(Is it strange that Tony has more rings than KG?)
This weekend I had the chance to play both of the NBA games that matter, NBA 2K9 and NBA Live 2009 for the Xbox360. Initially going in, I had a bit of an axe to grind with both games for the mistakes thay had made in the previous years games, but this years versions suprised me. Instead of going on and on about each game individually, I'll draw up comparisons between the two, and note specific advantages one has over the other.
1) Play By Play Commentary:
Live= Steve Kerr and Marv Albert vs 2K9 = Clark Kellogg (WHAT???!?!) and Kevin Harlan.
This isn't even close, Live has this category won hands down. Clark Kellogg doesn't even do NBA broadcasts, in real life he handles college games for CBS. What happened to Kenny " The Jet" Smith? I'm gonna assume he asked for a bit too much money than 2K sports was willing to part with.
EDGE: NBA Live 2009
2K recruited a who's who list of young hip hop acts (The Cool Kids, etc) and also got some old school tunes to balance out the game (The Pharcyde!!!!!!). A big plus for 2K is that they got a few exclusive new tracks that hadn't been heard prior to the release of this game, something that should become a regularity on future versions of 2K. Live has decent music, but half the time I found myself plugging my Mp3 player into the Xbox 360 and using my own music in place of it.
EDGE: NBA 2K9
This is what seperates the contenders from pretenders. Kay had asked me to look out for the infamous "glide" glitch in NBA Live, and I'm glad to report that it has been fixed. But one thing that hasn't is the mechanics of the centers in the game. Seriously, why would I want to learn the post up moves, set up specific plays for my center etc, when 80% of the time all he's going to do is toss up a backwards odd looking two hand lay-up. I kid you not about this. Andrew Bynum by no means has the most polished center skill set, but he has some type of footwork, he's being taught by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for god's sake!! So imagine my chagrin when not once, twice, but FIVE times down he did the exact same move!!!! I'm assuming it never occurred to EA that seven footers like to dunk just like everyone else.
Now, this isn't to say that 2K9 is without it's own share of miscues. The infamous misses of point-blank lay-ups is still around, it just rears it's ugly head a bit less than usual. However, when it does happen, it's at the most inoppurtune times, like when it's 30 seconds left in the game and I'm driving to the hole in a tie game and I've CLEARLY beaten my man to the hole. Yeah, not fun, not fun at all.
For all the fancy talk about the updated mechanics, it just seems like 2k opted to play the safe route this year and only make cosmetic changes to the game instead of going in and making a daring move to improve on some of the miscues from last years version of this game. The free throws on both games have long been a point of frustration with gamers, and this year brings a bit of a change, but not a total abandonment of the past free throw shooting method. Both companies need to change this feature in next years version.
Even though i've pointed out flaws in each, both games actually play very well. 2K continues to be more of a realistic simulator, while Live manages to fall somewhere inbetween striving to attain that title, but still having some arcade-esque gameplay (WAAAAAY too many dunks and fast breaks). The crowd features in 2K9 must be seen to be believed. If you were maybe passing through a room and 2K9 was playing, you could mistake it for a real NBA contest. We'll maybe not, but it's that good graphically.
NBA Live 2009 also excels in gameplay and presentation, but in some, not all of the game. The game looks smooth, and is at it's best when you are running and gunning with your team of choice. The controls are a bit easier to manage compared to 2K's and that should work in Live's favor, as it manages to keep your focus on the game, and not on little menu's and grids that litter the screen on 2K9.
EDGE: NBA 2K9
4) Player DNA vs Living Rosters:
This was the new feature that both companies were bringing to the table this year. As far as the DNA (Live) and the Living Rosters (2K9) feature go, these both are pretty much the same thing, and I could see how this could really piss people off in the long run as people online will choose to only play with teams who's players have the hot hand offensively. Fortunately you can turn this feature on or off in both versions, and choose to play head up with out any additional help, which in my opinion is how it should be.
In closing, I wished both games would've taken more chances, but I'm sure they didn't want to scare people away. But by playing both games, I'm able to say that while Live has made some much needed upgrades, 2K Sports still has the basketball video game crown firmly affixed to it's head. Looking at the potential both of these games have really has me looking forward to next years batch of titles.