If I go out and run a mile on the track by myself, I’ll get a decent result (I’m still in pretty good shape), but if I go out and run a mile on the track with someone else who is just a bit faster than me, pushing me to go faster the entire way, I’ll get a much better result. This is the way we work. We are driven by competition—by wanting to match or exceed what others around us are doing. This has a point, trust me.
When I was growing up as a kid, I had one option—or at least one viable option—to choose if I wanted to play a good game of virtual basketball. That one option was EA Sports’ NBA Live series. And then the new millennium came, ushering in a new era of the basketball video game industry—one in which years of competition would push the genre forward in so many ways. When 2K Sports decided to launch its own basketball series way back in 2000, it was the best thing that could have happened for basketball video games. For the past 10 years, these two series have pushed each other forward in ways that would not have been possible otherwise. This connection between the two series is THAT important, and that’s why if you head over to check out my NBA Live 10 review as well, you’ll find the same introductory paragraphs as the ones you’re reading right now. It’s not because I was too lazy to write two of them—it’s because it is so relevant to both games.
NBA 2K10 is a very good game. At first glance, it will show you a lot of flash and a lot of fluidity. It fixes a few of the issues that plagued last year’s entry, and improves on the core mechanics of the series in subtle, but satisfying ways. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and we’ll talk about why in a bit.
For the first time, 2K has tried its hand at the increasingly standard individual career progression game mode, called “My Player.” This mode will let you create a player from scratch, starting with body type, head, face, muscles, height, weight, position, etc. You can even choose your shot style, from jump-shot form to free throw form to signature move. You’ll choose what kind of player you want to be, and you’ll be all set to go. You’ll start out by choosing a team and playing in summer league games. Your performance here will dictate whether you make an NBA roster, or are sent to the NBDL to hone your skills a bit more. It will be a long road to the NBA, but when you get there, it is very rewarding.
For each game you play in My Player mode, you will receive a grade (A-F) based on your performance. This grade will be raised by making good passes, good positioning, good shot selection, and so on. It will be lowered by turnovers, bad shot selection, and calling for the ball excessively. It works pretty well, although some of the grading doesn’t make sense sometimes. It is a shame that this mode is often hampered by frame rate and skipping issues. This especially kicks in when you get into NBDL and NBA games with lots of fans and noise and such.
Besides the new My Player mode, the usual suspects are present and accounted for—Quick Play, Season, Association, Franchise, etc. One very cool new addition is the ability to hop into any of the games that are actually happening on that very date. Injuries, stats, and everything else will be accurately represented in these games. Association/Franchise are what you have come to expect—you can control everything from team strategy, rosters, management, staff, and financials. Don’t worry; you can have the computer do this for you if you don’t like the nitty-gritty parts.
I don’t really know where to begin with the online sections of this game. There is so much potential here: you can hop in and play a versus game, you can team up with other users to play pick up, and you can even join “crews” and form alliances that will compete against other crews for the best record on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. However, all these great modes are not able to be enjoyed most of the time due to frame rate and lagging issues online. 2K Sports has stated that there will be a patch coming out that will fix these issues, but I have not seen it yet. I would estimate that about 50% of the games I started online were simply unplayable. Even more frustrating was the fact that once I managed to join a crew and got to the locker room start, my console froze and I had to unplug and restart. Over the course of a full week, I was not able to play a single game with a crew.
Visually, this game looks marginally better than 2K9 did—which is to say, it looks beautiful. The player models, stadiums, courts, fans, and other touches look great. The lights cast realistic shadows, and movement is believable and smooth (when the frame rate manages to stay up). Animations are much improved from last year as well. Pivots, direction changes, moves, and shot and pass mechanics are more believable and smooth than ever. The game is a pleasure to watch.
On the sound front, the game is very acceptable. Nothing much has changed from last year, which is not at all a bad thing. On-court sounds are great, the soundtrack is bearable (which is all you can ask for in games these days), and the commentary is surprisingly fresh and entertaining. Repeated phrases are not as common, and the background information and insights into the game are actually semi-relevant and not annoying.
At its very best, NBA 2K10 is simply excellent. It moves great, feels great, and looks and sounds great. Franchise mode and quick play games are the best virtual basketball in the business. At its worst, NBA 2K10 is as frustrating as it gets due to the rough, hiccup-filled online play. The tools and modes are there, but the lag present coupled with the freezes and non-working sections ultimately hold back what could have been awesome. Online play is increasingly important in games, and the fact that this portion of the game stumbles is a real shame.
NBA 2K10 is a great game—don’t get me wrong. I can easily recommend it to any fan of the virtual hardwood—especially if 2K Sports can fix the online issues with a coming patch. Ultimately, the frame rate and online issues transform what could have been an incredible game into a very good game.