While 2K Sports have been the undisputed kings of basketball gaming by default for a fair number of years now, EA’s push for credibility with NBA Live 10 must surely have made them sit up and take notice. With this year being the tenth anniversary of their initial foray into NBA games, most fans of the series expected them to pull out all the stops and deliver big time. Unfortunately, NBA 2K10 by and large fails to do so.
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Graphically, this game is outstanding. The player models are excellent, and the marquee stars look almost life-like when they appear on-screen. To add to that, the players perspire throughout the game, and seeing a player’s sweat-drenched jersey towards the end of a hard-fought battle just adds that sweet sense of realism to it all. It isn’t uniform though, a player who only got off the bench for a few minutes will have a considerably dryer jersey than a starter who played 35+ minutes, and that kind of attention to detail is good to see.
There are some issues, however. Lesser known players, understandably, don’t have the same kind of effort put into them. The skin-tone bug rears its ugly head again, Carlos Arroyo and Daniel Green from the Heat and Cavs respectively, being the victims this time, like so. You’ll also notice that Rick Adelman, the Rockets head coach, is translucent. Really. On a more positive note, courts and arenas have been updated, and look great as ever. As do the lighting effects, especially the on-court reflections. It’s not a massive improvement over 2K9, but it’s an improvement nonetheless.
The animations aren’t quite as stellar. They’re fine individually, but it’s the transitions between animations that look extremely clunky. Players try crossovers and half-spins on their defenders, and then teleport back to their original position. When players like Tony Parker drive the lane hard and then dish out to the perimeter, the ball travels at an almost impossible speed to the pass receiver. A player streaking up court with the ball on a fast break will mysteriously slow down near the basket, even when there isn’t a defender in sight. These are just a few of the issues, and the overall quality seems to have regressed when compared to earlier games.
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The biggest problem though, is the framerate drops. In certain arenas, the framerate goes down considerably when on a fast break, playing in the post, or taking free throws. While it isn’t as noticeable on the PS3, the PC and (I’d imagine) the Xbox 360 versions suffer majorly. The 76ers arena is particularly terrible. There were moments when the ball was in my Center’s hands one moment, and was in the basket the next. It gets tiring adjusting shot and free throw releases for certain arenas and situations, and while this was fixed with a patch, it could’ve been fixed easily pre-release with adequate QA testing, something I’ll get to later.
Disturbingly, the gameplay, which has long been the USP of the series, has regressed as well. Problems from 2K9 remain unfixed, and a few new ones show up. It is still far too easy to score in the paint. You could play an entire game just posting up or driving/slashing, not take a single perimeter shot, and still win. That just doesn’t happen in the NBA. Also, the CPU tries too many alley-oops, and it’s too easy to score with them yourself. The gameplay is noticeably more offence-oriented this time around, because the AI will not man-mark effectively. On the flipside, your players will sometimes miss wide open layups or great shooters on a hot streak will miss wide open jumpers. These are real momentum killers, and could end up costing you the game, especially when the CPU is shooting 65% and knocking down contested threes like nobody’s business.
The AI does some inexplicable things, too. It will casually dribble backcourt or out of bounds and turn the ball over, or park itself in the lane for way more than three seconds. Only some of the three second violations are called though, and as one of the worst implemented rules in the NBA in real life, it is realistic in its own warped way. These are just out of the box complaints though, and with the patch fixing most of these issues and custom sliders the gameplay is incredibly realistic, and the two new features benefit that a great deal.
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The biggest gameplay change is the new turbo meter. Gone are the days when you could just sprint with Kobe or Lebron and dunk on defenders’ heads all day. Once you exhaust the turbo meter, you’ll start eating into the player’s stamina, and that will cause him to be completely knackered. He’ll then have to stay on the bench longer to recover his energy. This is a neat addition, because you have to manage your players effectively, or they won’t last the whole game, or more importantly, the whole season thanks to accumulated fatigue. Couple this with the new playcalling system and you have a game that rewards you if you play a half-court offence, as opposed to just arcade style running and gunning all the time.
Where the game really shines though, is the presentation, and that’s thanks to one of the two big new features, NBA Today. This is both a game mode and an in-game feature, so it’s important not to confuse the two. The game mode stays very true to its name. You can play any of the games that are scheduled on that day in the real-life NBA, and the rosters (trades, injuries, form) are updated frequently via the Living Rosters feature. This is all free, by the way, unlike FIFA’s Live Season.
The in-game NBA Today is an overlay system that shows up at various points in the games, across all game modes. Similar to Live’s Dynamic DNA, these overlays highlight stats leaders (player and team), upcoming schedules of the two teams involved, season records and even advertise upcoming games not involving the two teams. While this might not look all that flash at first glance, its real hook is that the commentary reacts to it.
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For example, when an overlay shows up highlighting Chauncey Billups as one of the assist leaders in the season, the commentary team of Kevin Harlan and Clark Kellogg talk about how he’s helping the team by being a leader and a court general. Similarly, they’ll talk about the pros and cons of an uptempo offence when discussing the Nuggets’ high scoring average. They’ll even comment on important games towards the tail end of a playoff race. While it may get repetitive at times, it’s a small price to pay for contextual commentary in a video game. Yes, I really did just say “contextual commentary” in a sport video game review.
The commentary is excellent in other areas too. They’ll react to a player’s performance in any area, be it three-point shooting, turnovers, bench points or assists etc, and never is it off the mark. Cheryl Miller’s sideline reports are back, and again, the coach’s comments are contextual.
Next page: IVG verdict