NBA 2K10 Review (Xbox360)

Strip any sport down to its bare essentials and the whole thing seems pretty stupid. Take football for starters: kick a spherical lump of stitched leather into a net. Look at rugby: chuck an egg around for a bit then stop for a big, dirty man hug. American Football: same as rugby, but with padding and lots of shouting random numbers and saying, ‘hut!’ a lot. And then there’s basketball: the game of bouncing big orange balls along a squeaky floor to toss them through a hoop. Yet, despite all of this, the majority of mankind blindly loves sport, some going so far as to riot and fight in the name of their beloved team. Crazy.

Of all the sports fabricated by the human race, this humble writer would class basketball as his favourite, playing for his school team and fervently supporting the Phoenix Suns for many years before sinking far too much time into videogames to care enough about fixtures, leagues and results. And so here we are, reviewing a basketball game when years ago we’d have been playing it for real.

Yeah! Go Suns! Oh, wait…
NBA 2K10's visuals are excellent and the likenesses are superb.

NBA 2K10 follows in the fine 2K Sports tradition of yearly updates, this iteration representing the brand’s tenth anniversary. As is normally the case with sporting franchises, gamers are left with a decision to make between two games doing very similar things – in this case EA’s NBA Live 10 and 2K’s latest competing entry.

For some years now NBA 2K has been the purist’s choice, offering the optimal basketball experience over EA Sports’ comparatively clunky and languid translation of the sport. That’s not to say that EA’s title is necessarily bad, it’s just that 2K10 is a far superior representation of the sport, both in terms of pure playability and unsurpassed TV style presentation.

When our reviewer proclaimed, “Electronic Arts serves up the best NBA title in 2010,” in their strapline, unfortunately they were dead wrong (no accounting for taste etc). NBA 2K10 does just about everything right, offering just as much depth and value as EA’s entry, but touched with a superior level of graphical authenticity, control accessibility and simple, all round finesse.

As ever, the game’s ubiquitous ‘shot stick’ has a decent stab at attempting to simulate shooting and works well to a degree, but it’s the way in which the presentation has been honed to accurately mimic a genuine live broadcast that impresses the most. Commentary and on-the-fly analysis is always spot on, even going so far as to cite actual results from real life games played out over the current season during play. It’s a brilliant touch that edges the basketball sim ever closer to the Holy Grail of total realism.

These live season updates are applied every time you start up the game, so you can keep an eye on results and league standings or even play the day’s fixtures and see how close the outcome matches up to the real thing. This even extends as far as each individual player’s statistics, so if say Kobe Bryant has been throwing up bricks or LeBron James has had his mind wiped and has forgotten how to dunk, it’ll all be automatically tweaked for you in-game.

On the court, the game plays as impeccably as it always has, driving more towards a realistic simulation over NBA Live’s relatively arcade-centric leanings. Plays and strategies can easily be implemented during play, projecting lines all over the floor like a virtual chalkboard, again providing extra depth if you want it. Of course, none of this is essential, so a straightforward game free of coaching options and subs is open to casual players if they so desire. And there are a number of adjustable sliders in the options menu to fiddle with if you’d like to customise the game to your own specific tastes.

“What do I do with this again?”
Shaq at the free throw line. That’s two points the Cavs will never see then.

Outside the array of core game modes such as season, My Player and so on is NBA Blacktop – a host of streetball game types such as 3-point shootouts, dunk competitions and more. Plenty for any ardent NBA fan to be getting on with then. 2K10 is a comprehensive and hugely playable basketball sim that will keep fans coming back for more. It’s perhaps less forgiving than NBA Live 10, but then 2K10 is undeniably more detailed and compelling.

The sheer wealth of options, intuitive controls and excellent presentation make NBA 2K10 the best basketball title on the market by some margin. It simply plays a better game than its competitor and although it falls some way short of perfection - displaying occasional AI tics and a steadfast refusal to get rid of those godawful selection menus - NBA 2K10 still manages to take it all the way to the hole and slam it with authority.

Top game moment: Popping a buzzer beating 3-pointer to clinch a tied game during overtime. It just doesn’t get any sweeter than that.