In recent times, the 2K series has been the gold standard for which other basketball titles aspire to be thanks to its solid production values, intense realism and a vast array of features which keep gamers clamouring back for more. Now in its tenth incarnation, the Visual Concepts team has not rested on their laurels and have made a number of significant tweaks to the title which will help it maintain its dominance over this year's vastly improved competitor, NBA Live 10. Though ultimatelyNBA 2K10 manages to improve many facets of its game over its predecessor, there are some annoying problems with the title which take away some of its shine.
While NBA 2K9 was a solid title in its own right, one thing that it was guilty of was giving players a turbo system which could be easily exploited, often sending games off the simulation path, descending into the fast-paced realm of arcade style basketball. Thankfully, this issue has been addressed in 2K10. Rather than having a never-ending source of speed and stamina, the turbo button now comes with repercussions for overuse, making gamers seriously think about their choice. Use turbo sparingly and it can give you a greater advantage over your opponents by allowing you to blast by your defender before he can get a read on your play. But use it needlessly and you'll find that just like a real player constantly sprinting up and down the court, your players will quickly fatigue and this will greatly impact on your chances of winning the game. The developer has tweaked the system by adding a two stage energy bar to the turbo system. Initially players will have a yellow energy bar which depicts their sprinting energy. Once this bar is depleted, continuing to hold the turbo button will mean that you will now be sapping away at the player's stamina meaning that not only will they not be able to keep up with fresh players on the court, it will take a longer amount of time for them to recover their energy. This refinement takes away from the almost obligatory use of the turbo feature, instead making players really think about the best time to unleash the speed in order to make a quick basket or chase down a
loose opponent, thus taking away the more arcade-like aspects of the game to give players a more realistic feel.
Alongside the turbo adjustments, there have also been some refinements made to the title in relation to lockdown defense and playcalling. Lockdown D has now been tweaked to make it less difficult for the offensive player, giving the ballhandler a little bit more freedom to run in order to break the defender's stifling pressure. This year's edition of lockdown defense feels more balanced in that from a defensive standpoint, players can really clamp down on the offensive player to either steal the ball or force a turnover via intercepting a wayward pass. That said, from the offensive player's perspective, a couple of fancy quick steps via the IsoMotion controls will help the offensive player get themselves out of a sticky situation a lot easier than last year's iteration, making one-on-one battles more exciting than ever before.
The revamp to the playcalling system also helps drill home the advantage as players now have quick access to 24 offensive plays (a drastic increase to the eight plays available in last year's game) on the fly, allowing you to assess the situation you're facing and exploit your opponent's weakness in order to get the quick score. Of course with every upside comes a downside, and a great downside at that as scrolling through the additional plays can drastically leave your player in a vulnerable position when playing against a skilled player (whether that be human or AI) and more often than not you'll find yourself watching your opposing player skillfully sail his way to the basket after easily stealing the ball from you.
By far the greatest addition to the title is the addition of a single-player career mode titled 'My Player'. My Player shares many similarities with the 'Be a Pro' mode that has appeared across the many franchises in the EA range of sports games. My Player allows you to assume the role of a prospective draft pick as they emerge fresh out of college with the hopes of becoming the next big thing in the NBA. Before you can become an NBA draftee, My Player will put you through your paces via the summer league in order to capture a roster spot on an NBA team. Players will be graded on aspects of their game such as passing the ball off to an open team mate, stealing the ball, sinking a clutch shot and even setting screens for your team mates to take advantage of. At the end, players are graded and by the end of the summer league your overall performance is taken into account as the game decides whether you'll land on an NBA roster or whether you'll have to bust a gut in the development league to get your shot at NBA glory. You can also take your created baller online and form teams with other players, allowing you to play through pickup games, which will reward you with additional experience points into order to bolster your players stats.
You can also take your created My Player athlete online, and form new "online crews" with other players, bolstering your stats by playing various pickup games that won't affect your career game schedule but will provide you with extra points. While you're not forced to use these created characters in online matches, bringing in your scrubs to the online court against other players can be extremely useful for everyone involved as they try to build up their player to make a run onto a roster.
For a first-time edition to the title, My Player fits well gives players the opportunity to experience the development of a professional basketballer. While the feature is quite bare bones until you reach the annuls of the NBA, My Player is definitely a significant first step which could pave the wave for a truly enthralling single-player career experience in years to come. Though for all of its fun, there are a few glaring niggles which take away from the overall experience. Firstly there is the useless 2K Insider who acts as your mentor and points out the good and bad aspects of your game to help you improve yourself in the long run. While good in theory, the Insider isn't always quite accurate with his assessment of the game by often pointing out a one time mistake as a glaring negative in your game while letting other repeat offenses slide. The other negative aspect of the mode is the grading system which can be quite harsh in many circumstances by blatantly punishing players for holding the ball too long or for calling for a pass too often. While this is designed to get players thinking in a more team-oriented sense, it isn't forgivable for players that are put into a situation where they are forced to commit these acts of lose the ball.
Presentation wise, NBA 2K10 is as slick as ever with excellent player likenesses and arena graphics, not to mention the streamlined menu system. Though on the downside, this year's edition of the title suffers from some major framerate slowdown at times which can completely throw out the timing of your play, particularly your long range shooting. As well as the slowdown issue, the game also has some niggling glitches which annoy the hell out of you. The most interesting one we came across was the half-time cheerleaders staying on the court - which made it quite difficult to run plays.
Other issues that the game suffers with are some extremely dumb AI at times, such as watching the AI controlled team throw a pass to a player standing out of bounds or throwing up a shot from a ridiculous place on the court. Finally, experienced players will also note with frustration that more often than not, even the most skilled players will miss some dreadfully simple shots from under the basket, while on the other hand being able to drill a long range effort from an impossible place on the court.
The greatest aspect of the presentation is the vastly improved crowd reactions. If you're pummeling the home team the crowd will react accordingly and tend to go quiet, but put yourself as the home team and start piling on the points and you'll find the fans going absolutely wild. As always, the game features some solid sound effects and lighthearted commentary from the trio of Harlan, Kellogg and Miller.
Overall, NBA 2K10 has once again managed to school its competition by providing gamers with a solid, fast-paced digital representation of the NBA. While most features greatly enhance the facets of its game, there are some niggling issues which will annoy you at times. But niggling problems aside, you'll be hard pressed to find a better basketball simulation around.