Review: NBA 10: The Inside

nba10_psp pkg front.jpg Sony’s in-house NBA franchise takes a season off on the consoles in favor of an exclusive appearance on the PSP with NBA 10: The Inside. Per usual with yearly sports games, there isn’t anything remarkably new or groundbreaking about NBA 10 over past seasons, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good, solid game of virtual hoops and easily the most well rounded entry in the series yet.

The basic gameplay engine behind NBA 10 is very much in line with previous installments. Like any game of basketball, you run up and down the court, you pass, you shoot, you rebound, you block, you steal, you posterize sorry defenders with a nice slam, jam, thank you ma’am right in their face!

NBA 10 uses the franchise’s distinctive color-coded shooting mechanic to great effect yet again – as you hold down the shoot button a halo over the ball changes color indicating optimum shot timing – and using the system to drain jumpers is both satisfying (especially when you get that “cha-ching” sound for a perfect shot) and nifty as a teaching tool providing feedback on why shots may not be going down. Unlike other basketball games where shot-making almost seems arbitrary, there’s more skill involved in learning the timing of your shots and the shooting ranges of each player on the court.

Other areas of the game still aren’t quite up to snuff, however. The player AI remains a minor drawback, as teammates regularly suffer defensive lapses, deciding to switch defenders for no apparent reason, for instance, leaving their man with a clear lane to the hoop far too often. Rebounding and free throw shooting can be problematic as well. The camera generally makes it difficult to get a good bead on where the ball is going to land, and ultimately the determination between who comes down with the board seems fairly random. And strangely, the color-coded shot indicator doesn’t have the same feel to it when shooting free throws. Playing with the Miami Heat, I had an easy time sinking free throws with someone like Jermaine O’Neal, but with a better shooter like Dwyane Wade the timing seemed way less forgiving when it should have been more so.

But these flaws are rather nitpicky, to be honest. NBA 10 finds a happy medium between hyper-realistic simulation and full-on arcadey, and all in all it’s just a fun, accessible game of hoops. It’s pacing is brisk, but it’s not some run-and-shoot dunk-a-thon – shooting and playing defense definitely matter.

Much of the presentation is authentic as well. Except for a few odd proportion issues – Shaq’s head is so tiny compared to the rest of his body and he looks absolutely ridiculous – the player models generally look lifelike enough to immediately recognize, the animations and frame rate are stutter-free, and there’s a realistic ambiance to the on-court sounds and arena noise. For the most part the announcing, performed by Ian Eagle and Kenny Smith, is pretty good too, though delayed comments and other strange glitches are far too frequent to ignore.

Most impressive, though, is the game’s extensive roster of play modes. Modes you’d expect from a sports game are all here, like Quick Play, Exhibition, Franchise, Practice, Playoffs, and the All-Star Weekend with 3-Point Shootout and Skills Challenge mini-games, but it’s the other mini-games that really make the game stand out as more than just another b-ball game.

The popular Conquest mode in which you play teams across the league and attempt to take over regions of the US map like a strategy game is back with new mini-game variants, and two additional carnival games have been introduced: a game of traditional 10-frame bowling called Open Lanes, and a Bust-A-Move-esque puzzle game called Cherry Pickin’. Old mini-game favorites return as well, like Horse, Dodgeball, Pinball, and the Arkanoid-esque Shootin’ Bricks. Honestly, the only thing Sony forgot to throw in was online play, and that’s a big omission. Local Ad-Hoc mode is supported for two players in Exhibition play and various mini-games, but unfortunately you can’t game share. I’d really love to take on some live competition in a game of Horse or a 3-Point Shootout, so the lack of Infrastructure support is a definite bummer.

NBA 10: The Inside is not the best playing game of basketball on the PSP in terms of on-the-court realism and mechanics, but I’d say it’s the most fun and feature-rich — even without online support — which in many ways makes it a better fit for portable play than the competition. Whether or not the extra mini-games and other subtle tweaks and additions are enough to warrant an upgrade if you have last season’s edition, however, is a decision you’ll have to make on your own. But just as a PSP basketball game NBA 10: The Inside is about as complete as they come.

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Pros:
+ Satisfying shooting mechanics
+ Core gameplay is fast and fun; good balance of arcade and sim
+ Great collection of mini-games
+ Mode lineup is absolutely stacked
+ Authentic audiovisual elements and smooth frame rate

Cons:
– No online play
– AI, rebounding and free throws still need work
– Glitchy announcing
– Nothing all that new to see

Game Info:
Platform: PSP
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: SCEA San Diego
Release Date: 10/6/09
Genre: Sports – Basketball
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-2 (Ad Hoc only)
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!