The NBA 09 The Inside Review

NBA 09 is a professional basketball game made by developers who have no clue how the game is played. Among the three basketball titles, the 2K series leads the pack in terms of simulation of this game with NBA Live pulling for the arcade market. The Live series has made improvements and attempts to get closer and closer to sim gameplay, but ultimately fell short thanks to unrealism and just a lack of polish all around. This game does nothing to approach simulation, but if you are looking for offense this game may be for you.

A basic game of basketball is easy to pick up and play - offense anyway. You will notice quickly that while your offense is easy once you learn the controls (2's at least), the CPU offense has an even easier time of navigating through even your best attempts at defense. The bigger issue is that the computer can play good defense and tends to easily pick off bad passes, or passes that looked good at one point anyway. This means that you miss a shot or two a game and have a few turnovers, there's a very good chance you will lose by four points if you can only score points. I was actually able to start playing good defense thanks to learning to play with a big man, but even then this was the only form of defense I could ever play, and it is not like it worked every time.

There are many more nagging failings of this game. The lack of controls and the fact that nowhere are all the controls fully explained just leaves it harder for anyone to pick up the game and play it to the fullest; it's hard to explain, but just know that the 2K series offers so many more controls. Then there are the constant glitches and miscues in the game design. You will find out in a hurry that this game makes no effort to help you stay in the field of play, and thanks to some awkward animations on every play, it's easy to turn the ball over this way; conversely, it's also possible to run out of bounds and come back in with no one the wiser. The lack of your team giving forth anything resembling competitive effort at getting a rebound is just unbelievable. You better not miss a shot or let an opposing big man get near a rebound because rebounds tend to magnetize to CPU players and your guys will just stand and watch the ball bounce away. I recall one play where my PG ran in for a rebound, the ball was on his body and Shaq was able to pull the ball through my guy's body and go up for an easy dunk. Finally, I think I shot about 10 free throws for all the games I played and the computer shot probably about a hundred. There's just no polish to these issues and had the devs tested the game a bit better, or brought in someone who knew basketball, maybe they could have easily fixed all of these.

The Life portion is part of the selling point of the commercials for the game, and that should have been a good indication that the mode would be horrible. It begins with a great intro and quite a dramatic buildup to your game in the d-league, but it soon loses all steam. You play anywhere from 10 seconds to three minutes of a game or some random mini game and must meet specific goals in order to advance. The result is an objective-based "quest" type of basketball campaign, but the scenarios are too short and too disjointed as far as where they fall into the player's actual timeline - you could be playing black top golf with your dad one minute and then you are playing the last few minutes of the NBA Finals. Even then, some of the moments would be epic if only there were some form of difficulty in getting shots, or if there was some energy from the crowd at seeing a rookie win a title, but you can get the four or so points for your character and then shoot the lights out with Kobe Bryant, or whoever is on your favorite team, and still pass the challenge.

The best part to The Life, and something that can be implemented to normal team rosters, is the player creation feature. You can make five different players and the customization tool is quite robust. The worst part is that the items and accessories are locked away until you gain enough experience points to level up yourself, and then you must spend tons of credits to buy them. These credits are gained through making plays in a game, and they are used to give your characters stats. This means that before you play The Life you can play a few quick games, get some credits, make a character that's really good, and then enter one of the stories with a premium talent. The credit system and player creation tool could have both been something to make this title stand out and maybe offer a slight RPG element worth the effort, but it all seems mismanaged and nothing more than an entertaining distraction. Most sports games give you full access to making any player you want, so it's almost like this game takes that and charges you taxes in the form of time.