. Unlike live 2009 or fifa 2009. Still making life difficult for people with their silly region lock and different release dates. How stupid and juvenile.

jknowledge84
jknowledge84

Wow, the fact that live is even being discussed in the same language as 2K is jacked up. Rookies stick to live, as for those with skill, ENJOY 2K.

Aktivmember
Aktivmember

NBA 2K8 was the best sports game i ever played... There is no dilemma between 2K and Live... 2K is miles ahead in just about everything and this year will be no exception... I still get amazed with 2K8 like the first day i got it...

texballla424
texballla424

are u serious people?!?! 2k is way better than live have u played the live 09 demo?????...... its terrible live 09 still does dumb things like shooting the ball through the hoop from the bottom of the basket and its going back threw and it counting and u have no control of whats happening on offense or defense. sure it may always look better than 2k series but it never plays or feels like real basketbal.......... ever!!!

djsiddiqi
djsiddiqi

damn so confused live or 2k....

ass895
ass895

yo its all about live and 2k but you can forget about nba 09

ChrisSpartan117
ChrisSpartan117

2008 could damn well be the best year in sports game history. Madden and NCAA were much better, Tiger Woods a little better, and NHL's franchise is getting better, and now we could have the most epic battle for the best basketball game this year. And that's saying something, because NBA Live 07 was awful.

itwiz90
itwiz90

OK, now I have a delimma, 2K9 or NBA LIVE 09, that is the question. :P 8)

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jdawg2519 put the gun down your on the edge of killing your self, 2k9 is worth every bit of its $60.., i would pay a 100 dollas if that was the price its alot of new features and inprovements 5 on 5 what can be better then that. and a new online mode that havent been mention yet, so u go ahead and stick with 08 while the rest are on 09 bragging to u about it, 2k never failed me its always somthing in that game every year that keeps you jumping out your chair,

GuanLee
GuanLee

I can say that 2k9 is worth the 60. There gameplay has always been superior and this year will be no different

jdawg2519
jdawg2519

Not worth the upgrade from 2k8

jdawg2519
jdawg2519

2k9 is not worth the 60 dollars, the player models will not get any better, and if they do, to see a players sweat run from his brow is not worth spending the 40 extra dollars! Know that... Just update the rosters.

sweetjunks
sweetjunks

2k has been better than live for the about 3-4 years now and as far as sonys nba game it don't even compare, I like sony but there NBA game is terrible

chrisiscool69
chrisiscool69

nba live blows, 2k has always been on top, 2k all the way baby!

GuanLee
GuanLee

nba 08 sucked and nba 09 is going to suck. live 08 was good and live 09 is going to be better. how will they stack up to nba 2k9? that remains to be seen.

bukkookkub
bukkookkub

I can't decide between supporting Sony with NBA 09, or go with 2k. 2k made the better bball game last year, but this years MLB 08 The show was impressive. If they carry that over to NBA 09, it's going to be hard.

jsagurit
jsagurit

Yes, 2K again this year. I hope in game commentaries are not too repeatitive, plus improved graphics... I hope they could bring back again the Streetball mode though..

JDubs07
JDubs07

Nba 2k9 is going to out do nba live this year just like they have been for the past 5 years (since Nba live 04). Right now, 2K sports just makes better basketball games than Ea sports, period.

JimmyJimJim
JimmyJimJim

Flipknoc are you a noob online?. Sounds like it.. Simply change to whatever defender you have down court and stop the PG... real hard :P

msspectac
msspectac

This is lookin real good. Gettin all three

swoosh18
swoosh18

The 2k series ALWAYS HAS and ALWAYS WILL Dominate the Live series. the graphics, the signature moves, association, everything made nba 2k8 way better than live. with its nasty graphics

flipknoc
flipknoc

How about PGs doing one-man fast breaks? They can run from one end to another in 2 seconds with no one stopping them. Hopefully 2K fixed that.

stickstick86
stickstick86

i think this year is going to be of nba 2k9 again

kkkkknaruto
kkkkknaruto

dis might be da yr nba live 09 tks control again

Nene33
Nene33

I just hope they fixed, how the CPU players sag off of the offense on switches and double-teams.

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theprocess420 Posted Aug 19, 2008 11:08 pm GMT After seeing the new 2k teaser trailer, I feel like they haven't improved on much of anything, I hate the way the players run and turn while dribbling towards the basket, that type of herky-jerkiness kills it for me. The player models look like wax figures come to life. I'm going to rent both and decide then. try watching the teaser on a big hd monitor did u see the face Cris made and body movement, better yet did u see the new glasses for the people who cant see the work 2k put in,..... HI HATER!! How You Doing

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lol @ el chup4cabra, you are right the manual didnt have any instructions, lol that show's 2k put in alot of work when making a game they forgot the instructions, the makers of nba2k are players,they already know how to play who needs them, i didnt need a manual its like i was born to do this nba2k thing

met7
met7

Iam definetly getting this one,altought i may get live just 4 the fiba teams.

her0carn
her0carn

Whats better Live or 2K ?

el_chup4cabra
el_chup4cabra

But will it have a halfway decent instruction manual?! To explain all the ISO moves, shot stick, etc. I got 2K8 after not having played since 2K1 and was lost when it came to how to do anything beyond the basics, and even those took some time to get down.

maaly81
maaly81

this is my game!!! Cant wait till this comes out. hope they made the dunk contest easier. and play after the whistle should be a must

AndyTSJ
AndyTSJ

Can't wait for this one to drop. 2k hoops is always a pleasurable experience :)

ironfist562
ironfist562

I dont know i mean bean games look a lot better this year. I still think theyll have a couple flaws so i think ill just wait and rent them both.

ironfist562
ironfist562

I dont know i mean bean games look a lot better this year. I still think theyll have a couple flaws so i think ill just wait and rent them both.

derzp
derzp

2K Share!!!! Great idea!

comedian31
comedian31

i am really liking the 2k share feature. the inbounds plays sound like a good addition as well. if some of the bugs in this article are fixed, this is definitely a game i will buy.

gunittv
gunittv

2k owns ea every year

theprocess420
theprocess420

After seeing the new 2k teaser trailer, I feel like they haven't improved on much of anything, I hate the way the players run and turn while dribbling towards the basket, that type of herky-jerkiness kills it for me. The player models look like wax figures come to life. I'm going to rent both and decide then.

Kensaku
Kensaku

I agree with osonaiya. While pretty graphics and new animations make the experience better, the core should always be gameplay and natural flow of basketball. I've yet to really encounter a game that can do that great. 2K8 did it pretty good, but not that good. I never ran the set plays because the timing, execution, and the flow of them make them inefficient. Let's see if they can improve on that, starting with a basic 2 on 1 fast break.

tennisacerg
tennisacerg

always NBA 2k9 for me this game sounds sweet

sleepyj327
sleepyj327

NBA 2k series has a step ahead of the Live series but u have to admit that the live series is getting better because it used to suck badly, now it only sucks a little bit (i will be getting NBA 2k9 of course)

snake3rules
snake3rules

nbk 2k is leaps and bounds (no pun intended) better than the live series... so many different moves and options, plus if you ever actually played basketball in real life, it just plays like a real game of basketball, with pacing, player movement, etc-- which is something that live has pretty much never managed to do ...

abduba
abduba

that was deep prashanta7

cashmonkey78
cashmonkey78

This game looks promising. My bro & friends swear by this franchise and since I freed up $60 from not purchasing Madden (again) & not having an APF 2K9, I will have to search for another sports fix.