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NBA Live 09 vs. NBA 2K9


nba live 09          nba 2k9

NBA Live 09 (left); NBA 2K9 (right)


With exclusivity deals by both respective publishers in football (Electronic Arts) and baseball (2K Sports), there’s still a fierce competition between the two companies for bragging rights as the best National Basketball Association game for the Xbox 360: EA’s NBA Live 09 versus 2K Sports’ NBA 2K9. While both are worthy title contenders, as in the NBA, there can be only one true champion. After breaking them down in the following categories, a singular title holder will be chosen.

Although NBA Live 09 may be the more comprehensive game, featuring an intense amount of control over many facets of an actual game of basketball with Defensive Lockdown, Quick-Strike Ankle Breakers, Signature Playcalling and Pick and Roll Control, the average hoops gamer won’t implement much of these available features into play during the course of a typical game. More advanced and hardcore




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basketball gamers will appreciate NBA Live 09’s complexity on the court.

Free-throw shooting is much easier in NBA Live 09, relying on a button timing schematic, than in the thumbstick-controlled charity stripe shot in NBA 2K9. And those free throws can be very important in a close contest, so having a much easier shooting setup definitely improves the chances of not wasting those


precious free points, something that happens in NBA 2K9.

However, even without matching the amount of playcalling features or easier free-throw shot of its rival, NBA 2K9 still plays a better on-court game of NBA basketball.


Easily the most one-sided competition is the visual presentation aspect, where NBA 2K9 is far and away the more graphically excellent game, with more fluid and lifelike animation of the respective NBA players on the court. Playing NBA 2K9 almost gives one the impression of watching an actual NBA broadcast on television. NBA Live 09 doesn’t come close to the stellar player appearance of its competitor, with the NBAers all looking similar to each other with very little of the defining qualities there is in NBA 2K9.

Where NBA Live 09 has a slight advantage is in the sound department. Even though NBA 2K9 appears just as good as a NBA telecast with gamers as an outside observer, NBA Live 09 gives gamers an overwhelming sense of being at the game in the stands with completely realistic crowd reactions and cheering. That shouldn’t be a surprise to any gamer, as EA’s sports games have always been superior to its competitors as far as providing ultra-realistic, roar-of-the-crowd sounds (including cheers, jeers and even some singing). NBA 2K9’s crowds too often sound like nothing more than white noise in the background.

Neither game stands out particularly with its announcing tandem and courtside reporters. NBA Live 09 has the advantage of the ESPN branding integrated into it, including ESPN radio news updates. However, inexplicably, the updates are seemingly always a day behind with yesterday’s news, while the news crawl at the bottom of NBA 2K9 reflects the current sports news of the day. Both titles feature an impressive constant roster updating that reflects the actual current rosters that particular day (with trades and injuries accounted for in lineups) of the NBA teams.


nba live 09          nba 2k9

If gamers have a passion for world basketball, then NBA Live 09 is their game, with a full FIBA World Championship mode with 24 international teams vying for the true world championship. That’s pretty much the only extra offering that EA’s game has over its 2K Sports counterpart.

NBA 2K9 has a whole package of modes and mini-games that is reminiscent of another EA basketball franchise, NBA Street. If gamers enjoy the “street” aspect of hoops, then NBA 2K9 has it covered in its NBA Blacktop mode with a three-point shootout, dunk contest, games of 21 or even pickup games, all held at one of the world’s most famous hoops meccas, New York City’s Rucker Park.

So, there’s the choice: a globetrotting mode that has teams filled with players most gamers have never heard of, or the chance to partake in some greatly entertaining “street” hoops action. This reviewer selects the street scene each and every time.


Both titles have strong online modes, with generally smooth gameplay once an Xbox Live game begins. NBA Live 09 has Total Team Control online play, with 10 players able to take control of a singular player on the court. NBA 2K9’s answer is the 5-on-5 online Off Ball Control. And there are online leagues for each respective game. So no one game stands above the rim over the other with respect to online gameplay. However, NBA Live 09 has a much cleaner and easier-to-navigate interface, and connecting to other online gamers is more streamlined and somewhat quicker than can be done in NBA 2K9.

With much better gameplay and presentation values along with more extras and modes that gamers will actually want to play and a good online setup, a closely contested battle reminiscent of a classic NBA title series has NBA 2K9 hoisting the trophy over its head as the best NBA game of 2008.

- Lee Cieniawa

(December 23, 2008)


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