Question: Why do sports games cheat? I mean, here you are in "NBA 2K10," playing as the L.A. Lakers, and you're killing, say, the Sacramento Kings in the third quarter. And you should be. You're a better team.
Yet suddenly, none of your Lakers can sink an easy shot. Huh? Suddenly, the Kings' defense steals the ball like supermen. What?
As every gamer knows, this is "artificial intelligence," and this "A.I." is meant to keep us gamers invested in the third and fourth quarters. But to me, it's truly artificial, unnaturally stripping away the pleasures of blowouts in games rooted in basketball, football and other sports titles for years.
"NBA 2K10" is, otherwise, what I'd call "a 12-month game." It is so intense, entertaining and immense, you could feasibly play it for 12 months before getting sick of it, if you're into basketball games.
If you've played a good "2K" baller in the past, you know what to expect. Regardless of whether you're playing alone or in online multiplayers, you inbound the ball. You set up a play. You pass the ball. You dunk, or shoot a three-pointer, etc. You guard on defense. There's nothing complicated about that.
It's a mostly fluid experience, though marred when I pass the ball to an open player, and he stops in his tracks at times, instead of moving continuously to the basket (as my thumb is ordering him to do). This allows slower rivals to catch up. It's also harder than ever to dribble-backward your way into the lane.
New this year: If you hold down the sprint button, this will wear your player out faster than before. I don't love that change, but I can deal with it, since it makes the game a smidgen more realistic.
Meanwhile, the other big basketball game out now, "NBA Live '10," is good and similarly smooth but not as fun as last year's "NBA Live."
For one thing, there's no "2K"-type camera angle that directly faces the direction of the basket in play, so you're stuck with a side or curving base line view that can obscure part of the action. But you can fiddle with the camera angle option just enough to make it work.
If you prefer going online, "NBA Live '10" offers 10-person multiplayers, so you plus four gamers can take on any team of five gamers around the world. That's cool.
The frustration I'm having with "NBA Live '10" -- which does look fine and feels like a good baller, online and offline -- is that opposing teams are constantly stealing the ball in the lane (like, nine steals in a half, which is unacceptable); and there's not a good protect-the-ball button.
That means I'm constantly getting the ball stolen while merely dribbling toward the basket. I. Am. Sick. Of. That.
Do you discern a theme today? I'm not keen on stealing cheaters. But who is?
("NBA 2K10" by Take Two retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for Wii on its Tuesday release; $30 for PSP and PS 2; $20 PC -- Plays very fun. Looks great. Challenging. Rated "E." Four stars out of four.)
("NBA Live '10" by EA retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $40 for PSP -- Plays fun enough. Looks very good. Challenging. Rated "E." Three and one-half stars.)
Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@review journal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.