When you look at basketball titles, you have to picture the NBA Live series as the equivalent to a seasoned veteran player. Its skills aren't what they used to be, but on its good day there is still a lot of positives to take away from its game. On the other hand, the 2K series is the video game equivalent of a talented player in his prime - flashy, dazzling and so full of skill that you are in awe of the overall awesome package it presents. There's a good reason for that. While NBA Live was content to sit on its throne as the king of hardwood title, the 2K series went back to basics, and set out to recreate the most realistic NBA experience that video games can offer, and offer it it has. Though not content with sitting on top of the electronic basketball world, this year's iteration NBA 2K10 has set about fine tuning the great gameplay experience of its predecessor and offering gamers an even more compelling take on NBA life.
The first addition to the title is small, but its importance will reverberate throughout the entire game. This new addition to the 2K camp is called NBA Today, and like the name suggests it'll effect the world of the game to reflect that of the real NBA. Those that get quickly fed up with repetitive commentary will benefit most from this feature as NBA Today will influence what you hear from the commentary team in NBA 2K10. For instance, the season draws nearer to the All-Star Weekend, you'll note that the commentary team will start regularly chatting about who has made the All-Star lineups and whether any players from your chosen franchise will be involved in the festivities. Whether your team is flying or flailing, Clark Kellogg and co. will also discuss the chances of your team making it to playoffs and bring up other colour comments that reflects your team's current status in the NBA.
The game has also seen a revamp of the Signature Play aspect of the game that the series has been known for. This will culminate in a partnership with the basketball statistical junkies over at 82games.com who collate a plethora of data that goes beyond the standard points, assists, blocks and rebounds data that most titles rely on. The 82games.com data will also track player trends and patterns to establish their tendencies. Hypothetically, if Kobe Bryant drives to the basket and performs a slam dunk eight out of ten times, when you play against Kobe in the game, NBA 2K10 will have Kobe's playing pattern reflect that of his real NBA exploits during the 09-10 season.
As with previous iterations of the games, NBA 2K10 will also feature super-detailed signature dribbles, jump shots, free throw shooting styles and general behaviour of many of the league's elite basketballers. Pull off a big play with Kevin Garnett and watch the video game's KG thump his chest just as wildly as the real deal.
By far the biggest addition to NBA 2K10 is My Player, a mode akin to that of the 'Be A Pro' modes that are prevalent in many of the Electronic Arts range of sporting titles. My Player lets you create your own baller and mimic the experiences of many NBA draftees. Once your player has been drafted, you'll be able to progress to the summer leagues to hone your skills against other rookies. Here you will participate in six drills and six games, and if you can impress your team's coaching staff you'll land on the bench of your NBA team's roster. If you get cut during the summer league, you'll be shipped off to your team's NBA Development League affiliate team (all of which have been included for play in this year's title) in order to work your way up to the big show.
Chances are that you'll make it through the summer and end up warming the bench for your NBA team. Here you are given the option of either watching the game in real time, watching a quicker simulation of the action or letting the game jump ahead to points in the game when you're being subbed in to pick up a few minutes of garbage time.
As you progress throughout the career of your created baller, you'll need to meet requirements and complete career milestones in order to get skill points to level up the attributes of your player. These can include simple statistics such as logging your first triple-double or reaching a certain milestone for steals, blocks, etc. The game will also reward you with skill points for breaking actual NBA records such as Kareem Abdul Jabbar's all-time points record.
As well as new additions, the game has also undergone a number of refinements to the core gameplay mechanic, with changes to the use of turbo, play-calling and post play offense to name a few, but most notable refinement has been the change to the game's IsoMotion system. This year's edition of IsoMotion has been simplified to make it easier for players to pull off spectacular moves. The development team at Visual Concepts felt that the old edition of IsoMotion was not really accessible to new players as it required a number of complicated analog stick movements and button pushes to unleash the truly awesome looking maneuvers. This time around, players will only need to hold the left trigger to execute IsoMotion moves, while the right trigger will also open up a few more advanced dribbling moves if you're inclined to check them out.
From what we've seen, NBA 2K10 looks like a title that is keen it retain its reigning 'best basketball game' crown. Though, with all of the reported enhancements to NBA Live 10 this year's showdown looks to be a battle of epic proportions.
NBA 2K10 is scheduled for release on 9 October.