NBA Live 09
Xbox 360 / PS3 / Wii
EA's official sports licenses have suffered mixed receptions in days gone by, with competing publishers often stealing their thunder. Just as FIFA has generally suffered in comparison to Pro Evolution, so too has its NBA Live series struggled to block 2K Sports' NBA2K franchise from scoring some Michael Jordan-esque air-time. With FIFA 09 proving to be the best instalment in its long history, signs were positive that EA's b-ball exploits would strike equally successful new ground. Thankfully such optimism proves well founded.
NBA Live 09 is the best in the series so far by no small margin: a fully immersive experience that while gripping for causal fans of the sport, is likely to reduce basketball fanatics to quivering masses of glee thanks to its new NBA Live 365 functionality, which utilises real-time real-life stats to affect how a player/team performs.
The graphics are seldom less than breathtaking, from the players' facial expressions to how the crowd invest themselves in the game - be warned, give them something to cheer about and cheer they will. Mistime tackles, give away fouls and throw a series of bricks at the basket, however, and they're likely to be a frosty bunch.
Mastery of the controls take a little getting used to - particularly when the game, so reflective of real-life, requires you to time everything just-so - but one of the series' new game modes NBA Live Academy does its best to help you out. Allowing you either a free practise session, or issuing a series of challenges to help you master the fundamentals, it's highly advisable to go to school rather than leaping straight into competition with the big boys.
In game, the controls are infinitely more responsive than before, though achieving the spectacular takes real skill - don't expect to be taking it to the hole with a fast break on every play. Of course, calling the right play in the first place will help in that regard, but newbies never fear: you can simply automate the computer to do that for you if you don't fancy trawling through the mountain of battle plans.
Fun, frenetic, peerlessly detailed: don't let the franchise's prior underachievement colour your judgement here; NBA Live 09 is the real deal.Â