NBA 2K10 is a great progression from the previous iterations of the series. From the outset, it is apparent that 2K Sports have set out to make the most accurate simulation of the sport of basketball.
The graphics of the 2K series have been one of the high points of basketball video games for the last 5 years, and this year is no exception. Player models are the closest to their true NBA counterparts as I have seen in all of my gaming years. Are they perfect? No…But they are damn close. I have found that it is best to judge player models but by looking at the players that often get overlooked by developers of most basketball games the white and Asian players….I have to say, that 2K doesn’t disappoint. Take a look at Luke Walton (Lakers) or Mike Miller (Wizards) and it is easy to see that 2K spent effort in creating their character models to best reflect the entire of the NBA family of players. Also, they have finally addressed one of the legacy issues that have been around for several years. That is spacing. In previous games, it felt as though the players just took up too much space on the court. This year, 2K Sports has made the players more accurately scaled on the court…so that space is readily available for some of the best on-court action.
I’ll start from the beginning: the game introductions. The high level idea behind the intros was to catch the conclusion of real life player introductions and to show some of the final preparations the players go through before the game starts. The first thing you’ll notice after the game loads is that most of the time (more on this later) you will arrive in a darkened arena. Each team has its own lighting effects package, from the purple and gold roving spotlights in Staples Center (Lakers) to the greened out hardwood in Boston. We even captured signature jumbotron animations (think KG & Paul Pierce screaming or the EKG animation in Cleveland).
Oh, and there’s fire … I guess I shouldn’t leave out fire. Some teams do the pyro thing as a climax to their introduction and we were able to capture that as well.
Pre Game Rituals
I knew going in that I couldn’t just do LeBron’s powder ritual and call it a day. While it’s no doubt the most recognizable signature introduction out there, it’s definitely not the only one you’d see when going to an NBA game. Seeing that I am a big NBA fan… I was able to see a couple dozen rituals that were added to the game. D-Wade will do his pull up on the rim (with net physics, of course). Garnett will hit his head on the basket support. The Cavaliers as a team, do a few different things, including posing for photos. And Tim Duncan will … inspect the game ball. There are many others, adding up to 24 in total. LeBron will blow into his hands after tossing powder and Garnett will scream at the crowd to hype them up. One thing to note, these rituals do not happen every game. It’s not authentic to see the Cavs hitting homeruns every game so we set a frequency on each intro to be more realistic and provide more randomness.
The addition of these rituals brings more life to NBA 2K10 and provides yet another signature facet to the game.
Bench Animations and Behaviors
A couple of days ago I saw players from the opposing bench attempt to distract me as I was trying to shoot a corner 3 in a close game. I completely forgot that this behavior was in there because it’s not something you see often. The game has to be at a certain intensity level and you have to have a player who’s actually an outside shooting threat in order to provoke the bench into reacting in that manner.
Next time you make an on the fly substitution, you might notice the coach pull the substituting player to the side to give him a message before he checks in, or notice how your bench guys stand up and look nervous in a close game or how they react to a big dunk. My favorite of all the bench behavior additions this year is where bench players on certain teams will remain standing at the beginning of the game until their team scores. It’s fun to dig in on defense to see how long you can hold those teams scoreless just to keep the bench guys standing up. You may also notice that in certain arenas **No spoiler**, the entire crowd remains standing until the home team scores.
Speaking of on-court, this is where NBA 2K10 really shines. For those who love the sport of basketball, we all know that there are two types of games…the run and gun and high speed transition, and the half-court and play focused styles. The great thing about this game is its inherent ability to provide BOTH styles. However, you have got to pick the right team. Players and teams really play like the teams that they represent in reality. The Lakers play an up-tempo style, all the while keeping the triangle intact for those half-court situations. The Cavs will run a LOT of point forward half-court situations with Lebron calling the shots and coming off screens. Player statistics are kept realistic by the NBA Today, which tracks games from day to day and keeps players in tune with their real world performance. Plus, it gives the days matchup’s right at the load up screen.
This brings me to my next point.
This years game menus have been tweaked. If you played the NBA Combine DLC or demo, then you know what to expect. It is a much more intuitive system then what was done in the past and it makes it easier to navigate the menu options. Speaking of options, there are tons. You can have the NBA Today games, each already preselected and playable alone or with the find a friend online option. You can go to the practice arena for a scrimmage game, to practice plays, go it alone with Freestyle, or practice Free Throws. You can go to the playground and do the 3 Point competition, Slam Dunk competition, or have a pick up game with the current NBA players or the Greats from all ages. (which includes 1-5 player matchups and 21) The final option is the My Player mode.
My Player mode:
This mode casts you as an NBA upstart. You create a player, go to the NBA Combine to hone your skills, and take a run at the NBA. This mode is fun, but frustrating. It is fun because you are playing the essence of basketball. Because your player is NOT a superstar, you will not start out as a high flying, 3 point dropping juggernaut of a player. In fact, you will probably more accurately represent the Average Joe that you truly are. However, with some work on your skills (with Skill training), and a few matches under your belt. You will start to take form as a true NBA player. The frustration comes with the fact that you will be nit picked to death for mistakes. One bad pass, one bad call for the ball, or one bad shot could cost you in the grading system that determines those upgrade points that will make you the NBA player that you are striving to be.
One of my favorite features this year, Pressbook, employs a virtual photographer to take pictures of the action during the game. I use it to reflect on some of the moments in the game I just played. Flip through the Pressbook photos and you’ll see shots of pre game rituals, championship celebrations and all of the in-game action in between. There’s nothing better than playing with your buddy and after the game reminding him of how you put your balls in his face while dunking on him with J.R. Smith in the first quarter. This actually happened in a game between me and one TQFAM*cough*GURU-007*cough*, but I’ll withhold the pic to protect the innocent.
You select Pressbook from the Game Wrap Up menu after the completion of the game. The photos are presented in a slide show fashion from various camera angles. Each photo will be on the screen for a few seconds before automatically advancing to the next photo. You can use the triggers to quickly advance through the pics or pause the slideshow at anytime if you want to admire a specific pic. Cool feature if, like me, you like to pour salt in the wounds of your competitors. If you’d like, you can upload the entire slideshow to your 2KShare to show off to everybody.
My final point about NBA 2K10’s greatness will be spent talking about the presentation. This is some of the slickest, broadcast style presentation to date. The broadcast team is GREAT. In fact, this sounds like some of the most natural commentary that I have ever heard. You would be hard pressed to recognize that it is scripted for a video game. Not only do they comment on the things that are happening in the game, but they also talk about the league in general. They even include promo teasers for upcoming games in the schedule. While the broadcast team adds to the overall feel, the crowd chants and stadium noises seem to have been ramped up to. Random screams for players, free throw taunts, even dynamic changes when the shot clock runs down give the player that immersive feel of being on the court.
Okay….so by now you can tell that NBA 2K10 is a great game from a great franchise right? So, is it perfect? NOPE!!! The problems with 2K10 are mostly legacy issues. The out of bounds dive is still almost useless. The alley-oops are too easy to do. There are still problems with players shooting from the baseline and near the basket or even going behind the basket for no reason (though not as much as the past). Refs can glitch and keep passing the ball back and forth to inbounding players *FIXED IN PATCH 1.0*. Dumb computer AI will sometimes take the ball back court or out of bounds for no reason. It doesn’t really affect YOU, but it DOES affect the overall realism.
IN SUMMATION: NBA 2K 10 is NBA basketball….it is beautiful, fluid, consistently Great, but is DOES have its flaws.