In case you guys didn’t know, it’s October and that means EA Sports and 2K Games are doing their yearly duel over who should reign supreme on the basketball courts. With this year being 2K Games’ incredible 10th year anniversary into its franchise, I expect NBA 2K10 to offer true reasoning as to why it has dominated the basketball genre over the last ten year stint. 2K basketball has always provided a sense of great presentation, visuals and gameplay in a tightly rolled together package that made it impossible to compete with on a simulation level. However, over the last couple of years, its main competitor, NBA Live, has been making strides of its own – because of this, 2K is on the bubble in order to provide a truly next generational basketball title that solidifies its control over the competition.
After spending roughly forty hours or so of actual game time (not just day time), I feel as though I have a good grasp for the things that have changed and work well and things that just don’t. I put in an equal amount of time with NBA Live 10 this year in order to provide a split review on both products. That’s why this is the introduction to both title’s review. So – Let’s jump into the gameplay review and we’ll follow them up with presentation and close out on the graphics/sound.
The NBA 2K franchise has always been built from the ground up around its core gameplay mechanics and the ability to offer a better simulation experience from one year to the next. This year, the developers behind the title have implemented a lot of small changes rather than large ones in order to continue to increase that blur of a line between reality and game. Unfortunately, some of these smaller changes are also coupled with a couple of hiccups that take away from the way the game should be performing and instead leaves you with some moments that could lead to potential anger issues if you’re not careful.
One of the latest additions to the game is the ability to run 24 offensive plays depending on the situation and spot of the play call. This is up from the previous number of eight and gives the ball carrier the chance to make magic happen. Unfortunately as you can probably predict, more plays means more time to choose which one you’d like to run. This is exactly one of the issues that came into play this year in 2K10. Due to having to scroll through plays with your L1/R1 button, you leave yourself susceptible to easily created turnovers by the defender. Don’t get me wrong though, when you have the time to call your play and set it up appropriately, it works to perfection and nothing is more satisfying than setting up that perimeter shooter to drain a late half three to send your team into the locker room with momentum.
The next small step that 2K Games implemented remind me a lot of the FIFA franchise from Electronic Arts. If you’ve played the game already and you’re reading this for excitement, then you know I’m talking about the new sprint/stamina bar. Much like in FIFA, NBA 2K10 allows you to sprint for an allotted amount of time (yellow bar) and then once it is depleted, the game starts to eat away at your stamina. Despite this already being found in another game, this is a welcomed addition to the 2K franchise and I wish they would have added it in earlier than this. Due to this change, games become less of an arcade speed-fest and start to force the player into using strategy when draining a player’s stamina who then may need a break on the bench.
Now, I’m entirely sure if 2K Games changes this or not, but last year it felt like players rarely missed easy layups or uncontested shots that they’re expected to make. It’s how it should be and exactly why these guys are in the NBA in the first place. However, this year it seems as though more and more players are missing very easy layups, put backs and shots that should be drained by even a toddler. It’s very irritating to drive to the line and have nobody standing in your way yet LeBron James decides to brick the layup off the rim. I understand that if this were the playoffs with the game on the line, that would be a realistic display of talent, but in the middle of a season, he’s usually good for that layup. Adding onto this issue is the half-second delay it takes for a shooter to sometimes take his shot. I’m not sure why this slight delay is taking place, but it often allows a defender to move into position to make a play on the ball by blocking it or contesting it into a miss. Hopefully this is something the developers plan on patching because when it happens it does take away from the experience as a whole.
A key improvement in this year’s title over the last is the lockdown defense mechanic. Last year it was very well implemented, but the dev team has definitely stepped it up this year for sure. By engaging the lockdown feature by manning up on the player with the ball, you notice that your defender is going to play a lot harder than usual, allowing for a better defensive performance in general. The offensive man won’t just be able to spin and juke around you, your guy definitely stands his ground appropriately. Guessing which way your counterpart will move can also lead to a costly turnover and a force into a double team situation. During lockdown, your AI teammates are very reliable and you can count on them entirely, but that doesn’t hold true for a lot of the rest of the game.
The biggest gripe I have with 2K10 (outside of the framerate issues which I won’t discuss because 2K10 has said they’re patching the problem as soon as possible), is the AI in general. Often throughout a game you witness the AI act sporadically without much reasoning. For example, sometimes an AI player will commit a backcourt violation despite not even receiving any pressure whatsoever. Furthermore, AI players seem to make a lot of poor decisions in turning the ball over as well. Despite this, it isn’t something that breaks the game it’s just a well deserved face palm moment here or there.
The shining beacon for NBA 2K has always been its presentation. From the authentic intros to the halftime specials, NBA 2K has provided users with the most authentic experience possible and this year is no different. If you’re looking forward to watching LeBron James throw some chalk powder or watch Kevin Garnett get angry, 2K10 is going to deliver it to you. Furthering the presentation element is the crowd interaction with the game. While most games provide boisterous crowds, 2K10 has created an environment where the crowd will understand when a big 3 has been made or where a visiting team is taking the game over. This is an element all games need to think about implementing as it truly brings the experience to the forefront.
2K10 has also improved the presentation by implementing the new NBA Today feature to their product. It’s kind of like a cross hybrid of NBA Live’s Dynamic DNA and 2K’s own Living Roster feature. NBA Today allows for the announcing team to reproduce fresh content so that the game doesn’t feel continually stale or repetitive. It’s a great addition that has a lot of future potential as well. The NBA Today feature is spread out across all of NBA 2K10s game modes so it always helps provide the user with a new feel when they turn the game on.
This year 2K games have improved upon the look and feel of their title. Player animations are now smoother and branch in and out with ease. While cut scenes do present some minor cloth issues, it isn’t anything that will deter from the overall look of the title. Player models have also been more refined and I feel that NBA 2K10 has finally caught up with its counterpart on an overall scale in the visual department. Some may not agree, but I think it’s a dead heat to say the least.
As for the sounds of the game, the crowd implementation I previously mentioned is a nice addition as is the NBA Today’s updating of the announcing crews comments. The sounds of the game are also as you’d expect. Dunks sound like dunks and bricks sound like bricks. It’s all a pretty solid feel overall that you’ve grown to see come of out of 2KGames.
NBA 2K10 continues the strong tradition of releasing solid basketball title after basketball title. While Live has quickly closed the gap, it goes without much surprise to say that 2K10 is worth the $60 purchase just like it is every year. Basketball and gaming enthusiasts will both enjoy the product for what it is and I recommend it as a purchase to anyone who has been a long time fan of the franchise and potential newcomers.