It’s in the game!
Posted 2 years ago By - Jay Acevedo
As you may have heard, this year’s NBA 2K game is (as of this writing) the only current basketball simulation available on the market. It also puts former Chicago Bull/Washington Wizard, Hanes’ underwear spokesman and current NBA owner Michael Jordan back in the video game stratosphere since NBA Street Vol. 2. One would have thought that the heavy and incessant marketing focus on His Airness would overshadow the core game itself. Fortunately, NBA 2K11 shines even more than expected thanks to the number of improvements and additions made in comparison to its predecessor.
Ahh the memories...
Air Jordan isn’t only presented as a playable character in NBA 2K11 but the team over at Visual Concepts built a special mode that allows players to relive Jordan’s illustrious career through ten game-based challenges from his 63 point play-off performance against the Celtics to his last championship game versus the Utah Jazz. As much as these challenges sound great on paper, some newcomers won’t find them very fun to play. Since each of these challenges force you to play a full blown game and accomplish the specific end-game stats requirements, the mode’s restrictive nature is a great challenge to NBA 2K aficionados but will turn off others.
However, completing the mode will unlock the “Creating a Legend” mode, where players get to play as a rookie MJ, add him to any of today’s NBA rosters and lay out a whole new outcome for his career. Earn skill points by achieving certain in-game goals and use them to improve his ratings. What makes this mode great is that in order to have a Hall of Famer career, picking the highest rated team won’t necessarily turn out to be the best decision. In order to make him as good (or even better) as the original MJ, your promising rookie needs good complimentary teammates to reach greatness. For instance, if Jordan plays for the Knicks in an offensive-focused system he might score lots of points but he would lack the defensive/offensive support to win. Landing in Chicago and play alongside Boozer, Deng, Rose and Noah might be a good fit for the new rookie even though the idea of joining Pau and Kobe in L.A or Bosh, LeBron and Wade in Miami might be too tempting to overlook. Just remember that playing alongside the best NBA players won’t necessarily make your Rookie Jordan flourish into the superstar you wanted him to be.
“Creating a Legend” mode plays out exactly like My Player – which makes a return in NBA 2K11 - and will allow you to control only your player, with the option to choose offensive/defensive strategies from the play call menu and holler for the ball whenever you want. Doing the latter will penalize your teammate grade though, so do it wisely. All playbooks are built for the players currently listed on the team and the rules won’t bend just because your player carries the Michael Jordan name. The AI will look for the best players and options available…and being a 79-rated player won’t give you the chance to hit the last shot in an important game. If you’re not happy, you can request a trade and see who wants you on their team. Who knows, there might be a better fit for you. I could go on and on but let’s just say that for every Jordan fan with the willingness to re-write history or just the most advanced and knowledgeable NBA 2K player looking for a true challenge, this mode is an instant winner.
Re-write Warrior’s history...wait, what history?
As I’ve mentioned earlier, I was probably one of the few to believe that NBA 2K11 was going to be all about Jordan; leaving most of my qualms from last year’s game untouched. Not that I was surprised to see Visual Concepts improve the action on the hardwood but in this era of gaming, the emphasis is often on the new hotness which leads to disappointments. In this case, NBA 2K11 continues to put the brand’s image as the best basketball simulation on the market at the top of the podium. While the innovations brought last year to the on-ball defense, turbo button and post play mechanics were welcomed, the inconsistent player A.I was tough to overlook.
There‘s still a few instances where the AI will give headaches to some, like pulling crazy and unnecessary moves (Carlos Arroyo going for the fade-away three pointer?) or instantly stop fast-break passes while the defender has its back turned to the action but for the most part, this year’s game behaviour emanates a better feel of the real thing. Your teammates now have a better understanding of what’s happening on the court. They can regularly, intelligibly and effectively block passing lanes, box and rebound the ball, stop dribbling progression and contest shots as well as their ratings allow. Offensively, they can set picks, create space and even execute outside cuts and set themselves for the quick perimeter shot, which up until today was nonexistent. Mind you these changes apply to the AI controlled team as well. Piercing their defensive system and going for the easy basket won’t be as formal as it once was but they will also disrupt your defense and exploit every single miss-match possible. If playing defense was never your thing, brace yourself for an ass-whooping.
Luckily, the new dribbling, shot and passing controls will give you the offensive tools necessary to overcome the opposition. Going the 1-to-1 route by using the right analog stick in combination with the triggers, the implementation of the new dynamic controls make your offensive skills more natural and fluid. The key to success lies there. If you take the time to explore these new options, each move will bring you closer to victory. The new passing system (linked to the right analog stick) works well but unfortunately, the result isn’t that conclusive. It works, but it requires more work on the developers part. The icon-passing system has not been scrapped and is there for those who grew accustomed to it.
Check out my new moves, son!
The Association mode continues to be solid and has even received a nice visual revamp. Additionally, the CPU trade logic and season simulation got a quick fix. There’s still a few discrepancies where a certain team will try to screw you over like offering their lowest, most ambiguous player in exchange of your first draft pick, but that doesn’t happen often. Season simulations won’t see the oddest teams win the NBA Championship either.
Since the beginning of the current console cycle, the NBA 2K franchise has been offering some of the best presentations a basketball game can have. Everything from the player models (despite the alien-sweaty looking ones), solid play-by-play commentary, dynamic crowd action and player’s signature moves add an incredible level of authenticity. NBA 2K11 is a visual feast. However, the game still suffers from framerate stutters and weird cut-scenes transitions, which is questionable since the game runs very smoothly during gameplay. Aside from this, the game is impeccable. Oh...and the annoying NBA Insider is back. Make sure your turn him off, mkay?
Whether this review may look like a love letter to 2K Sports or not, there is a few things that really drove me nuts. Despite being interesting, the aforementioned My Player mode continues to be an incredibly punishing experience. Starting out as a 35 rated player practically obliterates any chance of being a “good” NBA player. Failing to perform incredibly well in the Draft Combine will automatically lead you to spend most of your time in the NBDL, which is not fun at all. The mode received neat additions such as the possibility to get a shoe deal from His Airness himself and answering reporter’s questions through press conferences. Sadly, seeing myself spending more time in leading my Rookie Jordan through the road of greatness ended up being more interesting that trying desperately to see myself on billboards and posters. 2K Sports needs to re-think its My Player mode or at least make my player less crappy at the beginning.
See? Not even the game’s producer managed to be drafted in the first round!
The online realm continues to be the franchise Achilles’ Heel and while the normal human vs human matches saw an improvement over last year’s sluggish net code, the ten player Team-Up mode suffers from random disconnections, server slowdowns and humongous lag. 2K Sports knows about these year-on-year issues so the chances to see it become less glaring are high, as patches usually takes care of the problem as the weeks go by.
I got to give credit to Visual Concepts for adding Move-support to the game. While the idea sounds interesting at first, its implementation is half-baked…and even tacked on if I may. Don’t get me wrong, the Move controls are responsive and do put you closer to the hardwood action. Sadly, for some strange reason, the Sub-Controller isn’t supported. This odd choice results in forcing you to hold the regular DUALSHOCK 3 controller in your right hand and the Move controller in your left hand. Allow me to explain further, the Move controller is used to mimic shots and dunks while the DUALSHOCK 3 controller is used for player movement, execute passes and alley-oops. Trust me, it blows. Why support half of the Move technology? And there’s no way Sub-Controller support could be added via a patch. If NBA 2K12 comes with Move-support, it needs be complete…
Newcomers might find it difficult – and sometime boring - to play a “real” basketball game but you can’t overlook the efforts made by 2K Sports and Visual Concepts year after year to place this franchise at the top. Mind you, the game remains accessible to the less experienced (or to those who’ve been praising NBA Live without looking elsewhere), just be prepared to be taught a lesson. After all, if it’s the crazy dunks and unfeasible plays that get you excited, check out my NBA Jam review.
A few things keeps NBA 2K11 from being an ultimate realization but there’s no way a true basketball fan can overlook this. Certainly, THE best basketball game I’ve had the opportunity to play in a while. Now I understand why NBA Elite 11 got canned...or delayed as some of the EA guys might say.
+ Creating a Legend is very, very interesting
+ Jordan Challenges are fun despite their restrictive nature
+ IsoMotion controls
+ Improved AI
+ My Player did get some nice additions...
- Online play suffers from lag, especially the Team-Up mode
- Half-baked Move support
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Release Date : 2010/10/05
System : PlayStation 3
Publisher : 2K Sports
Developer : Visual Concepts
Category : Sports
ESRB : E
7.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
8.0 / 10
8.7 / 10