Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
Platform: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PS2, PSP, Wii, PC, iOS
Release Date: Out Now!
Last year, 2K sports gave us the best basketball game we had ever seen. After years of waiting, Michael Jordan was finally included in the game as we relived the greatest moments of his illustrious career. Doubts began to circulate for this year’s release as the lockout moved in for the long haul. With this in mind, there was no way 2K sports could improve on last year’s effort, right? Fans were quick to write off this game, expecting a simple rehash of 2k11 but then the dust began to settle and look! It’s MJ, and he’s brought some friends with him! Alright, enough back story, it’s time to see how 2K12 shaped up.
The match engine is pretty similar to last year, but a bit more refined and smoother overall. Probably the biggest improvement lies in the post game. Posting up is now done with the Y button instead of the triggers, which means the triggers are now available to be used for moves such as shoulder fakes and various others. You also have much more control of your player when shooting and defending thanks to a few tweaks to the button layout.
AI has been improved, although there are still some almost supernatural moments where your shots will be blocked by a player with his back towards you or a steal will be made in similar fashion, but these are far more rare than last year so they don’t impinge upon matches too often. Following on from last year, you now have to be a lot more tactically astute to break down the AI’s defence, with fast-break points much more difficult to come by and pushing your way to the paint just by holding the R-Trigger no longer an option. Sure this will deter some casual fans but the level of challenge and subsequent satisfaction or frustration that it brings makes it a much better and realistic game.
In terms of game mode choices it’s pretty similar except the MJ mode has naturally been replaced with the NBA’s Greatest mode. The Be A Legend mode which saw players build up MJ’s career against the modern day teams has now been opened up to allow use of any current league player, so basically it’s My Player mode using non-created players. Association mode had very little changes made to it, but then again I didn’t find many problems with it last year.
Onto the NBA’s Greatest Mode. All 15 legends are unlocked from the get go, so you can start with whoever you want. Unlike Jordan’s mode last year, there aren’t any stat requirements for you to fulfill, you just have to win the game. I thought at first that this would take away some purpose to the matches, but then I was sort of relieved as I could just stick to my style without becoming a hog. The presentation is what really makes this mode stand above others, but I’ll come back to that. The player “personality” if you will, is really amazing. We saw what 2k were capable of last year in terms of player detail with Jordan’s tongue-poking-out, shoulder shrugging model, and this year is no different when using the classic teams. One of the best things about having the legends in, is that it’s not just the 15 headliners but also their teammates and the opposing teams in there as well. Want to play with Shaq and Tim Duncan when they were heading into their prime? Go for it.
My Player Mode as we were told a few weeks ago, has had a heap of additions. The summer circuit has been eliminated from the beginning and replaced with just a single rookie match. The notable absence of the real rookies is disappointing, albeit the fault of the NBA rather than 2K Sports, but we apparently will get them updated into the game once [or if] the lockout ends. The draft interviews are a great addition, despite progressing a bit slower than I would like. Some of the questions/responses are really specific to the team that is interviewing you, for example, I was asked by the Golden State Warriors how I think I (being a SG) would fit in given that they’ve already got very formidable guards in Ellis and Curry. You can basically determine which of the three teams you want to get selected by through sucking up or being a douche in your responses.
After you get drafted the mode plays out pretty much the same as last year except in terms of player skill progression due to the added specific ability building. I also really like the addition of a player salary as it gives you a bit more off-court fiddling to do and you can build your fan base and skills up through the money you receive. It may not be perfect but overall I still feel that when compared to EA’s “My Player” equivalents in FIFA, NHL, and Madden, NBA 2K12 wipes the court with them and really shows how fun this mode could be.
Visuals and Sound:
The aesthetics of this game are superb, from match presentation to off-the-court layouts. The main menu has been given a nice makeover, allowing you to jump right into your most recent My Player and Association mode straight away, but still retaining the old menu system through the flick of the right control stick.
Player models are as good as ever, with less alien-like faces appearing and most looking very lifelike. But where does NBA 2K12 really earn it’s 5 star visual rating? None other than the NBA’s Greatest mode. With black and white, sepia, technicolour and faded camera effects used depending on which team you are playing with, this pretty simple touch really adds a whole lot to the sense of nostalgia. Unlike the Jordan matches last year, it is a lot more authentic and makes you almost feel like you are playing in that decade rather than just a modern day recreation. Even more so, the commentary takes the presentation further, treating the matches as replays and recounting many facts and background information on the players and teams, educating and entertaining you while you play.
The great commentary is not just limited to NBA’s Greatest, with My Player Mode and Association modes becoming more and more realistic, especially when giving background information but also commenting on occurrences and stats around the league, improving a bit upon last year. The soundtrack is also very solid, complimenting the game experience through a good mix of genres especially rock, hip-hop and rap.
Overall, if you had 2k11 you will find this game plays quite similarly and even more you won’t even be getting much of a roster update (though you do get plenty of classic teams), something which sports games are often joked about for. The former is nothing to be ashamed of given how good 2k11 was, and the latter is the result of the lockout. The main faults with the game are things that 2K had very little control of, although a few minor AI and online issues need to be addressed. To produce such an awesome game based around a league that is in disarray is truly commendable. Given the lack of competition in basketball games, 2K and Visual Concepts could easily have slacked off, rehashed 2k11 with a pretty bow on it and called it 2k12, but they didn’t. The level of detail in presentation in NBA’s Greatest, the improvements made to My Player mode and of course the smoother game play make it an excellent game for NBA and both casual and hardcore sports games fans. With the lockout still in place, this will prove to be a more than adequate alternative to the cancelled preseason as you sit and hope that the NBA can get it’s act together. And if the season is cancelled altogether? Well this will surely help ease the pain.
NBA 2K12 gets a well deserved: