Game: NBA 2K11
Publisher: 2K Sports
Release Date: October 5, 2010
Try the Demo for NBA 2K11 on Xbox 360 right here!
Consoles: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PS3, PC, PSP, Wii
Sports games never have a story in them, but NBA 2K11 has reversed that trend and given us the task of recreating Michael Jordan’s legacy. I was really excited to find out more about the Legend. In this respect, NBA 2K11 is much different than other sports games; it would be amazing if the trend continues too. Playing through Michael Jordan’s career lends focus and direction to a game that would otherwise merely be modes that gamers have already played through many times over. Born in 1990, I do not remember ever seeing Michael Jordan play, but now, actually playing parts of what made him great, it makes me respect him much more. At first, I was worried that 2K would have trouble topping this. However, the more I played “The Jordan Challenge” I became more disconnected than I wanted to be. It would have been amazing to have some original footage or even commentary from those games. Even though the commentators and text in the game do their best, it never really totally feels like I am actually watching MJ play. 2K had a chance to school some NBA noobs like me, but they only captured the highlights Jordan’s career. NBA 2K11 is an awesome experience, but it could’ve been so much more epic. Another feature that is a little bit disconcerting is that there are only 10 moments from his days in the NBA. Although it is innovative & great, the “story” mode could have been like Michael Jordan himself: a never to be forgotten legend that lives on.
After many years, the NBA games from 2K are polished to perfection. The A.I. is extremely good. If you want to win, you must play smart and like a real player. For example, when shooting it is not a good idea to just haphazardly use the shot stick, even on the lowest difficulty. The defense will always know what you are up to and react accordingly. I only found one time when the game acted funky. At the end of the a close game, the defense fouled me about 10 times. I understand that fouling is a strategy, but 10 times in 30 seconds? Other than that, I found no real game killing elements present. 2K has given the hardcore what they asked for: a rock solid basketball game that will not let you skate by.
For the casual NBA player, take note that this game may take months of practice to truly master. 2K11 is jam packed with offensive and defensive tools to make you a NBA Pro, but I personally found the controls and moves dizzying. Often, it was hard to remember the control combinations, plus what I could do with my player. This was especially true of dribbling. The tutorial was of little help . Although the tutorial would say what controls to use, only when completing jump shots would the game give an indication of how well you did, and what needed improvement. Sometimes, I would try to pull off a specular dunk, only to find that I had mismatched my buttons. If the sequel could create some intuitive controls, it would be a giant leap forward in an already spectacular series.
The final niggling problem was the User Interface. It often took many minutes to find what I was looking for. To illustrate, I saved a replay and knew it could be uploaded. So I looked for the replay in the “reel” section. Alas, no saved films. Worried, I looked in every place imaginable. In the most esoteric of places, I finally found my replay in the “LOAD” section. Then I had to transfer it to the reel section and then upload. And that is just one example. Generally though, once found, a feature is so insanely spiffy that previous woes are forgotten. Going back to the replay section example, once I found it, it was really fun to edit, add sounds and do all sorts of stuff. This is true for most of the game. There are at least 10-15 game modes, each packed with options and different game play.
Graphics and Audio
Graphics are best described in one word: TERRIFIC! Sure, there are weird parts when teeth and mouths look all cartoony. And there are times when two players would magically turn into one, sharing arms or legs. But these are rare, and for a sports game with so much action, it is truly amazing how good the graphics are. Facial expressions and free throws animations are all beautifully captured and add to the atmosphere.
Audio and commentary are usually one of the most defining aspects of a sport. Each sport has its signature sound or announcers. Even crowds sound different at different events. The squeaking of shoes and the crowd are well rendered in NBA 2K11. The soundtrack is also varied and crazy cool. A mix of hip hop, rap, alternative and rock, it really gets the groove on and psychs up the game. With the ability to create your own play list, it is pretty neat. One caveat I had with the soundtrack was the commentary. Initially it was great, and it felt odd playing without it. Eventually though, they just KEPT saying the same thing over and over. It seems inconceivable to me for them not to able to switch up a couple their tracks once in a while. Take as an example, the alley-oop. Every time I was able to perform one, the announcers would, without fail say the same phrase. This was also the case with steals and rejections. To be fair, they were smart with the color analysis and them being able to read & interpret current stats was really sweet.
Unintuitive controls are the main reason this game is not perfect. Sure, there are some flaws in the MJ mode. But they are fairly easy to overlook. Playing as Michael Jordan is just too darn cool to really criticize it that much. Even the commentary and UI is easy to forget. If you want a great basketball game, look no further. Just be warned that if you have not played a NBA game in awhile, it may take some time to make sense of everything (also, you may want to switch to the handy “Casual” game play style.)
I give NBA 2K11: