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Nothing but net! Reviews of basketball video games



Swish! It’s basketball time again. Will Kevin Garnett and the Celtics triumph again? Will the Knicks ever get better? Most important, are the roundball video games worth your hard-earned $50 to $60? Well, yes and no.

The offerings from EA and 2K Sports are generally better than ever — except for one thing: advertising. Cell-phone services, energy drinks, soda drinks, basketball shoes. It’s just too much. But if you block out the ads in your mind and focus on the game, you’re in for a real treat.

NBA 2K9

NBA 2K9
2K Sports for PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, PC. Reviewed on Xbox 360.

Graphics:
7.5
Sound: 7.5
Gameplay: 7.5
Replay Value: 9.0
Overall Score: 8.0
Pros: Many modes, Living Rosters, lots of different player animations.
Cons: Too much advertising, drop in frame rate off and online.

There are so many options for gameplay, hip-hop music, online play, coaching, fantasy teams and real-time scores, you may never get to everything, even if you play NBA 2K9 all year. The graphic look here is a little grittier than the other games. It’s like a battle as much as it is a game.

The downside? Some players are invincible. And because so many players are moving at once, not to mention the coach, the cheerleaders and the crowd, you’re going to get some serious drops in frame rate.

Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re playing a game that’s as choppy as a YouTube video, but with better graphics. Sometimes it looks like a head is Photoshopped onto a body—as with Lakers coach Phil Jackson. And while the crowd has been improved graphically from last year, they still look like zombies.

But mainly you’ll be in for fine gameplay with varied animations by every player on the court. Each star player retains his own signature moves and dunks. To block or shoot, you can use either a button or the right stick, a nice option. With the proper combination of buttons and stick, you seem to be able to pull off just about any human-like move.

There’s a stat system that mirrors what happens in real life. This Living Rosters option is updated weekly if you have a broadband connection. If a player gets injured in real life, he’ll be out in your video game, too. You can turn this option off, if you like.

NBA LIVE 09

NBA Live 09

Electronic Arts for PS2, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360, PSP. Reviewed on Xbox 360.

Graphics: 8.0

Sound: 7.5

Gameplay: 8.0

Replay Value: 9.0

Overall Score: 8.0

Pros: Many modes, Dynamic DNA, very intuitive controls.

Cons: Too much advertising, drop in frame rate off and online.

I like the look and play of EA’s NBA Live 09 game a bit better. The play is more intuitive. For me, it’s just easier to shoot foul throws. All you do is make sure you time your throw according to the meter placed on the backboard. It’s simpler to block shots as well. That’s because the camera seems to know you have to see in the paint in order to block. That sounds like a slam-dunk. But the other games aren’t as good at this.

The upshot? The look here is cleaner overall. The cheerleaders don’t look as detailed as in NBA 2K9, but the crowd does, and they seem alive. Each time you make a basket, there’s a small icon on the bottom left of the screen urging you to pull the left trigger so you can see a replay.

EA’s version of Living Roster is called Dynamic DNA. Someone must be working really hard at the company because these stats are updated daily, not weekly.

Finally, when the game is loading, you don’t have to simply sit there. You can take a few practice shots with a player in the gym. Overall, NBA Live 09 feels more natural than its competitor, and its attention to detail is top notch.

NBA 09 THE INSIDE

NBA 09 The Inside

SCEA for PS2, PS3, PSP. Reviewed on PS3.

Graphics: 8.5

Sound: 7.0

Gameplay: 6.5

Replay Value: 7.5

Overall Score: 7.5

Pros: Great graphics, varied soundtrack, story mode.

Cons: Artificial intelligence (AI) is lacking, must load game onto console, drop in frame rate off and online, story mode is short.

Over on the PS3 front, Sony has released NBA 09 The Inside, a game that unfortunately has its issues. Before you play for the first time, you have to wait about five minutes for game data to be loaded onto your PS3. That’s a buzz kill.

While the HD graphics in 1080 p are amazingly lifelike and there are fewer in-game ads, the artificial intelligence isn’t as fine-tuned as in the other two games. In my many quarters of play, Kevin Garnett kept stepping out of bounds like a rookie.

There’s a story mode to take you through the life of an NBA player, but it’s not deep enough. Even the novice will get through it in a few hours. And there’s nothing like Dynamic DNA in the game. Plus, the announcers don’t seem excited, and the crowd seems to be in part of the screen that’s darkened for some reason. Ultimately, The Inside seems more like an arcade game than a deep simulation.

NBA LIVE 09 ALL-PLAY

NBA Live 09 All-Play

Electronic Arts for Wii

Graphics: 6.5

Sound: 7.0

Gameplay: 5.0

Replay Value: 6.5

Overall Score: 6.0

Pros: Easy to play, fun to do alley-oops, WNBA players.

Cons: Not enough defensive play, AI is lacking, no online play.

I’d stay away from the one Wii game for b-ball, NBA Live 09 All-Play. There is one big plus here: You can play with any of 22 WNBA players. Yet there’s not much challenge to this arcade game that puts too much focus on offense. Players who aren’t known for their three-point skills can almost always make these shots from downtown.

The defense is pretty miserable. It is fun to get a player to make an alley-oop by pressing A and B at once. But it’s just too easy to do. I understand the game is made for players of all ages, and that’s a good thing. But making it simple enough so a raisin could play is another thing altogether. They’ll probably get this down when they redo All-Play next year. But right now, rent the game before you buy to see if you like it.

There’s no online competition with All-Play. But NBA 2K9 and NBA Live 09 have it for the PS3 and 360. The Inside has it for the PS3. All of it works pretty well, although you will see occasional sputtering and drop of frame rate as you play with pals, which is due to the strength of your broadband signal more than anything else.

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