NBA 2K10: Draft Combine
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: 09/03/09
What do you call a demo when it is not a demo? This game, NBA 2K10: Draft Combine causes a very strong reaction from people when I’ve brought it up – definitely more than I ever anticipated from a $4.99 basketball game. The thing is, NBA 2K10: Draft Combine, DC from here on out, is not really a basketball game, a demo, or even a tutorial. DC is a different sort of animal than any previous product. Draft Combine could be the wave of the future. Is that a good thing?
What Draft Combine is can be debated, but I would describe it as a premium player creation program. Notice the lack of the word “game.” In a very real sense, you do play DC, but it is done under very tight controls. At the start, you create an NBA prospect. Height, weight, handedness, and the like are at your leisure. One thing that is not is your players’ position. Be double, make that triple, sure that you know what position and play style you want your baby hoopster to fit into. This cannot be changed. Ever. The only option you have is to delete your save, from the XMB, and restart the game. A harsh constraint, to say the least.
The newly minted player can play up to six scrimmage games and go through six drills. Drills let you guide your player through his paces at a specific discipline. Earning Bronze or Silver in an event earns some Skill Points, gold earns a new plateau of skill in that area. The limit is exactly six drills, with no do overs or practice tries. This harshness extends to the six games you play. Each has three goals to accomplish, one of which is always a minimum Teammate score. Teammate scores are determined by your ability to be in position, make good passes, play solid defense, score, and get rebounds. If only the game explained that.
This is where one of my two big knocks on this game comes in. The learning curve is not there. If you are a veteran of 2K Basketball, then you will, likely, slide right in. For someone who is new to the series, like NBA Live converts, younger players, and those coming back to 2K after some time away, there is no quality education. This game throws you to the figurative wolves. The in-game help is lackluster, to say the least, and does not excuse the lack of having even one quarter of tutorial help. This is a major problem for a game that has no manual and will no doubt attract new players with it’s low price point. Definitely the biggest missed opportunity in this product.
After playing six drills and games, your player is uploaded to 2K’s server. When NBA 2K10 launches, this character can be used in My Career Mode. The potential for awesomeness this has is pretty high. I live for single player career modes in sports games, so I am curious as to how Fidel Cato, the Polish Small Forward, will cope with life in the NBA. From what I have pieced together, but do not hold me to this, characters generated with the Draft Combine will go straight to the NBA and those who skip DC will be forced to play as undrafted players. I could be wrong, but if this is true, then maybe that alone makes this worth $5. At least for me. A confirmed bonus is that Draft Combine players get an in-game patch to showoff their Combine Draftee status.
Graphically, this game gets a split reaction from me. The character models look and feel solid, they interact in a very solid manner, with none of the clipping and issues I remember from previous basketball games. The animation moves along at a nice speed and is very smooth. Since this game takes place at the combine, there are no real crowds to speak of. This brings up problem number two.
This game looks very plastic. I think that the slickness of the characters is supposed to signify wetness from copious amounts of sweating, but there is no darkening of the clothes to support this theory. In the end the players, and especially the player looking on from court side, have an unreal slippery appearance. Honestly, there is a bald guy holding a ball that looks amphibian. It might just be me.
Aurally speaking, there is not much to speak about. The too few songs get repetitive in a hurry and I was forced to turn the music off at the risk of divorce after two games. Sound effects are serviceable, but there is one terrible thing to report on. The NBA Insider, who gives your player career advice, has to be one of the most annoying characters I have ever encountered. His faux-baller talk is exceptionally hate inducing. I happily skipped his post-game spiels.
The weakest aspect of the game is, no doubt, the lack of replayability. There is no reason to play this game after uploading your jabroni. There are a couple of trophies, for those with more spare time than I, that call for as many as 15 scrimmage game wins. If you really think that five hours of meaningless basketball for a couple of trophies sounds like fun, then you have already bought this. The ability to replay drills would have been nice, but they disappear after you complete the sixth.
After sending my late second round pick through his paces, I am having a hard time figuring out who this game is aimed at. If it is aimed at the hardcore basketball player, the one who will pre-order this year’s special edition, packed in a super-cool metal locker, then this is almost like a sneak preview, a little taste of the game to come. A risky play, but a respectable one. Charging $5 for what could be called a very limited demo is pretty ballsy. It is the hardcore fan who I see being both the most well served and most frustrated by this product. Yes, they get a neat bonus for sending their My Career player through their paces and they get to play the game a few weeks early. That comes at the price of $5 and a very limited gameplay experience.
For the non-hardcore or for the casual basketball fan, this game has limited appeal. If you are planning on buying NBA 2K10, then this might be worth your money. For those who are waffling, the demo of the Draft Combine and the likely demo for the full game would serve you better than plunking down for this, sight unseen.
For me, Draft Combine was like a Chik-Fil-A sandwich. It was cheap, filled me up until dinner, and I really do not feel too guilty about it. There are worse ways to spend a fiver. Truth is, I have not played a basketball game, 2K or not, since the Dreamcast, so this, at the very least, gave me a taste. I came out wanting more.
Graphics: Very Good
Gameplay: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Decent
Final Score: A DECENT GAME!
Short Attention Span Summary
Truth is, this game is a very personal choice. Do you plan on playing NBA 2K10 into the ground during the season? Then throw down your $5. If you are on the fence about getting the full game, wait for the demo. No matter what, if you do download Draft Combine, expect a fun, but very short experience.