US: 6 Oct 2009
Full disclosure, NBA 2K10 is my first foray into the 2K10 hoops world. For this, I apologize. To whom, I’m not particularly sure. Maybe myself. But it should be publicly noted that NBA 2K10 is far and away, the best basketball sim on the market.
Gameplay aside, the most recent 2K installment is the most graphically detailed and realistic sports game ever. After a few minutes with the game, the first thing that sticks out is the players’ faces, specifically, that the players look like they do in real life. I mentioned this in my review of NHL 2K10, but the realism is even more pronounced here where faces aren’t obscured by helmets and half shields. It may not add anything to the actual gameplay, but it significantly adds to the gaming experience. As games become more realistic, this appeared to be one of the last hurdles when trying to represent actual humans. Combine this with the expansive crowd and referee animations, and you’ve got the most real-to-life sports sim made.
Functionally, NBA 2K10 makes similar leaps. Specifically, the greatest advancement is the physics of players when they interact with one another. The game seems less pixelated and the players bump and jostle for position as if they’re humanly malleable. There are little, if any, moments of pixilated “warps” wherein the game glitches and simply moves the players so that they’re no longer overlapping.
This upgrade is the most integral part to the advanced realism of the gameplay. Boxing opponents out under the basket, fighting through screens, and on-the-ball defense are all improved over previous basketball games. And with this comes the ability to play a smoother and more functional game. For quite some time, succeeding in video games has been as much about understanding the glitches and limitations of the programming as it is in understanding the sport/action you’re mimicking. In NBA 2K10 these glitches are mostly relegated to referees stuck on repeat and a limited repertoire for the color commentators.
Undeniably, though, the best aspect of NBA 2K10 is the new My Player game mode. It’s nothing particularly revolutionary in its aim, but it is at all times simultaneously captivating, supremely realistic—almost to a fault—and couch punchingly frustrating. In it, you create a player to meet whatever specs and playing style you choose and are thrown into an NBA feeder system wherein you are unable to make shots, run quickly, or defend anyone. But the longer you play, the more your character advances. Becoming talented enough to make an open 10-footer feels like a major accomplishment. And the game keeps you interested by giving you a spattering of milestones—score 100 career points, get 100 career steals, etc.
But where NBA 2K10 makes its technical leaps, it also runs into a few new issues. The game is fueled by countless stats and graphics in-game that will occasionally remain on the screen during play, covering half to all of the court. And as mentioned earlier, the referee’s will occasionally get caught in a loop and pass the ball back and forth with a player waiting to inbound the ball. These intermittent problems are tolerable, though, and don’t take away much from the experience.
In the end, NBA 2K10 has legitimately elevated the expectations for sporting video games. It’s sheer playability combined with astounding graphical advancements make it one of the more impressive games—sports or otherwise—in recent memory.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times. Thanks everyone.