NBA 2K9 dribbles into stores October 7, and from what we've seen, this year's edition is another slam-dunk for 2K Sports. Not only does it feature better looking players and animations, but the addition of online five-on-five play and Living Rosters make it an essential pick-up for hoops fans. Whether or not its simulation-style play can top NBA Live's fast breaking antics, however, remains to be seen.
Five-on-five play lets you and friends form a team and challenge others to pick-up games. On offense, you'll run plays or set the pick for the ball carrier. On defense, you can double opposing players and even grab their jerseys to impede their progress, at least until the refs see you and call the foul. It's the addition of Living Rosters, however, that is the game's biggest feature. Similar to NBA Live's Dynamic DNA system, it feeds information from the actual NBA season into 2K9. As players change their tendencies and adopt new moves (or suck), that information is brought into the game, which not only changes someone's style (Dwayne Wade making more three pointers, for example), but also adds new animations and moves to their arsenal. Things will change throughout the year, so depending on how hardcore you are, you'll experience new stuff presumably every week, perhaps every day.
Other additions are more cosmetic and don't dramatically affect the game. A re-tooled Shot Stick (right analog) lets you alter your shot in mid air to avoid blocks. Adaptive artificial intelligence supposedly reacts to your strategies (players will post up or cut to the basket when you have the ball), though we've yet to see how this differs from what the computer does in previous NBA 2K games.
Although it's important to make on the court improvements, NBA 2K9 may not have the stuff to beat NBA Live, but thus far, we like what we've seen. New cut scenes show players taking practice shots before a game, better looking replays showcase your best highlights and the announce team of Clark Kellogg, Kevin Harlan and Cheryl Miller offer insightful commentary despite lacking the colorful banter between NBA Live's Marv Albert and Steve Kerr.
Our big concern, though, is the game's simulation heavy basketball. NBA 2K9 moves slower than NBA Live 09 and takes some hoops wit in order to be successful, so if you think you can get by with repeated alley-oops and dunks, think again. At the same time, that's what sets the series apart from the competition, so if you're like us, you'll purchase both.
Before you do, come back next week for our reviews of both games. Till then, check out our NBA 2K9 screenshots and get ready for us to dunk in your face online.