With NBA 2K9 due out for the PC this Tuesday, I figured I’d get my review of the Xbox 360 version out of the way. This will be the first time I’ll be able to compare two sports titles with each other, meaning this vs. NBA Live 09 to see which offers the better experience. However, that’s another article. Here, we’re just going to focus on what 2K9 offers gamers who pick it up.

NBA 2K9’s graphics are much improved over last year, in my opinion. Players look more like themselves and I’m really impressed with the improvement in the uniforms and textures. It seems that the 2K-HD marketing gimmick isn’t as gimmicky as it sounded. However, if you’ve played MLB 2K8, you know that sometimes visuals come at the cost of a smooth framerate, and sadly that’s the case here. When the framerate is steady, the game is glassy smooth. However, when the game zooms out to show the whole arena or during replays, the framerate becomes inconsistent, which mars the illusion. Replays have their own problem, actually, in that they’re often very, very short and clumsily executed. I like how the game will track assists in it’s auto-generated highlights (making watching a Steve Nash highlight reel more realistic), but oftentimes the highlight for a score will start right before the ball goes in the basket and end soon after, making for a very disjointed experience.

The commentary needs a massive, massive overhaul. I’m sick of hearing Clark Kellog saying that I need a Plan B when I get stuffed inside trying to score with a guard, because he says it nearly every time! Cheryl Miller is not an improvement over Craig Sager in any stretch of the imagination, either. Someone needs to get their act together in the sound department at 2K Sports.

The gameplay is the same great sim controls you remember from last year. In truth, it took me a while to go from the arcade leanings of Live 09 to this again, but I still like 2K’s style better. There’s a strong feeling of weight and motion that I really enjoy. Shooting is better then last year, and the new shot-stick function (being able to adjust a layup or dunk mid-shot) takes practice but works very well.

The Association mode is very sound this year, I think. Players can have no-trade clauses in their contracts, as well as option years, and players’ roles and personalities really come into play. You also have to assemble a balanced lineup, because if you have a disjointed offense, defense or locker room, you will have no chance.

Being a fan of making retro rosters, I like the ability to upload and download created players, because there are CAP designers far more skilled then I out there and downloading their work can greatly speed up the process. Some are really, really off (I found a Michael Jordan who more resembled Fat Albert), but most are at least close enough that you only have to make some minor changes to suit your tastes. Speaking of Create a Player, this year’s CAP mode is miles ahead of 2K8’s, and by association blows Live 09’s out of the water. Back on the subject of old-time players, it’s interesting to see the choices for the legends rosters. Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman made the cut for the first time, but obvious choices like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are no where to be found. Unlike in 2K8, you can trade them to current rosters and place them on custom teams this year, so that’s a plus.

In conclusion, this is the better of the two multi-platform NBA games this year, but even with improvements in most areas, I just don’t think it’s head-and-shoulders above NBA 2K8. If you’re in the market for a game this year, this is the one to get. I would definitely recommend this even if you have 2K8, if just for the Living Rosters feature that should go active once the season starts. With improved graphics and the same sound gameplay, it looks like 2K Sports takes home the round ball title yet again. Look forward to my NBA 2K9 on PC review coming soon. Alphasim out.