The best that ever did it in
the best game that ever did it.
Every year, basketball gamers have the same dispute…the new 2K game or the new Live? It has been a back-and-forth battle for the past few years with no clear winner. However, this year, with NBA Live (now renamed NBA Elite) not showing up alongside the massive gameplay enhancements inherent in 2K11 makes the winner this year clear. NBA 2K11 is not only the best basketball game released this year (and the only one released this year), it is the best basketball game ever released and a contender for the best sports game ever made.
Anyone who has been following 2K11 knows that the emphasis this year has been on Michael Jordan. Jordan is revered as one of the greatest basketball players to ever lace a pair of sneakers. This year, Jordan is not only the cover athlete, he’s also the focus of NBA 2K11, which lets you relive Jordan’s greatest moments in the Jordan Challenge. The Jordan Challenge takes ten of Jordan’s most memorable games and challenges you to recreate them. For example, you must try scoring 55 points against the Knicks, like Jordan did in 1995. These challenges do a great job in recreating the moments, with authentic jerseys and even time appropriate commentary. For older players, the Jordan Challenges may feel like time traveling to the NBA’s heyday.
Upon completion of the Jordan Challenge (which is no easy feat), the player unlocks the ability to use their own distinct Jordan, taking him from his not-so-humble beginnings as a rookie to superstardom. The draw here is that this Jordan is your Jordan to place on whatever team you choose. You mold him, amping up the stats you deem important and ultimately making His Airness into the basketballer that you envision. Want to see how Jordan would fare playing alongside Kobe, LeBron, or Shaq? The decision is yours. Purists may scoff, but then they’ll already be satisfied by the verisimilitude of the Jordan Challenges.
The Jordan Challenge and resulting Jordan gameplay could be a game in and of itself, but these are merely additions to the core gameplay. 2K Sports didn’t simply tack Jordan on the cover, update the rosters, and add a digit to the year, as some sport developers are wont to do. There have been drastic, gameplay-enhancing changes to the game engine. One of the most noticeable and appreciated improvements comes in the form of free-flowing gameplay. Remember in all of the previous 2K games where your player got locked into a canned animation? They are now a thing of the past. Now, every movement is dynamic. Anything your player does can be interrupted and altered at a moment’s notice. When you are going for a layup and the big man steps up, you can alter your shot mid-motion. Even the dribbling has been including in this dynamic system, allowing you to bridge together your own specialized move to the goal…if your player has sufficient skill to pull it off. If you mess up a play, you can be certain that you made a mistake in most situations, and that canned animations aren’t to blame for your shot getting blocked or ball getting stolen.
There are a ton of subtle details that fans of the NBA will notice. Players behave on the court as they would in real life, and teams function together in the same way. When watching, you can tell 2K really did their research into how the players animate, with little touches that make players unique. Superstars have their signature moves, and everyone shoots, dribbles, and moves as their real-life counterpart would. Stadiums even accurately portray crowds. High profile games have stadiums filled to the brim, while games with lesser-liked teams have seats empty. You can even see late arrivals filling seats during the first quarter.
Regulars to the NBA 2K franchise will notice that the AI has been ramped up significantly. You have to play intelligently to score, utilizing plays efficiently against the intelligent computer. One gripe, however, is that long passes are nearly always supernaturally picked off in the default settings. As always, however, NBA 2K has sliders that allow you to adjust computer tendencies, so this can be rectified easily.
For league players, “The Association” mode returns and is more intelligent than before. Trades are more realistic, with the computer making smarter trades than previous years. This means you can’t swindle the computer into crazy trades anymore, which may disappoint cheap gamers but should put a smile on the face of players who appreciate realism.
My Player is also available for a sort of basketball role-playing game. However, it has a very different pacing than the core game. My Player is slow-paced and requires quite a bit of grinding before your player is up to NBA standards, so it is a mode only for the truly dedicated who are determined to see their name (real or orchestrated) in a virtual NBA game.
Of course, one of the big draws is always online play, but NBA 2K11 does falter a bit in this category. There is the ever-present, game-breaking lag when playing with more than one player online. It isn’t as bad when playing with only one player, but most players online like to bring buddies. Perhaps a future patch can help rectify this issue.
Ultimately, NBA 2K11 brings a lot of freshness to the formula. The inclusion of Air Jordan, the improved dribbling and shot stick use, the ramped-up AI, and the TNT presentation means that there isn’t much to dislike about NBA 2K11. 2K Games has probably angered a lot of sports game developers by ignoring the “update roster and add a new feature” formula that most developers utilize. NBA 2K11 has definitely set the bar high for future iterations, both of basketball games and sports games in general. If this trend continues, in a few years time, we may actually have to go outside to a basketball court to get more realistic. NBA 2K11 is the best basketball game ever made, and if you are a fan of the sport, and especially if you were raised in the Air Jordan Era, you won’t find a better b-ball game anywhere.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.6 Graphics
Great visuals and animation make the game look like the real thing. 4.8 Control
The player has nearly absolute control over every aspect of the game, from shooting to dribbling. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great soundtrack, commentary, and voiceovers make the game auditory heaven. 4.6 Play Value
Play the Jordan Challenge, MJ: Creating a Legend, Exhibition, Online, or The Association modes over and over again. 4.7 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.