There's several different ways of looking at 2K Sports' upcoming download-only game, NBA 2K10 Draft Combine. On one hand, it can be seen as 2K Sports' answer to the "Be a Pro" modes that have recently popped up in EA Sports' games. On another, it's an easy way for 2K to grab a few extra dollars from the NBA 2K faithful who are desperate to get their hands on the game. Alternately, Draft Combine can also be seen as a natural extension of the success of the long-running NBA 2K series (which is celebrating its ten-year anniversary with this year's game), as well as a preview of what to expect from the full version of NBA 2K10 coming this fall.
However you look at it, it's clear that 2K Sports is taking a chance with Draft Combine. The game is limited both in scope and duration, and that limited span ties directly into features that will be a part of the full version of NBA 2K10. The game is centered entirely around your created player, as you take him through the drills, games, and shoot-arounds that make up the activities at the NBA Draft Combine.
You start the game first by creating your hoops player. Presumably you'll be spending a lot of time with this guy both here in Draft Combine and in whatever career mode NBA 2K10 has up its sleeves, so thankfully the developers have included robust character creation tools. Nearly everything can be customized--tattoos, clothing, face and head, even down to the color and brand of you're the shoes you were on court, you'll have tons of options to choose from.
More important than your characters look, however, will be his role on the team. You'll have plenty of styles to choose from, all based around the position you wish to play on the floor. Here's the list of available styles, organized by position:
- Point Guard -- Pass first, scoring, defensive, 3-point specialist, athletic, all-around
- Shooting Guard -- Scoring, defensive, 3-point specialist, athletic, slashing, all-around, scoring
- Small Forward -- Defensive, 3-point specialist, athletic, slashing, point forward, all-around
- Power Forward -- Defensive, athletic, back-to-basket, face-up, rebounding, all-around
- Center -- Defensive, athletic, back-to-basket, face-up, rebounding, all-around.
Your position and role as a player will affect not just how you interact with your teammates on the court (both in Draft Combine and in NBA 2K10) but also how you will progress throughout the combine. For example, if you choose to play as a pass-first PG, and decide to do nothing but shoot from beyond the arc, you won't be doing yourself any favors, thanks to a point system that has you earning points as you play in the different modes of Draft Combine.
There are three modes to play in: shootaround, drills, and game. Shootarounds don't actually do anything for you, instead they act as a chance to practice with your created player on a court. The other two modes are where you'll look to improve your player's abilities (and thus his NBA Draft prospects). Performing well in those modes will earn you points you can use to spend on your player's attributes--so if you're a three-point specialist, you'll want to dump as many of your points as possible into your player's 3-point shot. As you might expect, attribute points cost most more as you go higher up the scale, so that incremental improvements for specialists will be expensive indeed.
That said, you can spends your points however you like--though the game will caution you against spending unwisely in a couple of different ways. First up, the 2K Insider, who act as your mentor and guide in NBA 2K10 Draft Combine, might warn against spending points for an attribute that won't do your player much good. Also, player role will determine the cost of attribute points--so that a pass-first point guard might have to spend more on post moves than a face-up center player.
Drills are a series of minigames that will test specific aspects of your game, and the drills resemble the training challenges from previous versions of NBA 2K. There are eight drills to choose from: shooting, dribble course, challenge shot, post defense, post offense, rebounds, attack basket, stealing. When you play a drill, you can earn a bronze, silver, or gold star, depending on the amount of points you racked up and earning a gold will automatically give you a "free" attribute bonus as well.
The other way to earn points for your attributes is playing a real 5-on-5 game against other generic draft prospects. It's here that you get a feel for this new way of playing NBA 2K--you're tied to your player in the game and the camera follows you all over the court. When in control of the ball you can obviously pass or take a shot whenever you like, and you can call for a pass when you don't have the ball. However, as this is a Draft Combine game, you'll be judged on your performance. So if you take too many bad shots, or call for the ball once too often, your "team performance grade" will be affected. You'll also earn points based on challenges that are laid out for you before the game begins--such as scoring a certain amount of points, or getting a certain number of rebounds.
How many points you earn, as well as your overall team performance grade will affect your draft status once you import your character into NBA 2K10. In order to prevent folks from abusing the game and creating superstars right out of the gate, you'll be limited to playing six drills and playing in six games with your created character (which, according to 2K producers, is pretty close to the amount of activity in the real NBA Combine). Furthermore, you'll only be able to upload one character at a time to the 2K servers for use in NBA 2K10. So if you decide to try a new character and position, then upload him, you'll erase any previous character you've uploaded.
Set for release in September, NBA 2K10 Draft Combine represents a gamble for 2K--both as a test of what users want from their sports DLC as well as an early critical barometer for both the 5-on-5 gameplay of NBA 2K10 and whatever career mode the full game has in store for its fans.
For more on NBA 2K10 Draft Combine, check out the new screens in our image gallery. Look for more on the game in the coming weeks, and an exclusive look at the full version of NBA 2K10 this Wednesday.