My attraction to sports sims (those few I play, anyway) comes down to video games being about doing the things I can't do in real life. Well, I can't do sports. I have heard people say they won't play FIFA because they can go outside and have a kick about whenever they want, so why would they waste their time? They'd far rather shoot aliens. But I can't go outside and have a kick about whenever I want, because I can't do sports. Can't do soccer, can't do tennis, can't do rugby... and basketball? Forget about it.
[NB: using 'do' rather than 'play' is a linguistic device intended to add comedy. I trust it has worked. This is also intended to display that my talents lie rather closer to being hilarious than they do sports. So that's a kind of double layer of meaning. You needn't have caught it, because I have explained it. See? Don't we all feel better? Read on.]
The issue I have with sports sims nowadays, is that gaming technology has advanced to the point where the machinery of ballgames (and all other sports) are able to be readily transferred into a virtual world. In 2K's latest NBA sim, for example, one is expected to keep track of a number of in-game indicators that help one to figure out one's next move. And that's just on the surface. Pass? Shoot? Keep dribbling? Get in close? Drop back? It's been like this for a while. And do you know what it means? I can't do sports on the Xbox, either.
Despite my fat-thumbed-ham-fisted-ness, I had a bit of fun tinkering with some early code for NBA 2K10. And putting aside the fact that it was all a bit hard for me, NBA 2K10 is so packed with features that this game is sure to be a success. This franchise has been turning out very respectful basketball sims for a few years now, and they are only getting better. There are a couple of new features and game modes that make 2K10 the best yet and set the mind to boggle.
The coolest has to be NBA Today, which allows you to see a list of actual NBA games online. As the games are played, the stats produced by the players and any other significant events are reflected in the world of the game. This will effect things like which players are available to play, who is injured, and the themes the commentators follow. Detailed statistics and other information is also captured by a partner website, and this data will also be made available in 2K10. This includes obvious stuff like points, rebounds and the like, but also goes much deeper, so it actually impacts on the action of the players in-game.
These advanced mechanics will make NBA 2K10 a force to be reckoned with in the sports market, and it will be interesting to see how it does against EA's contribution.
When it comes to the simulation aspect and the relationship 2K's NBA series shares with the world, I should imagine I am preaching to the converted. Rather than crap on about all the nitty gritty, I'll just talk a bit about the look and feel: a hands-on isn't the same as a heart-on, and for fans of these games the research probably started a long time ago.
Like any good sports game of the here and now, a quick glance at the screen will make it seem as if you're watching a real game. The graphical power of this title is impressive in almost every way - the only let down is the animation of the crowd. Yeah, I know you're not supposed to focus on the background when you've got the rock, but the five or six different people animations they have used makes it look like Mexican waves are about to start all the time, because large groups are moving in unison. When you actually have a look, you see ten people in one section of the stadium all cross their legs or stand up at the same time in exactly the same way. So maybe it's a small gripe, but it's about atmosphere, and in a game like this one atmosphere matters.
The overall difficulty of the title is going to depend very much on which team you choose, considering the amount of variables coming through your machine from the interwebs. Even so, to get a feel for it, I picked one of the most thickly stacked teams and set myself up against a relative minnow. It still wasn't easy. Attack and defence strategies in the AI seem so self-aware it's scary. Dribbling down the court the opposition just finds a way to stick to you. And if you miss the basket, you better be the Johnny-on-the-spot looking for the rebound otherwise your chance is shot. Up the other end of the court, they don't tend to miss, either.
NBA 2K10 is shaping up to be an essential addition for sports fans. Of course there's the EA loyalists who won't touch it, but there won't be any surprises for us when this one starts flying off the shelves. We'll bring you a full review as soon as!
If you haven't already, check out Kobe Bryant talking about NBA 2K10 and his role in the game at 3news.co.nz
The Good: Some of the most advanced interplay with real life we've seen.
The Bad: A few poor choices break the immersive reverie
The Ugly: WHITE CHOCOLATE!