SCEA San Diego brings "The Life" back into Sony’s NBA franchise with NBA 09: The Inside. This multiplatform release expands its game by adding more features then ever before. Lace up the sneakers as we have a look at the life inside of NBA 09.
The San Diego studios had a year to prepare their next-generation upgrade from last years showing of NBA 08. With both Sony sport titles under their belt, SCEA San Diego puts a little more behind the content in NBA 09: The Inside. For the first time on the PS3 you will get to enter “The Life” mode that has been living inside of the NBA franchise for years. The Life takes you away from the standard game formula and puts you in a story of three different ballers trying to reach the top. Guiding each player through the storyline you will need to take on all-new challenges as you step up your game. For those looking for more than the standard online modes and franchise tournaments, then you should look into NBA 09.
Polished at 1080p
Aside from “The Life” mode on the PS3, a significant boost has been applied to the graphics and animation in NBA 09. The game looks better than ever, but in its second time around you can still see they have a little further to go. The most impressive feature in NBA 09 is that it performs in full motion, 1080p HD. In full HD looks impressive when displayed on a large television. The graphics are definitely sharper than last years NBA 08 with improved lighting and minor touches to finer details. From a far you’d swear your watching the real deal, it’s only the close ups that give this mirage away. The slightly off up-close viewpoint doesn’t impact the gameplay, and for the few cut-scenes that happen during a game, you’ll probably never flinch or care. Top down, NBA 09 looks great with a rock solid framerate and that is all that matters.
Even with an excellent graphics package you need great gameplay, especially in sports title. Despite all the horsepower under the hood in NBA 09 it still suffers from a few drawbacks. The major flaw of 09 are the offensive shooting mechanics. When a team comes in for the attack and chooses to either shoot, or dunk the ball you will immediately know if the ball will go in the basket before it even hits the hoop. In dunking the animation will cue and you are locked out in the sense that you won’t be able to interfere and interrupt the ball when it’s going to land the 2. This is annoying because you can jump all you like, but you know you’re not going to be able to grab the ball. The same type of mechanic goes on for shots. In a shot you’ll know if the shots going to lock down the points if you don’t see a rebound icon flash under the basket. Thankfully, you can turn the flashing rebound icon off, but in the back of your mind you’ll still feel a little cheated as you jump for nothing. Hopefully this can be addressed for next years edition of the game, these mechanics take a slice of reality out of the game.
Free and easy
For controls, NBA 09 keeps its free-and-easy approach giving a chance for anyone to learn the game without too many problems. The “Free6” from last year controls have been substituted for the thumbstick and the motion controls are used for slipping and sliding around the defense. This might not please tilt-happy gamers who have adapted to the once, innovative control concepts. Now, NBA 09 is a little easier which makes the game more accessible to all gamers, and not only sport fanatics.
The A.I. is more solid this time around, although again, it can use a few more rounds of fine tuning. I found the game a little more difficult, but in a good way. Playing on the higher levels is a real challenge, but don’t worry about game being too hard. NBA 09 can be dumb'd down to Rookie which is pretty much a walk in the park. The A.I. can really crunch down and using a team effort to put points on the board. A few times in every game, I would be impressed at a few plays from the computer. There are a few issues still kicking around in NBA when it comes to cheap tactics, like an opponent crawling up the net pushing you as he goes. Besides the occasional “whats!” i found the NBA 09 is nudging a little closer to a simulation, but all and all its still leans towards an aracadish feel.
Make it FIVE
NBA 09 also showcases an improved reward system for player performance which has now been expanded to include five players. This means you can virtually set up your own starting line of custom players and play them in any mode in the game. The way you gain points is simply by playing the game. These points are banked under your player profile and you can distribute them across the board as you please. New gear and abilities are available to upgrade at any time that can fine tune and focus your team of five into a highly specialized balling strike force. If you're into creating your ballers from scratch this might be an interesting feature that might put NBA 09 into a buy category. It's a lot of fun to create your own version of a stellar all-star team and a welcomed expansion in 09.
Put a few Trophies on the shelf
Lastly, NBA 09: The Inside ships with trophy support. Trophy support shouldn't be a big deal, but since Trophies haven’t been totally adapted as of yet, it’s great to see them alive and kicking in NBA 09. I love extra incentives to get more out of your game, but man these trophies are hard. Even the Bronze trophies will require you to be able to beat the A.I. on All-Star difficulty to snag most of them. A number of trophies are dedicated to the mini-games, the life mode, and franchise play. If you're going for the grand daddy, the Platinum Trophy you will need to totally complete the game with a full 100% completion ratio. A few have even been tacked on for online play which gives fans more incentive to log online. Of course trophy difficulty is depended on how good you are in the game, some might think its a easy where others might not find as many throw-a-way points as they expected. It's obvious Trophies are taking their own turn to differentiate themselves from the Xbox Achievements with all the same addictive qualities. Bottom line, Trophies are supported on launch... and that is a beautiful thing.
Last year we dunked NBA 08 with a 6.5. In one years’ time NBA 09 has jumped up 5%. According to our mathematics this isn’t so bad, any improvement is better than declining points. In two more years NBA 11 should be slamming down 8.0 and 9.0s. Looking ahead, 8’s and 9’s are pretty decent, but I’m sure Sony would like to quickstep this forecast. In the good light, the development team is always hard at work improving their baseball game which trickles back-and-forth between each project. SCEA's MLB has been picking it up as of late, so the NBA should be coming right around the corner.
For now, NBA 09: The Inside is a buzzer beater showing a fun and accessible basketball offering. NBA 09 is a good starting point for gamers who aren’t need deep into sports games and want to enjoy the simple fun of shooting a few hoops. NBA 09 has a two other games from EA Sports and 2K Sports that it is up against, so its faults don’t help it any when going into game seven. If Sony can beat the “game-like” feel and expand on “the Life” feature, I think we could have a serious contender added into the mix. Until then, NBA: The Inside gives enough to get by, but not enough to be a must have.
Gameplay: 6.5, Graphics:7.5, Sound:7, Innovation:6, Mojo:6.5 Final: 7.0 / 10