When it comes to sports simulators, usually one development company will control a major sport. For example, Sony controls the baseball market whereas EA dominates the NHL and NFL franchise. On the other hand, when it comes to the NBA, the dominant title isn’t as evident.
Over the past decade, the rivalry between 2K Sports and EA for the better NBA game has gone back and forth. A few years ago, 2K Sports finally edged ahead and has been steadily gaining distance ever since. In fact, the PC hasn’t seen a NBA Live title since 2008, so 2K Sports’ only rival is itself.
Thus it begs the question: is NBA 2K10 for the PC a much improved simulator over last year? Read on to find out.
The first thing returning PC players will notice is the significant price drop from last year’s title. Since 2K9 for the PC lacked online play and Living Rosters, many players were reluctant to spend $40 despite it missing the bells and whistles that console players enjoyed.
This year is surprisingly different; the game only costs $20 and yet it includes all the missing content and new features. At this point, I can only speculate reasons behind the price change, nonetheless, it’s nice knowing that players will find some relief in this area.
Aside from the price, the gameplay has undergone some significant changes as well. Most notably is the revamped turbo scheme. In 2K9, players could sprint up and down the court effortlessly with little regards to fatigue. This year the developers have implemented an energy system that adds a bit more realism.
It’s a two pronged structure: you have a sprint meter that refills over time and a stamina gauge that can only be restored while sitting on the bench. If you burn through the sprint meter, you’ll start to eat away your stamina, which can cost your team significantly if you’re not careful. It’s a delicate balancing act that improves the quality of the game.
Similarly, Lock-On-D has undergone a face lift. Before, the game had an arcade style feel where players would lock on to a ball carrier, and a graph would show up indicating your relative distance and angle to the offensive player. This year 2K10 does away with all of that. Defenders will lock on to the player, but instead of a graph appearing, defenders are allowed a wider range of motion.
The process is much more free flowing and the transition to get into the right angles and distance is much smoother. The drawback is that it makes it easier for the ball carrier to escape the defense with a few “isomotion” (crossing, spinning, etc.) moves.
For players who know the offensive sets of their favorite teams will be happy to know that the depth of play calling has increased dramatically. What’s unique about it is that gamers can call up specific plays that cater towards an NBA player’s position, with each position on the court having four unique plays. The downside is that it takes quite a bit of practice and intuition to see the defense, determine the best play and execute it. And since there are so many additional plays, finding the right one in the midst of a game can leave players vulnerable to defenders.
Despite the improvements, it seems as though the developers didn’t fix the mapping of the PC controller to coincide with the tutorial and dual-player control icons. There is no excuse for this, and it really confuses new comers to the game. It’s something that was evident in 2K9 and it doesn’t seem like it was addressed in 2K10. Hopefully, a patch will be released soon that fixes this.
Along with so many new gameplay features comes the addition of two new modes: NBA Today and My Player Mode. NBA Today works much like what you would find on ESPN. It provides all the final scores of the games played the day before and presents all the match-ups. What’s unique about it is that it stays up to date with all the current stats, injuries and starting line ups in the real world. If that’s not enough, you can play the games you want regardless of who won in real life. It’s quite an interesting mode that provides players with a reliable source of information.
Since I started playing, I’ve been hooked into the My Player Mode. Players design their NBA star, pick a position, choose a play style and try to move him from being a Summer League rookie to an NBA All-Star. What’s fun about it is players are awarded skill points for positive results of a game and completion of drills. The skill points earned are allocated to specific areas in a player’s game. For example, I made a score first point guard, so most of my points went into shooting, offensive clutch, passing and off-hand dribbling. Naturally, I was an offensive power house who was easily burned on defense.
The gameplay is incredibly immersive, players are given certain objectives to complete during each match and are graded on how well he is as a team player. While it’s fun seeing the positives and negatives of your game, I do have some qualms with the grading structure.
When you’re going for that A+ grade, there are a number of factors that will unfairly count against you. For example, sometimes the computer will turn the ball over, and when that happens, the opponent you’re guarding will get a fast break basket. As a result, your grade will be marked down for letting your man score when it was no fault of your own. Similarly, if you’re on offense, your team can sometimes be slow getting into position. If you have the ball when that happens, your grade will be marked down for holding the rock too long. It’s demerits like these that really had me frustrated at times.
Despite the drawbacks, it is quite an innovative experience that provides some fun RPG elements. Also, you can take your player online and join a crew where you’ll be tested to rise to the top of the ladder.
Presentation this year has taken tremendous leaps and bounds. The menus are easier to navigate, which is very important while playing Association mode. In Association, players are looking at rosters, managing trades, taking on coaching roles, figuring out what’s going on in the league, etc. As you can tell, there is a lot to keep track of, so being able to quickly navigate through the many different screens is extremely important.
The player proportion to the relative size of the court is more realistic, and the character models look much more like their real-life persona this year. Eric Gordon doesn’t look a 20 year old baby fresh out of the womb any longer. On the other hand, while there are noticeable improvements in the graphics, there isn’t enough to set it apart from 2K9.
Much like last year’s game, the animations feel solid. Watching players fight through screens, post up in the paint, perform dunks, etc. feels and looks phenomenal. When you perform a play successfully, you know you did a great job due to the way the game operates. There’s a sense of reward when you play it correctly.
Surprisingly for a sports title, the PC version wins out over its console brethren for once. This is due mostly to the amount of improvements, the rich content and the $20 price tag. Similarly, I feel as though I’ve only skimmed the surface of what this game truly has to offer; I could easily write another 1000 words explaining the depth of this title, but for brevity, you have to go pick it up for yourself to find out what it’s all about. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
In modes like Association, you'll be thankful that the developers revamped the menu screens. Previously, scrolling through so many different screens became mind boggling. Similarly, character animations carry over very well from last year.
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While the controls still suffer drastically, the very fabric of this game is incredibly rich. You can impose yourself into the game, you can coach, you can take on GM duties, you can dunk over Lebron James. The variations of gameplay are endless.
The game includes a very eclectic taste of music, but after a while, you'll want to turn it off and reserve it for timeouts and menu navigating, as it'll eventually wear on you. Also, the broadcast trio of Harlen, Kellog and Miller is the best I've seen in any sports game.
The drawback is that you'll put this game down as soon as 2K11 comes out, but on the other hand, you'll be playing this game all the way through the NBA season, so that's roughly the next eight months.
There are many similiarties from 2K9 that carried over to 2K10, but the PC's inclusion of Living Rosters, Online Play, NBA Today, My Player Mode and the $20 price tag will have you playing this until 2K11 comes out.