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VS: The Ruling on the Court

Product: NBA 2K10 vs. NBA Live 10

Reigning supreme in the world of videogame simulations of the National Basketball Association for years running has been the 2K Sports franchise. This year, however, they have strong competition with EA's own franchise that has been ailing recently in terms of gameplay. This year, in the first of our side-by-side sports game comparisons, we ask the question: who will be sitting on the throne when the dust clears? Come along for a journey with me in the first of our VS. features, The Ruling on the Court.

Kobe versus Dwight sounds like a matchup made in Heaven, and a Heavenly match is exactly what we've got after years of one-sidedness when EA Sports' NBA Live 10 and cover boy Kobe Bryant try to dethrone 2K Sports' NBA 2K10, featuring Dwight Howard. They met in the NBA Finals last year, and they're set to meet again in this forum (no, not the Great Western Forum -- it's the Staples Center now, after all) when we pit the two basketball titles against each other. For test purposes, both games were played on Xbox 360, but this title match can be carried over to the PS3 as well. If you're looking to play on other platforms, you have limited choices, with 2K10 on both PC ($20 USD) and PS2 ($30 USD), and Live 10 for PSP ($40 USD). Unfortunately, Nintendo DS owners are out of luck this year.

After getting hands-on time with both titles, it was actually unclear as to which faired better in overall experience from the start. Both titles have a lot to offer, including better presentations that go far beyond passive graphical or auditory improvements. NBA Live 10 offers up a game mode called Dynamic Season in which gamers can play along with the real NBA season by playing nightly games off the real schedules. From there, real-world stats are merged into your console's season so that you can directly compete with your favorite basketball stars. NBA 2K10 offers a similar mode of play, dubbed NBA Today, but it also goes a step beyond in having the commentators calling out real statistics from previously played games across the real-world league. In some ways, this is simply a cosmetic makeover that doesn't necessarily affect gameplay, but it still feels very polished and gives a sense of realism that has been lacking in the world of sports games since their inception. In fact, this realism is a game changer and I'm positive we'll see more in the future across all sports games, not just in basketball titles. In addition, 2K Sports promises to keep up-to-date roster changes more frequently through their Living Rosters feature than they have in the past (EA has generally been pretty good about this), as I learned during a conference call with the developers before its release. NBA Live 10's answer is an improved Dynamic DNA feature, that not only updates attributes throughout the season for standout and struggling players, but also shows player trends that can be used as scouting reports.

Beyond the overall presentation improvements for both titles is gameplay. Both games feature particular enhancements that help them one-up the other, but I found a slight edge for NBA Live 10 this year. It has been a long time coming, but the improved A.I. (especially on the defensive side of the ball) comes as a great welcome because the overall control of EA's game is more fluid than that of 2K10's. It's not to say that 2K has necessarily dropped the ball here (no pun intended), as I absolutely find playing off the ball defense in NBA 2K10 to be a blast, and I especially enjoy building up my created player's skills in their My Player mode of play (note: Live 10 allows the controlling of a single player, but only through current stars). However, I do feel that there is a certain level of frustration that comes from both titles, yet 2K10 loses out in this department due to the lack of intuitive controls and precision that needs to come through things like post-up moves and passing. NBA Live 10 introduces a new feature called Freestyle Passing that, while not perfect, is a great way to perform fast-twitch passes like no other.

Looking past gameplay it is easy to see that both titles feature a fairly vast amount of Game Modes and features. NBA 2K10 edges out Live in this category because of a rich variety and seemingly ongoing Menu system that is packed with different ways to play. You'll also be able to play online from any point and in any mode, including the being able to create Crews of online Friends and compete in a Dunk Contest, 3-Point Shootout, and Game of 21, just to name a few. Online features come into play for both videogame titles, but 2K10 also allows you to take your created player online in different matchups, including Pickup Games. For online season play, I really love NBA Live 10's Dynamic Season, in which your computer-based season is merged with the real-life stats of the league so that you can follow along and play games as they progress, also having the option of jumping back in time during the season if you missed any games.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned My Player (2K10's created player) online features were broken at the time of this writing, and it's not the only thing buggy for either franchise. NBA 2K10 has its fair share of issues, including the annoying game of catch that the referee and inbounder tend to play repeatedly (literally, back and forth a dozen times or so before allowing you to put the ball into play), which happens in nearly every game. Other problems include frozen graphics on the screen while the game continues behind them, the game locking up during transitional screens, and bad framerate issues at times. The framerate problem is not exclusive to 2K10 however, as EA's NBA Live 10 also suffers horrendous slowdowns at times. While playing a Playoff tournament, it got to the point where the game was chugging so bad that I struggled to perform. Eventually it went away, but I then had semi-frozen replay screens for the remainder of the games in the playoff series', which included both cut-scenes and Pause Menu Instant Replay.

Quite frankly, the battle on the court is nearly too close to call and it came down to one simple factor when deciding a winner... was the game fun? While both had their frustrating moments, I did find myself screaming at the screen more often when playing NBA 2K10. The in-game controls just didn't feel as intuitive and fluid as its competitor's. So when the dust cleared, even though 2K10 has a much better presentation and offers up a whole lot of modes to choose from, NBA Live 10 slightly edges out the competition because its gameplay is more enjoyable, combining a nice simulation with a bit of arcade-style fun.

For a full breakdown, and to see just how close the two games are this year, visit the links to the reviews and note the side-by-side comparison.

-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

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