With a few rare exceptions, sports gaming has not enjoyed a pleasant tenure on the Nintendo Wii. Few sports games besides the Madden series have taken the time to build a game from the ground up for the system and understand the complex control scheme. It’s certainly possible to make great sports games on Wii, but, unfortunately, years into the system’s lifespan, we continue to get slapdash ports like NBA 2K10 that are hastily jammed onto the system like a square peg in a round hole.
The Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of NBA 2K10 are quite good, but when you translate that same game to the Wii, you end up with a product with almost no redeeming qualities whatsoever. From start to finish, this game is a broken example of how not to make a Wii sports title.
For starters, the game is absolutely hideous. It’s one of the worst looking major games yet released on the system. Rather than understanding that the system is not capable of realistic graphics and changing to a more stylized visual aesthetic, 2K decided to try to squeeze through the bottleneck that is the Wii’s graphical capabilities.
This is the worst looking game in the NBA 2K basketball series since ESPN NBA Basketball 2K4 was released back in 2003 on the PS2. Players have giant meat-club hands that are directly connected to their forearms. Their faces look like they were made by scanning images of pictures of NBA stars and then stretching that picture over the front of a blank head rather than being made by an artist’s rendering.
Things get even worse with the controls. Just about the only thing that reliably works in this control scheme is the joystick. Yes, if you push forward, the player will run forward, but that’s about the most complex maneuver you should expect to pull off on a consistent basis. The game tries to teach you how to execute behind the back crossovers, spin moves, and other kinds of complex techniques, but it fails. All of these moves require that you press several different buttons in sequence, and then pull off a perfect joystick movement (such as a half circle). Combine that with the fact that you first have to memorize the long sequence, and then you have to not only execute it while struggling with the game’s inability to recognize the motions, but do so on the first try with precise timing during the right moment when it actually matters in the game.
Complex maneuvers aren’t the real problem, though. The major issue is that even simple tasks like shooting are a total mystery. The game never really explains how to shoot effectively, but settles for telling you that shooting and jumping is done by raising the Wii Remote up. How high? How fast? Does it affect the shot if you release? What if the remote goes off to the left as you raise it? Does that affect accuracy? That’s up to you to figure out, and you probably never will because some games you’ll rain down 3-pointers in double coverage without a second thought, and then you’ll miss 20 shots in a row in the next.
This trouble extends itself to the defensive side of the ball. It’s at this point that you’d be better off just putting the controller down for a few minutes and see if they score. Because there’s nothing you’re going to be able to do about it anyways. Blocking and stealing are both done by moving the Wii Remote, and by the time you swing the remote, the move is registered by the game, and the character acts out the excruciatingly slow animation, but the time for that move has already passed. And if you try to do it preemptively, the opponent will run right around you and dunk. Once again, you’ll be powerless to stop it because you’re stuck in a long, slow character animation. This is all assuming, for the sake of argument, that you’re actually able to pull off one of those moves, which is easier said than done.
The struggle with the controls is without a doubt the biggest problem with the entire game, but perhaps the most embarrassing is the menu interface. I’ve been playing games for twenty years, and it took me a substantially long time just to figure out how to play a game of basketball in NBA 2K10. It took me days to become at all comfortable with navigating the interface, and I still get confused sometimes.
While you’re struggling to figure out the interface, you’ll be treated to some really odd music choices that range from decent, to terrible, to utterly bizarre. The sound is one of the only relatively decent parts of the game, though. The announcers aren’t bad at all. The music, while bizarre, is acceptable, and it features at least a couple decent tunes.
The only bright spot for the entire game is its online system. The game seems as though it was built with online connectivity in mind, as it features several modes, and up-to-the-minute stat tracker and roster updates.
Overall, NBA 2K10 feels like it was snatched from the developer’s hands while still severely incomplete and lacking basic tuning and play testing in order to be rushed to market to coincide with the start of the NBA season. The game is flush with different modes of play, but nearly all of them are dependent on the awful core gameplay, so saying there’s a lot of modes isn’t much of a consolation.
Basketball is a sport that requires lightning-fast reflexes, and a high level of control over not just your own player but the entire team to execute often complex strategies. To the contrary, this game’s players have extremely slow reaction times. Instead of feeling as though you’re in control of the court, you never even feel fully in command of the player you’re controlling.
Across the board, this game fails to live up to the good name of the series, and Wii basketball fans will be very disappointed. It dissatisfying on just about every level, and it should be avoided even if you have no other gaming console and this is your only route to basketball gaming.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 1.5 Graphics
Some of the worst graphics of any sports game on the system. Player faces look like they were scanned onto a blank, generic head rather than being personally crafted. 1.5 Control
It’s incredibly difficult to get your player to do anything significant. Defensive maneuvers take way too long to be effective, and shooting feels completely random. You never feel in control. 2.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The soundtrack isn’t outright horrible, though it’s worth noting that some of the songs will make you scratch your head as to why they’re in a basketball game. Announcers are pretty standard. 2.0
There’s a good amount of content and game modes, but it’s all based on the terrible core gameplay mechanics. This series has a long way to go if future Wii games are going to be at all enjoyable, because NBA 2K10 just doesn’t cut it.
1.8 Overall Rating – Avoid
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.