NBA 2K10 ReviewBy Scott Alan Marriott - Posted Oct 08, 2009
Celebrating its tenth anniversary, the NBA 2K series has enjoyed both critical and commercial success since its impressive debut on Sega's ill-fated Dreamcast. The problem facing 2K Sports and Visual Concepts is how to keep longtime fans engaged when both the core gameplay and presentation remain essentially the same from year to year. Will NBA 2K10 offer enough new features to keep the franchise above the rim?
- Exciting presentation and atmosphere
- Addictive "my player" progression
- Seamless online connectivity across play modes
- Loose AI coverage on defense
- Frame rate issues while playing at specific venues
- Weak collision system in and around the key
Celebrating its tenth anniversary, the NBA 2K series has enjoyed both critical and commercial success since its impressive debut on Sega's ill-fated Dreamcast. The problem facing 2K Sports and Visual Concepts is how to keep longtime fans engaged when both the core gameplay and presentation remain essentially the same from year to year. Now facing a stiffer challenge from EA's NBA Live series, which continues to reinvent itself to remain competitive, would NBA 2K10 offer enough new features to keep the franchise above the rim?
Boom Goes the Dynamite
Owners of previous NBA 2K games won't be surprised to learn that NBA 2K10's presentation is stellar. It's not one specific element that outshines the rest, either -- it's the complete package. Athletes look and behave like their real-life NBA counterparts, but you'll still notice some minor issues like pointed shoulders and rough edges, giving new meaning to the term "chiseled bodies." The crowd and bench also have some repetitive gestures, but if you step back and watch the game unfold, you can't help but be awed by how the arenas come to life. From the swirling lights and raucous fans to the pacing coaches and signature-style moves from the biggest stars, the action in NBA 2K10 resembles a live telecast.
Sweating the Technique
Unfortunately, the constant motion from the players on the court, the crew on the sidelines, and the fans in the stands seem to have affected the frame rate in the Xbox 360 version of the game. The strange thing is that it doesn't always occur during every match. When it happens, though, you'll notice slight hitches during the animations and delays occurring around the basket. Installing the game to the hard drive helps to an extent, but there are still times when things sputter and wheeze. And while transition animations have vastly improved since 2K9, you'll notice some abruptness when chaining together multiple moves.
While the AI is largely influenced by the difficulty level and adjustment of in-game sliders on both sides of the ball, there are a few concerns. The biggest issue involves computer-controlled teammates who need constant monitoring to ensure they are sticking to their coverage assignments. It's too easy to score consistently in the paint, diminishing the need for strong perimeter shooting and/or coaching plays. Nevertheless, the computer plays a strong, competitive game on the higher difficulty settings, and NBA 2K10's rebounding system and offensive control depth is second to none.
Upping its Game
NBA 2K10 continues all of the modes found in NBA 2K9 with a number of interesting new twists and changes. Easily the most addictive addition is the "My Player" mode, which has you creating a position player of your choice and initially guiding him through a six-game summer circuit trying to build on your skills. You start off at a lowly 39 rating, so you'll need to work on various offensive and defensive drills to build on your stats. Since you only play as your created athlete, you can simulate the action (or watch) until you are subbed-in and given a chance to strut your stuff.
From there, you will be graded on just about everything you do outside of dribbling, with the game rewarding you for making strong passes, penalizing you for fouling or missing a shot, and so forth. In between games and drills, you can listen to your mentor, an individual who likes to quote NBA greats to motivate you, and view detailed stats on your progress. The idea is to perform well enough to get invited to training camp and eventually sign with a pro team, or you'll have to toil away in the D-League.
Another welcome change is the "NBA Today" option, which incorporates actual NBA news, stats, and scores into your matchup. You can play the current day's schedule or pick any two teams and still enjoy updated commentary and stat overlays that reference the day's action from around the league. Once you try it, you won't return to an ordinary match again. 2K10 also features a "crews" option lets you create a custom squad to challenge rival crews online. The interesting part is that you can use athletes from either the "My Player" mode or an NBA team, and after each game, you'll earn progression points and potential trophies while shooting up the leaderboards.
NBA 2K10's deep franchise mode, "The Association," now incorporates the NBA development league and for the first time, the option to control all 30 teams simultaneously. Each of the play modes benefits from 2K's so-called "seamless online experience," which lives up to the billing. A simple button press within any game type will let you know who on your friends list is playing, and you can send invites from within each mode. The team select screens also let you quickly jump to a ranked or unranked match against live opponents or the computer, without having to go through multiple steps. The only slight drawback is having to sit through 45 seconds worth of loading screens when first starting the game as it checks for updated rosters, NBA today matchups, and so forth.
Ten Times the Fun?
NBA 2K10's heavy emphasis on online connectivity means that those without Xbox Live will be significantly missing out on the best the game has to offer. Yet for those with online connections, the new game modes and seamless integration are easily worth 2K10's ticket price. The title offers everything you've loved about the series with even more reasons to stay addicted long after the NBA season ends.
Platform Differences: PlayStation 3
As expected, the PlayStation 3 version offers an identical feature set as in the Xbox 360 game, not to mention trophies that correspond to the Xbox 360's achievement system. The visuals look great no matter which title you select, and the PlayStation 3 version supports voice chat, messaging from within the game, and leaderboards. The frame rate issue with the Xbox 360 game still crops up with the PS3 version, even despite the hard drive installation, so hopefully this will be addressed in a future patch. The biggest difference between the two games is that the Xbox 360 version supports custom soundtracks for those looking to add arena-specific music.