Last year at this time, 2K Sports released it’s first PC sports game with NBA 2K9. It was a huge improvement over EA Sports’ PC versions of NBA Live, but it still wasn’t on par with 2K Sports’ console versions. Online play was the biggest sacrifice. I still don’t see how 2K saw that as a viable feature to leave on the cutting room floor. In any case, they’re back this year with their latest build, and this time they left nothing out. This is the best NBA sim on PC since NBA Live 2000, but it’s not without it’s flaws.

My Player mode is obviously the biggest new feature, and for me it’s reason enough to play this game. It’s hard, though, and highly unforgiving. The game will grade you on a school-like letter system (A+ to F), but it’s far easier to lose ranks then earn them. On top of that, the game will rip you off with cheap demerits. If you try to steal a pass that goes just past your finger tips, you’ll likely get hit with a ‘bad steal attempt’ critique. Also, each and every time your man scores, your grade take a hit, even if he leaked out long past half court as you got hit on a layup attempt and scores while you couldn’t do anything about it, or if he hits a shot while being pounded, flipping the ball over his head. Most real-life coaches wouldn’t blink at that, but this game expects you to play it’s way, not the right way. You’ll spend more time thinking about the grading system then playing smart basketball, which sucks. The game gives you three goals before each game, and getting all of them is better for your score then actually winning the game (300 points for three goals completed vs. 100 for a win). For a mode that supposedly focuses so tightly on team play, it sure doesn’t seem to care about the ultimate team goal: winning.

Gameplay is solid, as usual, but again 2K Sports shunned proper button labels for generic icons, making the game more difficult (hint: there are fan-made patches for this. go get ’em on NBA Live Series Center‘s forum here for PS2/PS3 style and here for the Xbox 360 for Windows controller). The biggest hurdle with the control is that the ‘call for a pick’ button (circle on PS3/’B’ on Xbox 360) is set to a crossover on PC, and there’s no way to change it to it’s original function because there isn’t a ‘call for a pick’ option on the controller setup screen. Inexcusable. For those of you still thinking of playing on a keyboard, please… just bite the bullet and buy a controller. It’s worth the investment.

Visually, the game is on par with the consoles, and the sounds are likewise. 2K’s servers, a huge hurdle when I reviewed the Xbox 360 version are better, but still not perfect. I’ll harp on one thing I mentioned in my NBA 2K9 for PC review here: if you’re not confident your PC can handle the game, please buy it for the console of your choice. It’s no fun to play when the framerate plummets. With a decent PC, though, many of the framerate hiccups that the console versions exhibit are smoothed out.

To wrap this up, this is a huge upgrade from last year, if just for the online features and My Player, but there’s still room for improvement. This is the best PC basketball sim in 10 years, so if you’re a PC gaming enthusiast, don’t miss it. Alphasim out.