|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PC, PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Visual Concepts||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: 2K Sports||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 6, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-7 (10 Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Caleb Newby
In an odd way, ever since EA nabbed the exclusive NFL license for its Madden franchise, effectively signing the death warrant for 2K Sports' football aspirations, I've been fascinated to see how 2K does with its yearly sports titles. It must have been particularly frustrating for 2K to lose the NFL license, as they'd been building momentum to challenge the seemingly invincible Madden. That's nearly ancient history now, and 2K Sports has found varying degrees of success with their hockey and baseball titles.
Where the experienced publisher has shined is with their NBA 2K series. Boasting superior visuals, solid gameplay, a bevy of modes, and one of the best soundtracks in recent memory, NBA 2K10 has a lot to offer hardcore and casual basketball fans.
It's unusual to start a review lauding the soundtrack of a game unless it's a music rhythm game. But honestly, before diving into a pickup game or starting your career as GM of your favorite team in Association Mode, the inspiring soundtrack is hard to miss. Kanye West may be the most recognizable artist from the listing, but the track One Day by Matisyahu adds an oddly fitting and inspired reggae tune to the mix. Add in one of my favorites, the electronica group Ratatat, to some more traditional rock and hip-hop tunes, and you have a distinctive soundtrack that leaves an impression and makes navigating the menus a joy. I actually used it as a personal jukebox while writing this review.
Of course, gameplay is where a sports title sinks or swims. It has been awhile since I'd spent any extended time with the franchise and there was definitely a learning curve. If you're new to basketball games or stepping back onto the court after an extended time away, expect some trials and tribulations whilst coming to grips with all the options at your disposal. This is not a lighthearted, arcade run n' shoot basketball experience; there are touch passes, pump fake to hopstep spins, step-throughs, shimmies, fadeaways, leaners, and defensive flops. And that's not the half of it. While it may be intimidating, it's all certainly not needed to get started and will come with time. Even though I was getting blown out in my first several games, it wasn't a bad or frustrating feeling because I knew there was so much more depth to dig into for a deeper experience.
Unfortunately, for all the depth that comes with NBA 2K10, there are also more challenges making everything balance well together and work with the computer-controlled AI. Defensive play, while strong overall, still suffers from a few hiccups. For example, when reaching for a steal, I would find my players sluggishly making the attempt on a few occasions and being vastly out of position after the animation was completed. The good news is nine times out of ten my teammates had my back and ran over to cover the lane to the basket. Other than a few other minor grievances, everything gelled and worked well together for a complete experience.
Of course, no sports game today is complete without a franchise mode, or "Association Mode" in this case. Upon starting up the Association Mode I decided it best to support and play my local NBA franchise, the hapless Minnesota Timberwolves. After selecting them I was confronted with a "Are you sure you want to choose the Minnesota Timberwolves as a user-controlled team?" prompt. Now I realize that this is the confirmation screen, but I couldn't help but think the game was trying to tell me something about my poor choice.
After disregarding the warning of my foolishness of selection and now assuring my humiliation at the hands of the 29 other CPU-controlled teams, I was able to set the roles for my players from starter, sixth man, role-player, prospect, and benchwarmer. Each role has added depth to them, I had Al Jefferson set as my starter and team star where the rest of my misfit cast of starters were labeled as replaceable if someone better came along. Certainly not good for their ego, but at least they knew the truth up front. If you stray from using your players during the season as expressed from their role, their mood will worsen and affect team chemistry and individual performance. After taking caring of that dirty business, I was also able to randomly generate an incoming rookie class or go online to import user generated rookie classes, allowing me to grab a fairly realistic group resembling next year's draft class. It's a nice feature that more and more games are taking advantage of, allowing in-game sharing of user-created content that couldn't be more practical or useful.