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NBA Live 2008 was the first basketball title for the Wii experience, this year EA is bringing the All-Play theme to the NBA basketball courts around the league with NBA Live 09 All-Play. An idea designed to allow non-sports gamers to feel the thrill of playing virtual basketball without the experience and knowledge most virtual sports games require of the gamer, All-Play is a trend that seems perfect for the Wii experience.
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The best parts
A good variety of game modes inherited from earlier games is still present in NBA Live 09 All-Play, and they even added a Party mode so you and up to 4 friends can play in a slam dunk contest, 3-point challenge, 2 on 2, and even an old favourite from high school days, 21. You can play Season, Playoffs, SuperStar Challenge, All-Star game, Rookie Challenge, and even on line against new and old friends.
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The parts that need improvement
The controls with sports games for the Wii experience has been an issue since day one, and NBA Live 09 All-Play has a control scheme that has obviously been changed, but it falls short of expectations. The developers included three control schemes for you this time; All-Play, Classic and an Advanced control scheme designed to give experienced virtual basketball players the control over the game play they expect from previous titles. All three use a blend of motion and button mashing, but the Advanced control scheme works the best, with both the All-Play and Classic needing more refinement to be useful and fun schemes. The controls were unresponsive with all three schemes, occasionally you get stuck in time, which causes you to miss shots because the motion is so jerky.
The online option with NBA Live 09 All-Play can be fun and entertaining, when it works, but I found the lag times to be extreme and hard to understand, and I was dropped from several on line games during play, which really steamed up my glasses.
The AI was for the most part pretty good, but at times players would just stand around and watch, or ignore the ball all together. Several times I missed a shot and my team mates were already in defensive mode before the shot was finished, instead of trying to rebound my shot.
The referee needs to take a blood test; he called me for several false backcourt violations after stealing the ball near the half-court line, which took away some defensive options.
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NBA Live 09 All-Play isn't the best looking sports game you will find. Actually, it's just slightly better than your GameCube in my book, maybe the PS2 version, if we're being generous. The characters are undefined and fuzzy looking, lines on the screen will blur and the detail of the crowds and court are below average. The color palette used is beautiful and the variety of shades and tones appears to be good, it's just the refinements that really need work.
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Sounds in the game
The sound quality included with NBA Live 09 All-Play is average at best. The menu tracks drove me nuts with techno and hip-hop tunes, but this music choice still matches the basketball theme well.
Steve Kerr and Marv Albert provide the game commentary, they're comments are well spoken, insightful and informative about the game, and even entertaining at times. Unfortunately, they didn't have enough lines, repeating the same lines and quotes, over and over, which becomes boring and irritating after awhile.
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The bottom line
EA needs to retool the developers for their NBA Live 09 All-Play roster and rethink the execution of the plays that produced this title. The All-Play concept appears to be a good one, but needs better implementation and thought. Hopefully with their next effort EA will have taken care of a few of the inherent problems with NBA Live 09 All-Play, and I can invite a few of my non-basketball experienced friends to give virtual basketball a try and teach me a new thing or two.