NBA 2K has had a vice grip over basketball sims since it launched on the Dreamcast back in ’99. Now the series is celebrating its tenth anniversary with a host of new modes, features and game play changes. The real issue here is assessing if its worth another 60 bucks to upgrade from 2k9. Read on and see if this year’s game is a slam dunk or a botched layup.
Before I go in about 2K10 I have to talk about its launch. The game shipped with a bunch of issues: way too many to list here. Thankfully most of the crucial ones were online play-related and they’ve been fixed or toned down in an online update. Still, there were issues that affected offline modes like My Player freezing after your first season and stuttering on some arenas. You’re pretty much SOL if you can’t get your PS3, Xbox 360 or PC copy online to download the patch. So there goes a warning for those who strictly game offline.
NBA 2K10 has a bunch of new doodads to mess around with. The most profound addition to this year’s game is My Player mode aka “The Passion of Mateen Cleaves.” You create your own bottom level scrub and work your way towards a long NBA career via summer league and training camp. If you don’t do well in training camp you’ll find yourself in the NBDL until you get a call for a 10 Day contract. This mode can be prohibitively difficult at first. You’ll miss your fair share of open jumpers, layups and dime opportunities based on your low rating. Your coach will play you out of position far too often as well. That and the 2K Insider, a (mostly) unhelpful Steven A. lookalike, gets rather irrelevant when you get your bearings straight. Players that bought and completed the NBA 2K10 Draft Combine can import their player into My Player mode. This helps the weather the storm at the start but it’s still tough to get the ball rolling. It gets much better as your character improves. With that being said, the level progression is exceedingly slow. It’ll take most people a season to reach a 70 overall with regular minutes, drills and the occasional online pickup game.
Don’t fret if My Player isn’t your bag. The Association, 2K’s franchise mode, is still intact and got fleshed out with NBDL support. You can put roster players in the D league and sign prospects to contracts as well. You can still sign and trade players throughout the year (outside of the trade deadline), sim games and manage your team’s finances among other managerial duties. Truth be told, most of the improvements to The Association mode were catered towards hardcore players. On top of that, the 2K Nav’s awkward design is exacerbated in the beginning stages of your franchise. It’s not an intuitive means of getting around the myriad of menus and options. It’s still solid, fully fledged and adds to the game’s replay value. It’s just a pain to navigate if you plan to do more than sim games.
The core gameplay makes a few changes from 2K9. Most notably the default speed is slower and dribbling moves were switched to the left trigger/L2. The game incorporated auto-post up so you can’t control your ability to go back to the basket outside of certain modes. It’s an uncomfortable change especially if you’re accustomed to post game scoring but it’s not insurmountable. The default sliders are out of wack too. The lead pass is a little too effective against otherwise tough inside D and the computer gets away with too many alley oops and put backs. Meanwhile it can be difficult to drive, make layups without lead passing, do pull up jumpers off the dribble and even make open shots unless you’re using super star guard or swingman. The game’s default settings aim for a realistic field goal percentage especially at the higher difficulties. You’re bound to miss shots even if you have good shot selection.Fortunately you can alleviate these issues by downloading some popular sliders in 2K Share or you can make your own to cater to your play style.
2K10 has some lighter improvements worth mentioning that divert attention from it’s hiccups. The turbo system has been revamped with an energy bar under the player you’re controlling. You spend stamina every time you use turbo AND lockdown D. This tweak forces players to be more judicious with their endurance on both ends of the court as it’s easy to get winded if you’re careless. The new energy mechanic also encourages more second team involvement since having a fresh capable squad will improve your chances of winning. Moreover, the play calling system got a nice boost. You have an array of quick plays on top of position-specific plays. If you turn on play vision the game will direct you with cues on where to move, pass set picks etc. It takes some rudimentary playbook knowledge to finesse but it’s not hard to learn. Plus it’s cool to run the team specific sets like The Lakers’ Triangle Offense. Additionally, NBA Today loads up with a daily lineup of quick game matchups based on the 09-10 schedule featuring regularly updated rosters, an adaptive presentation, and impressive commentary by Kevin Harlan and Clark Kellogg. Crew mode lets players create a custom team and recruit friends for online games. You can even use your My Player in it. Some connection and lag issues persist throughout the online modes after the update but it’s far more playable now. Or, you can just invite some friends over and play on the same system like the old days.
NBA 2K10 looks marginally better than last year’s game and is a much smoother experience post patch. But there’s still a grip of little things that will annoy vets and rookies alike. It’s still a good game of ball and feature rich. Basically, the new additions give it a moderate leg up on 2K9. Just don’t expect a much improved game of ball if you cop it.