The NBA 2K10: Draft Combine was released on Xbox Live a couple weeks ago, but since PlayStation 3 users could not get the title on the PlayStation Network until last Thursday, we decided to hold off on writing about the game until it was released on both consoles. But now that everyone can play the game, we were able to gather various OS staff members together to talk about the Draft Combine, as well as other topics that surround the title.
Christian McLeod: The Draft Combine is one of the most enjoyable sports titles that I have played this year. Not only are the customization options for your created player extremely deep, but the games and drills are very rewarding to play through. In a twist on the typical career-mode formula, the developers have made attribute progression a somewhat difficult task. The game forces you to play proper team basketball in order to advance your character, something that could turn off those looking to become the next LeBron -- crab dribble and all.
It is the challenge to play the game the way it should be that has me so hooked. Since you have the ability to pick your position, as well as a role for that position (e.g. slashing small forward), the game will scrutinize you and punish you for veering away from your role. Many of the career modes out there currently place too much of an emphasis on immediately becoming a superstar. The Draft Combine forces you to work your way up from the bottom, and rewards you for properly playing the game of basketball (i.e. set screens, play help defense, box out for rebounds and so on). The game really should have been called Tom Izzo's Training Camp 2K10.
On the hardwood the game gives players a nice taste of what NBA 2K10 will have to offer. It takes some time to get used to the new turbo system, and as a direct result, the pace of the game seems to have been slowed down quite a bit. The slower pace and a lack of constant turbo really begin to show dividends once you realize how much better court spacing is this year. Gone are the days of feeling claustrophobic as you struggle to find an open man.
The animations also look great, and you can tell that 2K went through great lengths to remove some of the more awkward animations that have plagued the game for years, especially the animations that occur while playing in the post. Speaking of the post game, the new and improved right stick post-move system is a dream come true for those who love to pound the paint.
If the Draft Combine is any indication of how NBA 2K10 will play out when in control of an entire team, there is no doubt in my mind that we are looking at a strong contender for 2009 sports game of the year. If you love basketball and are a fan of the 2K series, go download NBA 2K10: Draft Combine without any hesitation.
If I had to give the game a score, I would give the game a 9 out of 10.
TD St. Matthew-Daniel: The Draft Combine is a nice addition to the NBA 2K franchise. Not only does it give you a "preseason" to work on your game, it also does a solid job detailing the main objectives of an actual NBA draft combine: workouts, drills and games against other NBA hopefuls.
Some of the drills could use a few additions -- things like a player who rebounds the ball for you, someone who passes you the ball, some ball racks, and perhaps even a coach or personal trainer. I do think those additions would make the drills more focused on the particular task at hand. However, those shortcomings are quickly forgotten once you hit the hardwood with your "My Player" because the game does a great job of adding even more authenticity to the gameplay.
I was amazed by how many positive things you can do to help your team. Boxing out, making good passes, setting good screens, spacing the floor, filling the lanes correctly -- these are all "little things" you can do to improve your teammate grade. If you successfully do all those things on a consistent basis, then your player might just be the next Shane Battier. On the other hand you can also go the J.R. Smith route and rack up a ton of negative points by being in a bad position, taking poor shots, hugging the rock for too long, making bad passes, etc.
Both those elements of the game, along with the three goals you’re out to accomplish each game, really make you think about your every move on both sides of the floor. The computer-controlled players also do a good job playing their own game, which is good because you are really only in control of your player and your destiny. This aspect of the game is where the NBA 2K10: Draft Combine really shines, which makes me even more eager for October.
I would give the game an 8.5.
Bryan Estrella: My impressions of the Draft Combine? Dang, what a great appetizer before the main course. I mean this is just supposed to be a taste of what's to come, but there are just so many positive elements to mention. For instance, the improvements to the AI should be noticeable to anyone who has played past NBA 2K games; the player customization options are staggeringly detailed and intuitive (I love that improving some ratings is easier/more difficult depending on your player position/type); the graphics are impressive; looking out for the new animations is always fun because they are usually a joy to behold; and the multitude of changes to the core gameplay (such as tweaking "turbo" usage) really makes you change the way you approach the game.
By releasing this DLC, I also believe that the team over at Visual Concepts has done a great job showing off how addicting the new My Player mode can be. I really enjoyed having to make certain decisions when creating a player, such as selecting a position and player type, because that results in a new experience each time you play through the Draft Combine. I mean playing as a center and then as a point guard would obviously be different, right? But the subtle differences between playing as a pass-first point guard and a scoring point guard, or a face-up power forward and a defensive power forward really underscore how many different possibilities are out there for the user.
Of course this wouldn't be close to possible if the developers had not also done a phenomenal job implementing an awesome player-rating system. It just works so well and covers a surprising amount of possible plays and results. And when combined with the previously mentioned changes to curb turbo abuse, you'll be forced to play a real team game if you're aiming to succeed. So you'll be rewarded for playing within the team and making smart decisions, and you'll dinged for hogging the ball, going for stupid steal attempts, being out of position and putting up terrible shot attempts.
Perhaps my only real criticisms of the Draft Combine are that I wish the developers had included more playing options -- going through continuous scrimmages can get old after a while -- and maybe a way for players to create multiple players. But really, for $5, I can't downplay how great this package is for that price. And overall, I have loved what I have experienced in the Draft Combine. But like many appetizers, it has left me wanting more.
Overall, I would give the NBA 2K10: Draft Combine an 8.5.
CM: Yes and no. If you understand that this is just a career mode experience, then I think you will be in hoops heaven. If you are the type of gamer that does not like career modes and expects to be in control of an entire team, save your money and play NBA 2K9 until October.
But I have to give Visual Concepts a huge amount of credit for pulling off a DLC career mode that is so deep and engaging. I was more than happy to open up my wallet and give the company $5 for what feels like a fully fleshed out game. The coolest part about the Draft Combine is that with its release date preceding the NBA 2K10 release by more than a month, you really get the feeling that you are completing the required drills and combine games so that you can get your player drafted in October. This fact alone allows me to enjoy the game for what it is, rather than trying to get through it as quickly as possible, which is something I would do if the mode were released with the full retail game.
TD: The Draft Combine is definitely worth the $5, but it’s not quite enough to keep the hardcore basketball gamers busy for another month. Not that it isn’t a good game, but once you lace up your player’s shoes, you don’t want to get off the court until your six combine games are done. What makes the game tick is the fact that you’re playing with set goals and objectives –- sadly the other games you can play, one-quarter scrimmages, don’t offer that feature.
BE: To be honest, it depends. I certainly wish there were more than just a few drills and six games included. And once you're tired of creating a bunch of players, you're just stuck playing through five-minute scrimmages, which can become tiresome. But perhaps after giving the game some time to breathe, the Draft Combine will be a nice game to just pick up and play when you have a few idle minutes to kill.
CM: I would love for all developers to begin releasing these types of career-mode "combines" on a yearly basis to compliment their full retail career modes. Imagine how much fun the NHL 10 Be a Pro mode would be if you were playing through the World Junior Championships and working on improving your draft stock.
I know I would pay $5 to play these modes months before release, and is there a better way to promote a product then by giving the public a polished game that represents a version of the final product far better than a demo? Heck, many publishers are already charging consumers for early-release full-game demos anyway (Madden 10, Fight Night), so why not give consumers a full game with Achievements and Trophies instead?
TD: Yes. As the Draft Combine has shown, there is a market for prerelease retail-version games, and not just demos. Demos are merely a glimpse of the full game –- the Draft Combine is a whole mode that could enhance your experience with the actual game. In essence demos are trailers, and DLC like the Draft Combine are prequels.
BE: I think developers of other sports titles should certainly explore it, but only if they follow the 2K model of utilizing the DLC as a cheap way (very important point!) to give users a sort of extended-demo experience. These types of games would be a good way to familiarize users with the new features that would be included in the upcoming release. As a secondary point, these DLC releases would also allow developers to see how players react to these various changes, sort of like a beta test. So if the developers did spot something troubling, they could still tweak some things, which would only result in a stronger final release.
CM: If the Draft Combine proves anything to me, it is that these types of career modes can be self-sustaining DLC products. Personally, I would love to see developers take career modes off the retail disc completely, which would presumably leave some space on the disc for other single player and multiplayer endeavors. I think we have reached a point in online gaming where sports career modes are becoming more and more like MMO-style games, so why not release these titles as yearly DLC?
As an example, I love both the EA NHL and NBA 2K series, but I find that it's difficult to play franchises in both games on a yearly basis. It would be nice to alternate between an EASHL career mode and NBA 2K franchise one year and then vice versa the next. From a convenience standpoint alone, this type of business model makes perfect sense to consumers.
TD: I highly doubt that these games can be successful as standalone titles because, as noted earlier, a game like the Draft Combine is a means to an end. It is goal-oriented. Creating an entire game that just revolves around raising your draft stock without actually being able to play on the big stage significantly reduces its appeal. That’s living as Clark Kent without being able to become Superman. We sports gamers want the big leagues, not Smallville.
BE: If developers can maintain a certain amount of quality, depth and replay value in these modes, then I certainly think they can survive as standalone content. But to be perfectly honest, I would prefer that they leave the career modes in the full game. Instead, why not release updated versions of classic titles that we've seen included in some past games? An updated, online-enabled version of NHL 94 or NBA Live 96 on XBL or PSN? Yes, please.
We hope you all enjoyed this article. If you did and would like to see more of these roundtable-type reviews where we discuss the game, but also its scope in the grander scheme of things, then tell us that.