NBA Live 09 Updated Hands-On

EA Sports shows off the science of hoops, and we get a hands-on look.

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While EA Sports' upcoming NBA Live 09 is going to be full of new features, the recently announced Dynamic DNA feature seems to be the big one on the list, if only judged by the developer's recent press events. The new feature--which keeps the virtual players in the game playing just like their real-life counterparts thanks to complex scouting data and downloadable updates for the game--was first introduced at E3 2008 during EA's press conference. Yesterday, EA threw its annual summer press event, where once again NBA Live 09 and Dynamic DNA took center stage, and we had a chance to play the game to see how the feature is coming along.

Tony Parker's real life tendencies make him a great floor general and a scoring threat up close.

Along with presenting five real-life NBA stars (Andre Iguodala, Rudy Gay, Brandon Roy, Andrea Bargnani, and Live 09 cover athlete Tony Parker), on hand to check out the game, record some motion capture, and chat with the media, EA once again gave a quick presentation of the DNA feature, which looks to capture the real-life tendencies of both individual players and entire teams. Players are broken down not just by their hot spots on the floor, but by their tendency to move left or right on a defender at any spot on the court, as well as their propensity to shoot.

In addition, the DNA data will record what kind of play a particular player prefers to run--everything from isolation, to pick and roll, to off-ball screens. Combine all these tendencies and you'll have a pretty complete picture of how a player competes. For example, in NBA Live 09, Tony Parker is noted as a pick and roll ball handler, one who rarely shoots from outside, instead preferring to shoot from the left side of the baseline and who likes to move left at the top of the key. Like Parker, Brandon Roy's DNA pegs him as a pick and roll ball handler; unlike Tony, however, Roy is more dangerous on the right side of the baseline, but is liable to go left or right on a defender when playing on the left side of the hoop down low.

What does this kind of information do for you as a player of NBA Live 09? Well, perhaps most obviously, careful study of a team's players will let you better understand how to be effective with them. There's no point in trying to take three-point shots with Iguodala on the right side--he's pretty ineffective there. However, he's got a hot spot beyond the three-point line on the right that you can exploit. Understanding your team will help you better call smarter plays on the court. If you know Brandon Roy likes to run the pick and roll, you can get him in position to make the most of his talent.

For the truly serious, the DNA feature will be an ideal way to scout opponent teams controlled by the Live 09 AI. After all, unlike a human opponent (especially a skilled one), who can't be as easily predicted, the Live 09 AI players will play as their tendencies compel them. So if you've got a crucial division game with a playoff spot on the line, a little time scouting your opponent's tendencies is time well spent.

In terms of gameplay, NBA Live 09 feels much like the Live you've come to be used to. Live 09 is still not a very fast game, and players don't always get downcourt as quickly as you might expect them to. In addition, the ball still tends to feel a bit floaty at times, especially during long passes that don't always go in the direction you might have intended (if you're not familiar with it yet, you'll do well to acclimate to icon passing as soon as possible). You can see the work the development team has put into branching animations in the game--it's now easier to interrupt animations, such as passing out of an ill-advised shot attempt--and while there's still more work to be done, development is indeed progressing.

Live 09 also has some new control wrinkles to note. First is a new free throw mechanic. The last few games in the series have used the right stick for free throws. That's been replaced this year with button shooting. When you take your free throw, a small horizontal meter appears on the backboard. To start your shot, hold down the shoot button. The meter begins to move left to right and, to make your shot, you have to let go of the shoot button when the meter reaches the green zone. Depending on a player's shooting ability, that green zone will be smaller or larger. To add to the challenge, your multiplayer opponent can choose to rattle you by "buzzing" your controller with the rumble feature. We're not 100 percent sold on the new system--free throws seem more automatic for real NBA players (Shaq excluded) than they are in the game--but at the very least it seems a bit better than the old system. Another new shooting wrinkle is the return of timed shooting; you now need to release the shot button at the top of a player's arc to maximize your chance of making a shot.

You can call plays by pressing the left bumper and choosing the play you wish to run from a pop-up menu that appears. A faster play call option is the Y button (on the Xbox 360 controller); pressing it will automatically call the "best" play for that situation based on your team's DNA data. You can also bring up a player's hot zones by clicking on the left stick (though we wish the information would come up a bit quicker than it did in the version we played; the slight lag between the press of the button and the appearance of the hot zones was frustrating).

Know your players' tendencies and your playbook, and you'll be that much closer to a win.

After a game is done, you'll get a complete breakdown of your player stats, as well as a thorough DNA report of every player on the floor--though it occurs to us that this is really a breakdown of how you played the game, not necessarily a reflection of the actual player's tendencies. Then again, learning your own tendencies probably isn't all that bad a thing, especially if it makes you a better player in the end.

We've seen a lot of the Dynamic DNA feature and, while it seems like a neat addition to the series, we're ready to see what the rest of the game has to offer. After all, NBA Live 09 will also feature a hoops version of the suddenly ubiquitous Be a Pro mode; and we hope to see how the online play has progressed since last year's promising postrelease addition of online team play. Stay tuned for more on these and other features as we continue to follow NBA Live 09's progress in the coming weeks.

Discussion

72 comments
Vito2323
Vito2323

The worst basketball game ever.

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texballla424
texballla424

r u serious people the live demo is so horrible it makes me cry. still looks good probably better than 2k9 but still doesnt play or feel like real basketball. still way too herky/jerky and u have no control over what u do except shooting on offense or defense. u just do what the animations tell u to. every reach is a foul even on animations and u can pump fake and go around a guy everytime even on superstar......the more u play the demo the more terrible things u see happen i promise its gets worse and worse!! =( 2k9 all the way!!

Giflow
Giflow

I played the demo,the game has improved the graphics are superb(visuals seems to be superior to 2k9 in every area),but the gameplay is a little herky jerky/slow or unresponsive compared to the 2k series,everything always seems to be a second late and it doesnt have to many defensive animations as far as blocks and steals but the cpu controlled players play realistic which i enjoyed but i think i might still prefer 2k9 over live because of faster,responsive and smoother gameplay but i wished 2k9 had live's visuals i was blown away surprisingly,but i think im going with 2k yet again.

RIZDRAVER
RIZDRAVER

I just played the demo. Live 09 unfortunately has all of the same problems as 08: stadiums WAY too dark, weird bouncey physics, ball floats around, overall sloppy control of the players. I had high hopes for this years's game and I'm honestly really let down. EA can completely focus on the DNA system all they want; the gameplay still is really horrible. I wish they would stop with the bonus features and simply focus on the heart of the game: gameplay and animations.

64316431
64316431

anyone play the demo? how does it play

comptonst
comptonst

After playing the demo of this game it feels like they improved it so much and im actually thinking about buying this over 2k9. But I gotta wait till 2k9 demo comes out, whenever that will be, and then ill make my decision. But Live 09 is lookin real awesome right now.

comptonst
comptonst

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ultralesus
ultralesus

Could be the first year I've picked Live of 2K since 05. Dynamic DNA sounds really interesting... A game that evolves in real-time to the actual NBA season? It's got me excited. Looks like Peter Moore is earning his bucks...

inscript
inscript

-2k sports fan since 2k... lol nbalive was good back in the 90s til i met my dreamcast that sexy lil thing introduced me to 2k football 2k tennis, baseball and NBA2k once i met nba2k and saw when the ball was passed and hit a player on his head, i was like wdf, lol all of my playstation nba lives went to the dump, all the improving live did in each year couldnt amount to 1 2k adjustment,wait let me stop bashing and give credit live have some good graphics, from what ive been reading live is barrowing a few features from nba2k8...WHY???

Hunger4mo
Hunger4mo

2K is producing the better basketball experience because of the game play, PERIOD. yes, Live's graphics are much better but who really cares it it's pretty to look at if you the gameplay sucks? I never even consider purchasing Live each year; my only hope is that 2K doesn't get lazy and drop the ball . If it's a scenario where i'm picking the lesser of 2 evils, I wont buy a bball game that year.

ericjohnson1987
ericjohnson1987

NBA Live looks better then NBA 2K. NBA 2K plays better then NBA Live. Lets be honest the graphics on NBA 2K is weak. NBA Live graphics everything looks great.

cosmothehound
cosmothehound

2k would be good if the graphics werent so bad.

NBAGrizzlies09
NBAGrizzlies09

philly your not worth my time and stop worrying about what others say you follower be a leader and come up with your own opinions because everyone dont have the same likes and dislikes idiot

strawberry9
strawberry9

I always buy 2k... and rent live... because live is not worth my money

philly215
philly215

EA+ BASKETBALL = FAIL 2K + BASKETBALL = PURE BLISS no need for spelllin there grizzly...besides look at this forum 3 ppl agree with you.....the other 4 pages share my sentiment

CMakaCreative
CMakaCreative

Looking at the pics, it doesn't look too terrible but I can't wait to see what they do with the next gen machines. The players would look even more real & maybe one day, they fans will actually be watching the game. Neither game has mastered the fan look or reaction. In these pics, the fans aren't even watching the action. Maybe there's a fight going on, on the other side of the court. Anyways, it all sounds promising but can EA deliver?????

CMakaCreative
CMakaCreative

I got hopes for Live. I haven't played it since....hmmm...I think it was Kidd on the cover & that wasn't that great of a game. 2K has been my main supplier for my B-Ball habit. But I would like to see Live drop a gem on us. It's due mannn. I remember when Live was the sh*t.....now it's just plays like sh*t. C'mon EA, step ya b-balling skills up, you owe your customers. And by the way, Parker finger is ET long, holy smokes. Now I know why Eva married him.

IIIverson
IIIverson

i think this year's nba live will actually be good

NBAGrizzlies09
NBAGrizzlies09

i swear everytime time philly post a comment he displays more stupidity,how the whole gaming community is behind you if plenty of people love live and other ea titles.I have played numerous live games and i have to say from gameplay to graphics this one looks best...p.s philly stay in school because your spelling is horrible

is0lati0n
is0lati0n

2K will conquer this years basketball sim for sure.

melo_211
melo_211

EA says the same thing every year, and it turns out terrible...I've been a 2K fan since 2K5

philly215
philly215

trust ive seent he videos same lame ish from EA every year...you sound like you have baby sensitive skin when foolin around with EA marketing you prolly go "OOOOH PRETTY LIGHTS AND DNA" when you make sales decisions at wal mart....your opinion is useless 98% of the gaming community is behind me...and i am behind your mother so now everyones satisfied

brian3434
brian3434

the only thing i have against nbagrizzlies09 is that he says haters too much and uses "n" too much. other than that you guys all sound like retards he actually sounds smart

NBAGrizzlies09
NBAGrizzlies09

wow its so funny how stupid u are n first off i dont work for EA n second im speakin sense instead of nonsense like u ...in which u diss games without playin them ...really its patheic ...n this game does seem good i watch the gameplay videos n it looks great but i bet u havent watched them...so get your head out your ass n stop hatin

philly215
philly215

and NBAGRIZLLIES your a paid executive...its very obvious oyu work for EA when 30 people here say the games gonna suck....and even the moderate gamers say it looks like crap then you come out the woodworks singin praises....you look suspicious just go away you payroll gamer

philly215
philly215

tommy tucker your crazy....read this "In terms of gameplay, NBA Live 09 feels much like the Live you've come to be used to." that goes to show this game is crap....like very other live....please dont come here and hype ish up

NoseWeed619
NoseWeed619

Sounds like this could be one of the best sports games of the year. But that's just me. Who knows, maybe Madden 09 will be better?

NBAGrizzlies09
NBAGrizzlies09

no 2k5 doesnt near by dominate madden u must be crazy 2k needs to stick to basketball cuz their football games sucked n i have played them to give that opinion n philly grow up hater....smh

philly215
philly215

NBAGizzles08 I htae on EA because i dont like THEIR FACE.....what?? what?? say somethin!!

whereswaldo976
whereswaldo976

actually 2k made their game suck because ea stole the rights to make an nfl game. espn 2k5 still dominates madden

NBAGrizzlies09
NBAGrizzlies09

no philly im a person with sense unlike u who goes to threads n hate n complain but 1 question if u dont like ea games why u even bother to read about the games...just to hate i bet get a life loser...n madden always been better then 2k football thats why 2k made their lame football game cheap to try n keep up in sells with madden n i played both n madden has football on lock n 2k has ea in basketball for now...so all u haters get on somewhere

NBAGrizzlies09
NBAGrizzlies09

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NBAGrizzlies09
NBAGrizzlies09

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saiyanman5215
saiyanman5215

so that's all anyone took from this preview? Tony Parker's finger is too long? right? right?..........

CaShmOn3y
CaShmOn3y

2k baketball is way better than live. and for those who say that madden was and is better than 2k football (speaking for 2k5 and before that), you guys suck!

Odin1396
Odin1396

Lol another year where live can't touch 2k. Balllllllin

blueguykisame
blueguykisame

in that picture, as ohjtbehaaave and snake22.. stated, Parker's index is a little large compared to the rest of his fingers.. Oo anyways the game looks good but I dont know wether or not i'll buy this over 2k9.

philly215
philly215

HEY! NBAGrizzlies09 ... who are you? CAPTAIN SAVE-A-GAME ?? shutta ya mouf! CAPISCHE??

Cexr
Cexr

Sorry EA, i'm gonna stick with 2k9, they simply made the hot zone stuff last year, that means they're a year ahead you, i simply like things well done, expect the best for my money.