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NBA 2K10 Preview

Robroom By:
GENRE Sports 
DEVELOPER Visual Concepts 
E Contains No Descriptors

What do these ratings mean?

It’s amazing, so amazing, so amazing, so amazing…

Like a little bit of Kanye? One tune from his 808s & Heartbreak album not only underscores the coming NBA season, it’s the soundtrack you won’t be able to avoid. 2K Sports jumped on licensing this signature tune for its intro to ensure that you know that what you’re getting is authentic NBA. To be fair, after just a handful of games with a pre-release build, NBA 2K10 won’t need gimmicks to earn its plaudits; the on-court detail should take care of that well enough.

click to enlargeMaking a career in the NBA requires talent, and the developers at Visual Concepts are determined that everything you do in this year's installment contributes to your overall abilities. “So often, career modes add fluff, having extraneous events that don’t matter,” says Erick Boenisch, Lead Feature Designer, “but we want people to feel like what they are doing is real, that it matters, and has authenticity.”

That boils down to the draft where you can see David Stern poised at the podium about to name your player making his big entrance. From there you’ll head to summer league, and if you perform well enough—following directions that ensure you’re moving on-court where you should—you’ll get to the training league on the path to the NBA roster. If you’re not cutting it, you’ll hit training camp where other teams could make a bid on you to fit in their system.

So every move you make on the training court, or wherever you’re playing, will influence how the rest of the league sees you and how your overall career pans out. Not that there’s any pressure or anything. To make sure this NBA "minor league" is as accurate as the superstar-dominated main game, 2K Sports has licensed the teams and stadiums of the D-League. “You could go in and dominate D-League,” says Boenisch, “but you could get drafted on the Celtics who really don’t need you, and so cut you entirely.” After each game you’ll get feedback on how you did, what was right and wrong, and how you need to adjust to make it to the NBA.

click to enlargeBringing the video game action even closer to real-world events, the new NBA Today feature provides rosters and stats through in-game overlays that mirror what’s going on in the real game. As soon as you boot the game, you’ll get an overview of the latest real-world events, so if you happen to get the game on Christmas, expect to see the results and details of the Lebron vs Kobe (Cavs vs Lakers) primetime showcase waiting for you. That assumes you’re connected online.

This even plays into the commentary which will be way more in-tune to the actual on-court action than you’ve heard before. Certain phrases and situations have been pre-recorded so that you’ll get a real-world context to the comments. You won’t hear that Lebron has been traded to the Lakers, but you might hear that “tonight Kobe laid 52 points on the [insert team here]”, because there’s a good chance it’ll happen and the commentary is set to adapt.

The visuals, which reinforce the under-the-hood AI improvements and superstar showcases, are all part of a push towards real-world integration. On-court it looks amazing, but look close and you will notice that the facial animations have been overhauled—you see how these guys react to each situation. The tactics should make more sense too, having been tweaked by developers who watched how players online and as Boenisch revealed “the post game was an afterthought… everything was about how to get the big man in to dunk.” So tweaks to the tactics should account for more realistic plays and situations.

And really, that’s just scratching the surface of a deep simulation that throws enough visual bells and whistles to keep you transfixed, while delivering as many features as you can dream up. It’s pretty amazing, as Kanye points out—not just the highest level of NBA action, but the breadth of options on tap this year in 2K Sports powerhouse franchise.

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