Reviews

NBA 2K9

If only a hoops game the caliber of NBA 2K9 could have been released in the heyday of pro basketball: the 1980s.


Publisher: 2K Sports
Genres: Sports
Price: $59.99
Multimedia: NBA 2K9
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PC
Number of players: 1-10
ESRB rating: Everyone
Developer: Visual Concepts
US release date: 2008-10-07
Website
Amazon
Developer website

Playing NBA 2K9 on Xbox 360 made me a little upset. That's because I was indulging myself in the unfulfilled fantasy of a hoops game the caliber of NBA 2K9 that could have been released in what I consider the heyday of pro basketball in the 1980s. At a time when legendary players like Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Charles Barkley and others were ruling both the hard courts and the hearts of many sports fans, most of the best basketball games weren't even based on real players. Nintendo's popular Double Dribble for the NES featured make-believe teams like the "Boston Frogs" and the arcade game made console port Arch Rivals had cartoony 'street' players with no grounding in reality. If you wanted real NBA action, you had Jordan Vs. Bird, a simplistic one-on-one game in which the highlight was slam dunking hard enough to break down the backboard and watching the janitor sweep up the shattered glass.

That's why a single tear nearly dripped down my cheek after playing my first game of NBA 2K9. It's a deep, visually stunning game with a near inexhaustible supply of options, but I'm just not as attached to the current players in the NBA. My favorite players of this generation -- Shaq, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, and Kevin Garnett -- are aging or on the decline, and I just don't find the LeBron Jameses, Carmelo Anthonys and Dwight Howards of the world all that compelling.

But fear not my friends, for I have not come here to condemn NBA 2K9 through the lens of my own personal biases. I am here to praise it.

The aspect of the game that immediately jumps out is the slick presentation. The team at Visual Concepts has basically created an experience that makes you feel like you're playing a television broadcast of the NBA -- especially in the striking, realistic way the players look, move, and behave from the motion captured animation of Kobe Bryant's gliding fadeaway jumper to the disgruntled scowl A.I. usually has on his face. To add to the realism, players can be seen fighting through screens, diving across the floor for loose balls, and will occasionally come flying out of nowhere to dunk a rebound. There are also a lot of small little touches like the shimmery reflections of the arena lights on the court and the colorful mascots that hop around on the sidelines.

This year's gameplay remains good as well, if a bit on the complicated side (It's a pretty clear clue that's it's gotten to be a little too much when the instruction manual refers you to a more detailed online manual for all of the controls). There's lots of different moves you can do like changing your dribble on the fly or altering shots in midair, but you'll sometimes find yourself having to press more buttons than you'd like. Luckily, defense is much improved from last year. Lockdown defense is back again, but it's been upgraded from previous years when Dikembe Mutumbo could face guard Dwayne Wade simply by hitting the left trigger.

Dual player control is also now pretty integral to the gameplay. It allows you to tell your teammates to screen for you, pop out for an open shot, or cut to the basket. In addition, your players also make solid cuts off the ball if they notice a defender is overplaying them on one side, though sometimes if you move around too much, your teammates will stand around and not make themselves open.

I also can't help but love the new timeout system because it further adds to the realism. Basically, when you call a timeout in NBA 2K9, you can now actually coach your team by substituting players, adding double-teams, and telling your team to switch into a full-court press while the ticker showing how much time left in the timeout is shown at the bottom of the screen.

I could spend about 10,000 words going into the game's many modes and features, but I'll just hit the highlights. NBA 2K9 features what it calls "Living Rosters", which in addition to updating player ratings and roster updates, they are promising that player animations and their tendencies will be modified intermittently throughout the season (I haven't seen this in action yet, but I will say it unfortunately adds to the long load time when starting up the game).

The Association is also back and it's an all-encompassing game mode that lets you control a franchise from the on-the-court action to hiring assistant coaches, assigning specific roles to players, and scouting college talent. Thankfully, you have the option to automate the minutia that you might not care about. There's also a "Blacktop" mode that lets you toy around with playground games like '21', and a dunk contest that controls more like a fighting game than a sports title.

The brightest highlight, however, is perhaps the Total Team Control mode which lets you play online with nine other players for true 5-on-5 basketball. It's an incredible experience to play with flesh and blood teammates instead of relying on computer controlled players and it feels more like a real basketball game than anything I've ever seen. You simply owe it to yourself to try it if you're a basketball fan; though it's always best to play with people you know and trust because some online players love to ballhog.

My quibbles with NBA 2K9 are few. The menus are confusing and difficult to navigate, the aforementioned load times, and the framerate can get choppy sometimes, especially during instant replays.

Otherwise, NBA 2K9 is a near perfect rendition of a professional sports league. It's too bad I'm controlling Deron Williams on the 2008 Utah Jazz instead of the short-shorts wearing 1987 version of John Stockton I remember fondly from my youth, but you can't have everything.

9

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image