NBA 2K10 Initial Impressions

Posted September 28th, 2009 at 4:19 pm


Having spent a significant amount of time with NBA 2K10 over the last few days it felt like a good time to post some of my general impressions of the game thus far. Of course make sure to watch the videos I’ve posted to make your own judgments on some of the strengths and weaknesses. The demo will be out tomorrow for the 360 exclusively with the Magic @ Lakers in a single four minute quarter. From the way things have been explained it sounds like the PS3 won’t see it until next Thursday. At least some of you will get a chance to form your own first hand opinions and see how that compares to what I’ve experienced.

Continue on for my observations from playing NBA 2K10 and feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

Overall the game isn’t going to really surprise anyone, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering the series has been highly regarded. There are certainly improvements that have been made over 2K9 however for most people who just pick up and play the game it will have a very familiar feel. What you liked from last year will almost certainly still be there so I’m not going to reiterate those in this write-up, just the things that stood out to me while playing. The biggest addition comes with My Player mode which adds depth to a feature set that had been lacking and provides some real variety to how to play a basketball game.

While I’ll be saving a full article to cover My Player mode I have stumbled across one issue that has really detracted from the enjoyment. After being cut from the Summer Circuit I was picked up by an NBDL team. The games in the NBDL are played in a sold out arena with additions such as cheerleaders which may be the culprit for a drop in the framerate. While it is not unplayable it is quite annoying (jumpy, sluggish) almost to the point where I don’t want to play the mode anymore. The framerate does drop slightly in normal games when using camera angles closer to the court (2K, Action) but isn’t nearly as pronounced as seen in My Player. I’ll continue on to see if the framerate problem occurs in NBA games as well given that is where people will spend most of their time.

There is a completely new menu system which is a welcome change from the old one which was terrible. Unfortunately I don’t like this one much either. I’ve always navigated menus with the D-Pad but it is difficult to do that with this menu system because you have to hold the direction and then press A at the same time. So options in the corners require pushing to the side and the top or bottom at the same time. I’ve found myself slipping off what I wanted pretty frequently. If you played the Draft Combine it is the same format for the full game.

With the gameplay one positive is the off-ball movement. You don’t necessarily need to run a play to make something happen. Court spacing is a little better than last year but I’ve still found it relatively difficult to get open mid-range shots.

I really like the effect that the limit on turbo provides. Unlike in Draft Combine where you started to adjust and play unrealistically to conserve turbo (why trail on a fast break when it would cost you?) here the real players have much more stamina. So you don’t want to misuse turbo, but you don’t feel discouraged from using it in the right situations. It makes for a nice balance.

Shot percentages are very high all around on the default settings. I’ll have up videos of a full game (GM 7 of the NBA Finals) on All-Star tomorrow and I’m sure the shot percentages will be a big topic of discussion coming out of it. This is something that can be adjusted with sliders although when venturing online you’ll be stuck with the defaults. Open shots are so rarely missed, while obviously understanding that they should be more likely to go in, you know the shot is going to be good before it’s even released.

For whatever reason I’ve found All Star to be easier than Pro. Shot percentages remain high, CPU seems a little sloppier with the ball, Pick and Roll is maybe not quite as effective but general player movement allows for more scoring opportunities. I didn’t start winning games until I moved the difficulty up from Pro to All Star which is bizarre.

The AI makes some questionable decisions. I’ve found this to be especially the case defensively. Zone defense seems to be useless because your teammates play their areas in such lackadaisical fashion allowing for wide open shots. The AI also has difficulty defending the Pick and Roll which is the most effective offensive tactic I’ve come across. Help defense in general is not very good. It appears that once a player makes a move for the basket it has almost been scripted that they’ll be getting the shot off and rarely is it properly contested.

I have seen some cool instances of hustle plays. You don’t have control over them (similar to how you don’t control put back dunks) but they haven’t occurred an inordinate amount of times and have made sense in the context of the situations.

One of the things that bothers me the most is I can’t seem to take any leaners or momentum based shots. I can be running using turbo and holding the stick a direction and the player will stop immediately as soon as I go for the shot and go straight up with a jump shot. I’d probably feel better about creating your own shots if they didn’t allow for the defender to be right there and contest it because you can’t be more creative with the shots. It also doesn’t seem possible to take quick shots since you either get a pump fake or they go through their entire shot motion.

I’m not a big fan of the post-score replays, reaction scenes, and “G Moments”. It just interrupts the flow and pace of the game. What bothers me most is that the replays seemingly allow the defense to get down the court while you’re stuck waiting to inbound the ball. If it was stopping the action completely I’d be okay with it. Despite that the overall presentation is nicely done with the highlights in between the quarters and the post game setup that provides numerous options to view highlights even down to reels for each specific player.

The atmosphere of the games is better but still doesn’t quite live up to what I would hope for. Crowd reactions are inconsistent. You’ll get a roar from the home crowd for hitting a three, but then the next time you hit three there may be no cheering at all for it. You’ll see in the Finals game seven videos the crowd doesn’t really even get into the game until the 4th quarter. I was especially hoping there would be playoff crowds wearing the team colors but that has not been included. I didn’t really get a special feel from the playoffs or Finals which was disappointing.

Graphically the game looks a lot like last year with improved lighting but the player faces are all over the board. Take a look at my earlier posting of screenshots for good examples. Some players look decent and others look horrendous. This can’t be all due to the emotion that has been added in because they look odd even when not making an expression. It is also a little distracting in the post-score reaction scenes how the players look bug-eyed running back down the court.

One thing that really annoys me is the slowness of the refs. This is something that was seen in Draft Combine as well. They take their time to get into position and hold onto the ball for a while before handing it over. If you are unlucky enough to throw the ball down the court on an inbounds and it goes out, it’ll be well over 30 seconds before the ref collects the ball, runs it cross court, gives it to the other ref, gets in position, and the ball is handed over to start play.

Also be careful when inbounding at the start of a quarter. In many cases I’m finding that my point guard is down at the other end of the court for some reason. This has led to hitting A, expecting a normal inbound to the PG, only to see the ball get launched and result in a turnover.

Just a couple random things I have noted was a case where the mascot was break dancing on the court during play and how frustrating it is that you get sent back to the original start screen if you are inactive for about 20 seconds in the menus/team select screens and when you return everything has been reset.

I have yet to do do anything with online play as there are still only a handful of people out there with copies, but it’ll be something I jump into when the opportunity presents itself. Coming off 2K9 which had a poor online experience, including a mode in Team Up that never properly worked, this is an important area to see improvement. Unfortunately a few serious problems have already been discovered that need to be addressed.

To wrap up my feelings on the game so far it has been fun for the most part but some issues are present that will need to be accommodated to or adjusted. My Player mode has been much more compelling than the bore that was the Draft Combine but the framerate drop when reaching the NBDL is a concern. You pretty much have a good idea of what you’re going to get out of NBA 2K10. That is a good thing if you’ve enjoyed the series in the past but may not be enough if you’re looking for a fresher experience.