A brand new NBA season is upon us, and with it brings the yearly crop of pro hoops titles competing for your almighty dollar. The NBA 2K series has spent the last couple seasons as top dog, managing to become really the only 2K sports title to consistently beat out its competitors year after year. The series marks its 10th anniversary this year with NBA 2K10, adding some great new features, upping the realism, and once again edging out its competition. Some nagging problems hold the game back from its true potential however, and sour an otherwise solid roundball experience.
The selection of game modes in NBA 2K10 is mostly what you would expect from a modern sports game. In addition to quick game and season modes, the Association mode has returned with some aesthetic improvements. Brand new this year is the My Player mode, which allows you to create a player from scratch and guide him through his NBA career from summer ball and the NBA D league, up to the Association itself.
When creating your player, you’ll be able to adjust everything from the way they look to their height and weight. If you were thinking of creating a towering 7’6″ giant of a center though, be warned. Height is very important in the league, so the tradeoff for those extra inches is fewer skill points to spend buffing up your players stats when you start out. Once you get your virtual athlete built, you’ll be placed on a summer league team so the league can evaluate your skills. You’ll be coached through all this by the 2K insider, a mentor of sorts that pops up after games and from time to time between them to tell you what you’re doing right and (often in a somewhat condescending manner) what you’re doing wrong.
When the on court action starts for your created player, you’ll be under the watchful eye of the NBA scouts. They’ll be grading you not only on your individual performance, but also on your behavior as a teammate. Your teammate grade is constantly updated in the upper left hand corner of the screen as the game wears on. Put yourself in the right lanes, call for good passes, take good shots, screen and assist your teammates and your grade will improve. Conversely if you play selfish ball, call for too many passes, take bad shots, and let your matchup score your grade will slip. This grade is important because not only does it affect your skill points, but it will also affect your ability to progress your characters career out of the summer and d leagues and into the NBA. The My Player feature is easily the best new mode in the game, and it adds a great deal to the game. The mode is already solid, but more importantly it’s a great foundation for future entries in the series to improve upon.
Besides the brand new My Player mode, probably the most striking improvement in this year’s version is the overall presentation. From the menus, to the replay function, to the commentary, the game is a genuine step up from last year’s already solid entry. Player models are mostly great, with the exception of some questionable faces. The fantastic animations are the true shining stars of the graphics however and they add a huge amount of realism to the gameplay. Crowd reactions are also much improved in this year’s version, so nailing big shots and big stops will result in roars of approval from your adoring fans.
In keeping with the online integration trend that 2K has started with their recent sports games, 2K10 features NBA Today. NBA Today uses your consoles net connection to pull in real life NBA news, stats, trades and other info along with the returning 2K Living Rosters feature to keep your game as up to date as possible. In addition to its impact on the rosters in the game NBA Today also impacts the commentary, making normally boring and repetitive commentary fresh with real life league information. NBA Today’s scope covers nearly the entire game and makes NBA 2K10 feel like the most true to life basketball game to date.
Of course the all star level presentation and game modes don’t mean much if the game plays like a playground scrub. Thankfully while not perfect, the gameplay is quite good. On court action is mostly very fluid, and star players look and play like their real world counterparts. Control is solid, with the exception of some occasional lag when shooting. This lag is really only noticeable when using the button to shoot instead of the stick, and is occasional enough to be annoying without being persistent enough to be game breaking. The sprint mechanic has been overhauled this year in favor of a new more realistic version. You can no longer just hold down the right trigger to sprint up and down the court as much as you’d like. Now, holding down the trigger will run down a yellow sprint meter. If you continue holding down the trigger after that meter is depleted, your players overall stamina will begin to go down. Releasing the trigger will cause the yellow meter to refill, but not the overall stamina. This requires you to be conservative with your use of turbo, and increases the overall realism of the game.
Off ball controls work great, and its easy to set picks or box out your matchup. The on the fly play calling has been expanded to 24 possible plays. On the defensive side of the ball, Lockdown returns and works pretty well. There are some instances however where defenders will break out of your lockdown too easily and your AI teammates don’t properly pick up the slack.
Speaking of AI issues, they are probably the most disappointing aspect of NBA 2K10. Occasionally your AI teammates will make very costly mistakes, ranging from passing the ball to players that have inexplicably run out of bounds to committing backcourt and 3 in the key violations. AI teammates will also occasionally completely miss their target when passing the ball, sending the ball sailing out of bounds. These issues, like the shooting lag, are not persistent enough to break the game but they do crop up much more than you would like.
Overall, 2K10 retains its crown as the best pro basketball game on the market, albeit just barely. With Live making some real strides this year, and the potential for Sony’s first party NBA offering to hit the market again next year 2K is going to have to make some improvements to maintain that reputation in the future. Despite nagging technical issues that hold the game back, the great presentation and solid gameplay mean that pro hoops fans should definitely take 2K10 for a spin.