“NBA Live 09 on Playstation 2: Where Jason Richardson gives Wilt Chamberlain a run for his money.”
This year, the PS2 version commendably includes a few more features from the 360/PS3 version but for the most part plays a lot like Last Gen NBA Live 08. NBA Live 09 PS2 includes Player DNA but as far as I can tell that borders on false advertising since the PS2 version’s idea of Player DNA simply appears to be the old View Player screen rather than any kind of updated AI. As such, don’t expect to see Paul Pierce preferring to go left or right, Steve Nash pulling up rather than driving or Richard Hamilton utilising a lot of screens.While NBA Live on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 has continued to move forward and show improvement after a bit of a shaky start on the latest generation consoles, NBA Live on the previous generation has actually regressed the last couple of years. PC players were angered by the announcement that NBA Live 09 would be a console only release but if NBA Live returns to the PC next year as an Xbox 360 port as expected, it may be a blessing in disguise as there’s no way a PS2 port would have been satisfactory this year.
Perhaps the best additions are an expanded team practice and FIBA World Championship mode. As with the 360/PS3 version, the PS2 offers a complete FIBA tournament with the same 24 national teams and offers the same simulation and intervention features as Dynasty Mode. Team Practice is nowhere near as extensive as the NBA Academy but it does let you play a five on five scrimmage or practice certain plays and gameplay situations. You can also set rules such as three pointers only or no dunks to make things more challenging, which is nice.
Ironically, the PS2 version’s Be a Pro Mode is more extensive than the one found in the 360/PS3 version, offering a full season of play locked to the player of your choice, be it an existing NBA player or a custom player that you create. You’re presented with different tasks before each game and if you achieve them you earn points which you can use to develop your player as the season progresses. As a single player career mode it seems decent enough though you can’t sub the player you’ve selected out manually, meaning you’ll quite often end up playing the whole game.
There has been no improvement in the gameplay and although it’s still nice to see features like Hotspots and Defensive Assist in the game, they don’t really come into play. If the CPU wants to hit a shot or get to the basket, it’s going to happen. You can make the odd good defensive play but for the most part it’s a matter of who makes the least mistakes offensively and puts up points the quickest. Players do fatigue and substitutions exist (at least when you’re playing with longer quarter lengths) but the sub patterns are weird and the minutes are not distributed realistically.While the new additions are decent, the existing features are for the most part very disappointing. Dynasty Mode retains the PDA format, devoid of any negotiation mini-games or other additions we’ve seen in the 360/PS3 version’s Dynasty Mode. Simulated statistics are absolutely atrocious, a repeat of last year’s debacle with centres leading the league in three point shooting and assists, league leaders in blocks and steals averaging less than one per game and scoring leaders pushing the 50 ppg mark. This is inexcusable after last year and remains a huge detriment to the game. The ability to select 29 and 58 game seasons is back but it really doesn’t matter as Dynasty Mode’s other shortcomings do not give you much incentive to play any length of season.
To give you a rundown of what you can expect of the gameplay (and explain that tagline I opened the review with), I played a game against the Bobcats using the Bulls on twelve minute quarters. I felt like quitting after the first seven or eight minutes (never a good sign) but I stuck it out in the interest of writing a fair review. Sadly, the issues that plagued those first seven or eight minutes continued throughout the game leaving me far from pleased with the final result.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the CPU does not bother to run plays or take any time setting up its offense as it did as recently as NBA Live 06 and NBA Live 07. It’s looking to score from the time it gets the ball across halfcourt, usually with a shot in the paint and as I mentioned before apart from the odd good defensive play here or there, your efforts usually don’t seem to matter unless you make a steal or block. After the first seven minutes, the CPU had scored 28 points and had eight steals, while shooting a blistering 13/15 from the field. All but four of those shots were in the paint with only one shot within ten feet being missed.
Richardson’s record breaking scoring isn’t the only gripe however. Despite both teams taking a lot of shots in the paint (when I finally realised pounding it inside and going for a dunk or layup each time was the only way I was going to score consistently) there were no free throw attempts by either team and the first foul did not occur until I committed one intentionally. The first foul was called on the CPU with six minutes left in the third quarter (a charge) which was the only foul it was called for the entire game. I had a few more called on me after that for a final combined total of eight foulsBy the end of the first quarter they’d scored 47 points and Jason Richardson was on his way to a big night with 24 points on 11/13 field goals. Neither team had committed a foul and the Bobcats had only missed six out of 28 shots, leading me 47-22. By the time I realised the only way I was going to make the game competitive was to play unrealistically, it was too late to make a big enough dent in their lead. Richardson continued his dominant play in the second quarter, ending the first half with 50 points (24/29 FG), which was about the time I came up with that opening tagline. He had 78 points by the end of the third (38/45 FG) and tied the record with 2:02 remaining in the fourth before scoring his 102nd point 36 seconds later, finally reaching the 104 point mark (on an astounding 51/59 from the field) with 1:03 left and ended up playing the entire game. He did miss a jumper with sixteen seconds left though, proving he’s human after all.
The “blocks count for two missed shots” and turnover deflection bugs seem to have been fixed but you’ll still rack up plenty of turnovers thanks to the ease of stealing the ball and the ridiculous amount of interceptions. You can always reduce the sliders of course but considering all this is happening on the Simulation slider settings it’s still a joke. There’s also a nifty Timeout Menu feature that you can access by pressing Triangle when timeout has been called but if you’re not quick enough, there’s no way to make substitutions as you can’t pause the game once the timeout cutscene begins. Bottom line, if realism is your bag then NBA Live 09 PS2 is definitely not for you.
With the gameplay so lacking and unsuitable for simulation junkies and Dynasty Mode being similarly flawed, NBA Live 09 is not very appealing as a single player game. However, even if you’re not too concerned with realistic stats and the like, you’ll still have to spend some time fixing the rosters. Outdated rosters and missing players are forgiveable as the roster cutoff date makes that an inevitability but there are all kinds of errors in the rosters: incorrect player positions (not just switched primary and secondary positions but Randolph Morris being a point guard), grossly underrated players (Linas Kleiza a 56 overall player with woeful individual ratings) as well as grossly overrated players (Josh McRoberts an 86 overall player) and even database errors such as Denver having no starting centre by default, Marcus Williams (the one who played for the Clippers last year) having Maurice Williams’ portrait, ratings and some of his bio data; all very sloppy mistakes.
NBA Live 09 on the Playstation 2 is an inexcusably sloppy product that fails to deliver anywhere near satisfactory results for the sim-orientated fan and contains several issues that should have been addressed the last couple of years running. If you’re not too concerned with realism or prefer multiplayer games then you might get some value out of it but if realism is what you want, stear clear of this one. Upgrade to either an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 or wait for what should hopefully be an Xbox 360 port on the PC next year.