NBA 2K10: Exclusive First Look

Where do you start when talking about NBA 2K10? The thousands of new gameplay animations that were mo-capped to either replace older animations or be added to the game as new? The single-player "My Player" mode that puts you in the sneaks of an up-and-coming hoops player? The create-a-draft class...

Where do you start when talking about NBA 2K10? The thousands of new gameplay animations that were mo-capped to either replace older animations or be added to the game as new? The single-player "My Player" mode that puts you in the sneaks of an up-and-coming hoops player? The create-a-draft class option in this year's Association mode? Where do you start with a game that will mark the 10th anniversary of the long-running NBA 2K series? There are so many options to choose from, but I'd like to start in an unlikely place: commentary.

Commentary and Context

I think sports game commentary is one of the most underrated arts in the genre. When it's done well (as in Sony's MLB series and EA's NCAA Football series) it's an exquisite addition, and when it's mediocre (as in the last few years of the Madden series, Chris Collinsworth notwithstanding) it can often detract from the entire experience. Just as in real sports, commentary in games shouldn't be obtrusive and ostentatious; it should inform the action on the floor without getting in the way and, ideally, without repeating itself too much. Yet, even with the games that meet those basic goals, I've always felt there was another level that sports gaming commentary could reach: creating a back-and-forth between hosts that's at once believable as an exchange and insightful. After seeing NBA 2K10 for the first time at 2K Sports' HQ yesterday, it seems the game is as close to reaching that next plateau as I've ever seen.

As with NBA 2K9, Kevin Harlan and Clark Kellogg return for booth duties, and though I've never thought the two had great chemistry before, that's changed this year. Not only is there believable back-and-forth between the two but, more importantly, so much of the commentary is also better tuned to the context of the game situation. If you're playing a crucial game against a rival, for example, and both teams are vying for a play-off spot, a good chunk of that game's commentary--at least in the beginning of the game--will focus on the rivalry, the matchup records between the two teams, and the play-off ramifications for winning and losing. In the opening minutes of a game, the pair of announcers will spend just as much time setting the scene of your game as calling the action on the floor. If they're not setting up the context, they're having fun with each other--during one part of a game featuring the Lakers that I watched, Kellogg and Harlan went into a pretty extensive back-and-forth discussion on the somewhat controversial nature of Pau Gasol's trade from Memphis to L.A. in 2008.

The improved commentary is a big upgrade for the series, and it ties into NBA 2K10's presentation philosophy of "basketball first". That might sound strange--this being a basketball game and all--but from the commentary to the main screen you see when you first boot up the game, everything in NBA 2K10 is centered around hoops. That main menu, for example, isn't a list of game modes but rather a listing of that day's matchups in the real-life NBA, as well as the scores from yesterday's games. This "NBA Today" screen (as it's known) helps keep you up to date with what's going on in the real NBA. If you'd like, you can jump right into any of the matchups listed on the screen or simply bring up another menu that takes you to another area of the game. Whether you're playing "play now" games featuring today's NBA matchups or midseason games in your Association mode, the enhanced context and commentary will always be keeping you up to date on what's happening around your team and your league.

Know Your Role

Another big aspect of NBA 2K10's presentation is your created player. Whether you've created him and worked him out in the downloadable content game, NBA 2K10 Draft Combine, or created him from scratch in the full game, he'll immediately make his presence known, bumping aside 2K10 cover star Kobe Bryant and subsequently starring as the featured athlete in the main menu. Your created player will also be the star of "My Player", 2K's answer to EA's "Be a Pro" mode. The narrative here is similar to Be a Pro: from worst to first. You'll start off either as a drafted player or as a walk-on to a team's summer circuit games. In the summer league, your goal will be to impress the scouts in the hopes of getting an invite to a team's training camp. Once there, you'll be competing against NBA players for a spot on a team's roster. You never know which team will choose you, so if you happen to be a shooting guard looking to take Kobe's place on the Lakers, well… good luck.

As in Draft Combine, when creating your player in NBA 2K10, you'll have to decide early on what kind of player you want him to be--both in the position you wish to play and the type of player you want to be. Here's a list of the available roles at each position:

• Point Guard -- Pass first, scoring, defensive, three-point specialist, athletic, all-around
• Shooting Guard -- Scoring, defensive, three-point specialist, athletic, slashing, all-around
• Small Forward -- Defensive, three-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

The position and role you wish to play will determine how your player progresses over time. When playing in summer camp, training camp, or pick-up games (more on those in a bit), you'll be judged on your individual performance, as well as given an overall team grade. Playing your role successfully and contributing to the team will count for nearly as much as individual stats. Conversely, being a ball hog and calling for the ball at all times could result in a poor team rating, which might offset any impressive stats you earn. You'll earn skill points that you can then spend on specific attributes to improve your player. Depending on the role you've chosen, certain attributes will be cheaper to you than others. If you're a defensive center, for example, purchasing attribute points for such things as blocks and strength will be cheaper than, say, putting points in your three-point shot or your run speed.

In training camp, you'll have five games to compete in, and after each game, someone will be cut. The goal, obviously, is to make sure you're left standing after the roster trimming is finished, but even if you don't make a spot on the NBA roster, your season isn't over. If you're cut, you'll be sent to the NBA's Development League (or D-League). 2K has licensed the actual NBA Development League, with all teams and accurate uniforms in the game. Your time in the D-League will be spent trying to get more playing time--mainly by making the most of the minutes you do get (using a handy simulation feature, you can fast-forward to the point in the game when you actually do get on the floor, however). Of course, nobody wants to spend his too much time grinding in the D-league, so it's reasonable to assume that if you play decently, you'll eventually get your shot at playing in the NBA, where you'll once again have to earn your minutes and establish yourself as a superstar.

On the floor, My Player mode features a camera that focuses on your created player--though you do have several camera angles from which to choose. If you're playing point guard, you'll be able to call plays in your role as the floor general--other positions on the court naturally won't have that option. That said, the developers behind 2K10 said they're working hard to make sure that every role--even the defensive ones--is fun and immersive for players.

One other addition that ties into My Player mode is the pick-up games feature. Just as the name suggests, these are five-on-five games that can be played online at any time with your created player and the created players of your friends. You need at least two players to play a pick-up game (with the other team spots filled by AI players), but pick-up games can feature as many as 10 online participants. As with training camp and regular season games, you'll be earning skill attribute points in pick-up games as well, which makes them a great way to work on your created player away from the regular season.

Spaced Out

The first time you hit the court in NBA 2K10, something might look a bit different. Yes, you'll notice things like the improved player likenesses, including animated faces, better skin textures, and greater lighting effects. But you might also notice a sense of space on the hardwood that simply wasn't present in previous iterations. As developers put it to me, that's because the proportions between player size and the floor had gotten a bit out of whack in older games, resulting in players that were slightly larger than in real life. The team took a look at all of the player models in NBA 2K10 and made size adjustments across the board, with the result of having a slightly more open feel to the play on the court.

Of course, correcting player proportions is just one of the issues addressed in this year's game. As gameplay producer Rob Jones told me, the team wanted to address animations in a comprehensive way this year. To that end, Jones said his mo-cap team captured something in the realm of 9,000 animations during the mo-cap sessions for 2K10. And while not all of those animations were entered into this year's game, a good chunk have either replaced older animations or been added to the game. As he put it, if an animation is pre-NBA 2K9, it had less than a 50 percent chance of making it into NBA 2K10. Part of that new animation philosophy had to do with providing further definition between players. Naturally, a point guard will have access to a different set of moves than a massive center, but developers didn't stop there. They also wanted to capture the differences between how a 7-foot player moves from how a 6-foot-9-inch player gets around the court. As a result, Yao Ming will move like Yao (assuming he ever plays again, that is), Nene will move like Nene, and Steve Nash will do his thing.

New animations tie directly into the signature style feature that the NBA 2K series has been working off of for years now--this year, the series is expanding the feature into something Jones likes to call "signature play." The essential addition revolves around improved player tendencies. This year, the team went out and partnered up with the NBA scouting service 82Games.com to provide detailed breakdowns on every team and every player in the league. The result is a better and more detailed understanding of how a player reacts at any point on the floor, with answers to such questions as, "Where does a player typically like to get the ball?" "When does he spot up?" "When does he post up?" The result, on the offensive side, is that players familiar with their team's individual tendencies will know how to best utilize them and where. On the other side of the ball, if you're facing up against Paul Pierce controlled by the AI, you'll know his tendency will be either to push in and shoot or try a pro step move. And, depending on your position on the floor, you'll know how to try to stop him.

Other defensive improvements include a better sense of physical play when leaning in on a guy, as well as double-team situations that aren't just canned animations, as they were in previous games. When double-teaming a ball handler, you'll have more control over what you do as you harass the guy. If playing online, one half of a double-team duo might try a steal, while the other keeps his hands up to block a potential shot. Essentially, you won't be waiting for a double-team animation to end--you'll be interacting within it and trying to make a play.

Then there's a new rating spread, which--similar to how the developers of Madden NFL 10 extended the attribute spread among players in the game--better differentiates among the NBA's elite, good, mediocre, and Brian Scalabrine. Jones told me that in previous NBA 2K games, the player attribute spread was basically from 50 to 99; this year, that spread has been extended from 25 to 99. This is in addition to tendency rating spreads that will run from 0 to 99.

Control and Creation

The controls in 2K10 have seen some tweaks as well, in the hopes of simplifying things. Post moves are all executed by holding the right stick in either direction, and you can tap to either side to fake when backing down an opponent. If you mix in the left trigger, you can perform an up-and-under move. The two triggers (on the Xbox 360 controller) modify the different types of moves--you use the left trigger for quick moves and the right trigger for power moves. The right trigger is also used for sprinting, but because turbo has been abused in the past (especially online, where you can essentially sprint endlessly), the developers are looking to make turbo more of a commodity than ever before. As a result, when sprinting, you'll notice your turbo meter depleting more rapidly than before, and if you use up your turbo completely, your player's energy will drain dramatically if you continue to sprint.

Naturally, Association mode will have its share of upgrades as well, and I'll have more details on that in the future. Before then, though, it's worth pointing out one significant addition to 2K10's Franchise mode: the ability to create rookie draft classes from scratch and import them into your franchise. There's little doubt that having this feature, plus the ability to upload and share your rookie class via the 2K Share feature, means that NBA 2K10 fans will have accurate rosters for the new class of NBA rookies on Day 1 of NBA 2K10's release. More Association mode details coming soon.

In a strange way the NBA 2K series has become a victim of its own success. With EA Sports' NBA Live series lagging behind for the better part of a decade, NBA 2K's worst enemy hasn't necessarily been the competition--though that might change this year--but, rather, itself. Why buy NBA 2K9, after all, when NBA 2K8 or NBA 2K7 were so good? As if to answer that question for the series' tenth anniversary, the team at 2K is concentrating not just on what's new in the game, but also on going back and reexamining what's made the game so great for so long and trying to make it even better. Look for much more NBA 2K10 coverage in the coming weeks.

Can't get enough NBA 2K10? Check out the image gallery for a bunch of brand new exclusive screens!

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Discussion

225 comments
RENZO_GOD
RENZO_GOD

if u wanna jon my 2k league message me ps3 my psn is renzo-madden-god join its a draft and we will start soon as all join so Join

spongy_elijah
spongy_elijah

I can imagine how fantastic the game is just by reading the review.......... Wwwwwwooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm gonna save up and buy myself that game!!!!!!! yahoooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! nba 2k series has really left nba live series behind.........................

xXBon3ZXx
xXBon3ZXx

2k stepped it up big time this year nba live will be way behind once again

babylucas
babylucas

is the my player mode going to be like a career or is it just some short game mode i hope u get to have a whole career and also i hope they make the menu a lil less complicated but i think everything else has been on point and this game is goin to kill live this year

nbaspursduncan
nbaspursduncan

Holy smoke, this is gunna be the best!! The 'My player' sounds good with all the dleague and draft etc. CANT WAIT You've done well 2KSports, very well.

weezyindamuluva
weezyindamuluva

@CEOofRawness The whole spread in skill/tendency ratings is probably part of fixing that as well as teaming up wit 82games.com I'm sure they'll release more info before the dlc thing (4got the name) comes out as well as the game and as ALWAYS this game is gonna b tha ish...and anyone who doesn't buy 2k9 or 2k10 becuz a previous version was so good doesn't understand basketball very much...real talk no hate

gammer_spot
gammer_spot

idk if im geting 2K10 or live 10 its hard lol

russian_takeout
russian_takeout

2k9 was great. for sure it will have a lot of new cool feature as described.... and you cant go wrong with a 20 bucks purchase.... unheared of, in todays prices.

TNEWS80
TNEWS80

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

TNEWS80
TNEWS80

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

timmay0000
timmay0000

thank you....no more spinning and stutter stepping with 7 ft players.... this the d league is licensed will we be able to draft actual d league players? or send players to d league teams?

CEOofRawness
CEOofRawness

The new features sound awesome but... HAVE THEY FIXED THE COMPUTER AI!??!? Either that, or allow online Association mode. Period.

PSplayer09
PSplayer09

@jspann94.... you're an idiot you know that? you claim that 2K10 sucks MEANWHILE you've posted at least 8 posts!! (thats MORE than the 2k fans themselves!!!!!) so i advise you to get a life and just keep click live 10 stuff.. kay?

Mjordanthetruth
Mjordanthetruth

PSN: mjordanthetruth...really hoping to get some sim games this year !

jazzy_djeff
jazzy_djeff

Some people just like sprinting from end to end and getting easy lay ups or dunks...With this addition..it makes it harder for them to do the same move over and over again and it'll force people who don't play the right way to learn how to play the game right..Less cheesing..It makes the game realistic.

yessir55
yessir55

ok so with the "turbo meter" are u saying it's going to be almost near impossible to get fastbreaks down. Players like E. Gordon, Gerald Green, JRich, etc. are basically speed demons when its comes to fastbreaks. But im not saying its a flaw its jus going to be a lil different getting da old school sprint meter back lmao

matthova
matthova

As good as this game prolly will be...im not buyin it. It'll make 2k9 irrelavant....and i dont need that.....They let u change rosters and update player attributes and stuff for a reason lol

taf123
taf123

2k10 is the sports game of the year thanks guys

jazzy_djeff
jazzy_djeff

Honestly...The only I want is when I play online...I just want people to take their time and make the game look realistic by moving the ball around and not abusing the same move over and over again

pleezebeleevit
pleezebeleevit

hopefully they improve all small guards(CP3,A.I), play b/c theres no way they should be getting blocked the # of times they do, and hopefully it wont b a hassel to actually get past a dfender and shake em off. p.s the dfense or lack their of was horrible and please stop making good player from taking over the game,every game

Izzo8224
Izzo8224

2k9 was a great game this 1 will be better its easy 2 see why it will be and NBA live is horrible good luck playing a fair game with hott spots cheap bas_tards

Mjordanthetruth
Mjordanthetruth

After seeing how terrible nba 2k9 was gameplay wise i really hope nba 2k10 is 10 times better. nba 2k8 was the best game ever made by 2ksports and i feel if nba 2k10 was similar with just some tweaks it will be alright with me.

bbx19
bbx19

taf123 it says at least 5 times they added the new 'my player' games mode i hate people who cant read

ckdietz
ckdietz

2k10 dude its got enough modes

taf123
taf123

I Need help 2k10 or live 10 2k10 has better gameplay but has not added any new modes and Live 10 has new modes is getting better. Hard choice

eSpaK7
eSpaK7

Wow this article has pumped me up for this game, can't wait!

UnkownUser
UnkownUser

Not that this is a good thing but when i looked up NBA LIVE10 on gamespot.....Gamespot tagged it as CRAP.......Um thats not good.....But...Its hilarious!!!!! Nba live is getting better though....just not with 2k yet!

2wo3eezy
2wo3eezy

The hands on preview sounds like an absolute master piece.They have absoloutely focused on a much needed improvement in the commentary dept. i always believed live had stronger commentary until my 360 went down last year and i was forced to play nba live 09 on my ps3. I realized then that although clark kellogg in 2k9 sounded exactly like kenny smith from 2k8 they still had depth and witty comments every game including association mode games. now that they have actually focused on commentary i am looking forward to hearing the back & forth between these two great commentators. My wife just paid off my copy of madden 2010 for my birthday last week and after reading this hands on preview i will be paying off my full copy of nba 2k10 at the end of august. Another b-ball masterpiece from the leader in basketball simulation titles. NBA 2K!!!

UnkownUser
UnkownUser

Thanks bigrah109 thank you!!! and I will also give live a shot htis year but Im still calling 2k10 #1 b-ball game!

UnkownUser
UnkownUser

PEOPLE COMPLAINING ABOUT THE DLC SHUT UP ITS ON 5$ DAMN!!!!!

bigrah108
bigrah108

OH AND ANOTHER THING!!!! In order for Live to be on the same level with 2K, they need to improve game play. 2K has been killing Live merely off of game play alone. Thats where people go wrong with these 2 games. Live is arcadey while 2K is THEE most realistic game out there. For all those 2K haters, please just face the fact. You cant even front on that 4 real....UnknownUser I agree with everything you said homey!!! EVERYTHING!!!!

bigrah108
bigrah108

Aight let me set the record str8. Before the 2K series (ever since Dreamcast) I was always a die hard Live fan. But then the 2K franchise came alone and crushed the game basically and since then I have been a 2K fan over Live hands down. Last year Live made some improvements but still wasn't enough for me 2 buy the game. This year I am going to give Live a chance AFTER I get my hands on the 2K10 anniversary edition. I agree with you buggin_out1985. This is why I am giving Live a chance this year. If the developers are making noise about it, cant hurt 2 try....NBA 2K is still hands down the number 1 B-Ball game on the map...EASY!!!!!

gaiuso
gaiuso

wait a sec... this mode is included in the full 60$ game right?????????????

gaiuso
gaiuso

This new mode is just gnna be SICK!!!!! glad they came up with this new fresh idea, hope these new modes debut better than those in NBA live, cant wait to play 82 game regular season Dynasty mode and off course Be a Pro Mode!!

buttermade
buttermade

2k wins live SUCKS...end of story..

buggin_out1985
buggin_out1985

The fact is, though the preview was nice & all, it just wasnt enough to convince me that it was gonna be any different that 2k9 or 2k8 for that matter. And with the main competiton breathing down 2k10's neck with what looks to be a tremendously improved game, they gotta do better than just new animations and a "Be A Pro" rip-off mode. Oh and to all the "NBA Live 10 sucks!" people, play the game first before you pass judgement on it.

buggin_out1985
buggin_out1985

I have to agree with jspann. Why is it that you people constantly complain about Madden not innovating enough and putting out the same game every year but when someone calls out NBA 2k for doing the same thing, you claim it is "already a perfect game". Sounds like hypocrisy to me.

son-of-a-gun707
son-of-a-gun707

oh yeah and about the thing you said about the only thing they have done is add a draft class, thats bullsh**.. this game is perfect already, they just upgrade it every year,, nba live is always about new things that dont work out, EA dont work on new exciting things, work on the things that arent good, like GAMEPLAY, nba live 2000 was the last nba live that was actually good

son-of-a-gun707
son-of-a-gun707

@ jspann94 hahahah man how old are you... you look at these screenshots, wow this game must suck because the player faces dont look good..... but a game is about gameplay, thats why they call it a GAME.. And btw the players in 2k always have good proportions, they look and move very realistic.. in nba live it looks a little bit more shiny but they run like a couple of goons, way too skinny, way out of proportion, man EA stick to NBA street, thats where i respect the arcade gameplay, but this is NBA, and i want to play it realistic.

jkdynasty
jkdynasty

It will be interesting to see how this game turns out. I wonder how much the commentary has actually improved. No matter what happens though I applaud 2k for at least taking the initiative in making improvements. It seems like all Live does lately is try and correct things people HATED about last year's game.

UnkownUser
UnkownUser

OMG Jspann94.....WHY THE F&*K ARE U STIlL HERE...IF THIS GAME IS SO BAD WHY ARE YOU EVEN ON THIS BLOG.. ALL YOU DO IS KEEP SAYING BULL SH*& THAT CLEARLY NO ONE CARES ABOUT!!!! The graphics have improved...NBA LIVE'S Graphics look like bolky cartoon characters...You are talking BS about the shot stick...What about the horrible OVERALL GAMEPLAY ON LIVE...Oh and once again what about layups from the 3pt line oh and what about the horrible defense reaction in the paint...oh wait (theres MORE) and what about YOUR BS SLIDDING CROSSOVER MOVES...You know what their is a reason Why Nba Live recieved and average of 6.5 game ratings across the board..ITS BECAUSE THE ONLY THING THAT IS LIVE ABOUT LIVE IS ITS FEATURES THAT EA SPORTS PRAY OVERSHADOW ITS HORRIBLE GAMEPLAY!!! NBA LVE 10 looks Like S*&T!!!! E.A. Will never top 2k get over yourself and get off this blog since NBA 2k is SO Bad clearly it interest You seeing that you have left more comments than most!!!!....And How can something that died 2 years Ago still be called LIVE....NBA DEATH needs some Resuscitation from 2k's gameplay Engine....Damn...I hate Idiots...

jspann94
jspann94

they havent changed any graphics and then try to make us happy by some cheap draft class bull, they just need to redo ever thing

jspann94
jspann94

sticky_note is rite 2k9 did suck and it has sucked ever since they made that stupid shot stick and made it where u cant do specific crossovers and moves. thats y da last 2k game i got was 2k5 and have been playing and buying live ever since 2002

killa_x
killa_x

I cant wait for this game....2k10 should be really good.

mems_1224
mems_1224

THIS is how you improve a sports game. EA take notes