Reviewed: October 15, 2010
Released: October 5, 2010
It's pretty rare that I pay much attention to the NBA anymore. I grew up going to Cleveland games way back in the Austin Carr and Bobby “Bingo” Smith days. Of course I watched much of the Jordan years, particularly when he developed the bad habit of ruining the Cavs' playoff run(s). But something happened about the time Jordan retired (the first time). Something shifted in the NBA and it turned into a bunch of highly paid street thugs. Players were getting busted for all kinds of things off the court, and games dissolved into WWE wrestling matches on the court. I got tired of it all and went back to the friendly courts of the NCAA. Then I was told I should review 2K Sports NBA 2K11 because I would really like it. Well, they were right.|
I wasn't really looking forward to this game, but two minutes spent exploring the menus put a smile on my face and got me hooked. The reason I was told I should review NBA 2K11 was quickly apparent. The team selection is amazing and tremendous fun. All the current NBA teams are included of course, as are the East and West NBA All-Star Teams. Additional current teams include a team of Rookies from the 2010 draft and Sophomores. Where this game really shines is with classic teams. 2K really put some money into this game, as there are 19 classic teams with licensed players for the starting line-up.
First there is the Team Jordan legends containing current and former stars, then a lineup of the Chicago Bulls teams that featured Jordan. We start with the 1985-86 Bulls, and then move on to 1989-90 Bulls, 1990-91 Bulls, 1991-92 Bulls, 1994-95 Bulls, 1995-96 Bulls, 1996-97 Bulls, and finally the 1997-98 Bulls. Just to head off any questions, I set up a series with each of these teams vs. Lebron's Miami Heat and every one of the Bulls teams won in convincing fashion.
We don't just get Jordan's Chicago Bulls classic teams though. We get 10 other classic teams, all are licensed so we get the correct player names – but only the images of the top 5 or 6 players on each team. The 10 other classic teams include:
The good news is 2K has a great little feature a few menus deep where you can download rosters and players from 2K's servers. Two of the most popular downloads feature Jordan on FIVB teams and many additional classic teams. Naturally, since Jordan is on the cover, a big chunk of the game is focused on classic Jordan moments. Included in NBA 2K11 is the Jordan Challenge. You get to relive 10 legendary games from Michael Jordan's career and try to replicate in NBA 2K11 what MJ did on the court. If you successfully complete all 10 scenarios, you unlock the MJ Create a Legend mode.
The Create a Legend mode is what we've been seeing the in the commercials with Kobe. If you complete all the challenge scenarios, you get to take control of a newly drafted rookie named Michael Jordan and place him on your team of choice. So I think Cleveland is getting an upgrade and a fresh set of Air Jordans to shove up Lebron's “talents” in South Beach. Also while playing through NBA 2K11, you will be awarded pairs of Air Jordans for hitting game milestones and accomplishments. If you collect the entire line of Air Jordans you gain specific attribute bonuses when you wear them.
I never really understood why there had to be NBA Street games separate from the normal NBA title. Apparently 2K agrees because they tossed in NBA Blacktop as one of the game modes. It features a slam-dunk contest, pickup games, 3-point shootouts, and games to 21. It's not “extreme” like NBA Jam, but if you want an arcade game 2K11 is not for you.
Xbox Live comes in the form of “Team Up” which throws you into the usual quick match games. You can play the normal 1v1 game but also play a full 5v5 online. Both modes play as expected but honestly it's a lot more fun when you play with people you know so you can anticipate their playing style. Too often I found myself playing with ball hogs or grade school turds that wanted to play “hack-a-Shaq”. Before long it was too frustrating to bother. But if you get some players you know, it's a lot of fun teaming up for a big Harlem Globetrotters style pass around and slam-dunk. There are also online leagues for those dedicated to playing NBA 2K11 for long periods of time.
The graphics are certainly on par with last year’s efforts from both camps. The big difference is the inclusion of some classic players like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and others. 2K does a pretty nice job of mapping their faces and playing styles on computer generated players. Most of the players are very close to their real life counterparts, but some like Larry Bird need a little more work. Unfortunately there are a few graphical problems that mar an otherwise beautiful presentation. There are frequent clipping problems particularly in the cutscenes between live action, but it's merely a minor distraction and not a showstopper.
Another minor issue is the player uniforms. They look like the team manager used an inordinate amount of starch on the uniforms. They seem to float rigidly 1/4” off the skin of the players. It's a shame and I really don't understand why this wasn't addressed early on in the development process. 2K's Major League Baseball game does a very nice job with fabric textures and physics, but NBA just doesn't seem to quite have it down yet. Again, this is a minor distraction and certainly isn't a reason I would stop playing the game.
The overall presentation both in audio and video presentation has been greatly enhanced to be on par with any network TV broadcast. Clark Kellogg and Kevin Harlan share the broadcast booth with Dorris Burke on the sidelines to interview players and coaches. They all do a great job adding some excitement to the game and I very rarely heard repeated comments. Music includes 29 2K Beats from Snoop Dogg, Big Boi, Drake, on down to Ron Artest (yes, the NBA player). While I don't really care for any of this music, 2K did have the sense to get some of the authentic introduction music for games including the Chicago Bulls (Alan Parsons Project's “Sirius”). You can also chose to disable everything and just enjoy the Dolby Digital surround
NBA 2K11 features 50 achievements for 1,000 gamer score points. As usual some of the achievements are pathetically simple, like creating a music play list. But there are others like holding teams below 40% FG rating which can be difficult unless you play against a horrible team. Additionally, 2K still is respecting ALL their customers, not just the ones buying a new game. Their Xbox Live content is still free. You can play all you want, even if you commit the EA declared sin of buying a used game. 2K has EA running scared and that's a good thing for the gamer. There currently isn't anything directly game related available for download on Xbox Live but you can pay 160 Microsoft Points for some Air Jordans to put on your Avatar. The in-game menu system does have an option to input a code so I would hope something else may be released in the near future.
2K Sports has really outdone themselves and everyone else. It's a shame they threw in the towel on the NCAA College Hoops game. But if you are an NBA fan, you will love this game. 2K has thrown everything into NBA 2K11. I guess now we know why EA had to postpone NBA Elite. NBA 2K11 is the best basketball game I've ever seen. If it were not for NHL 11 and FIFA 11, this game would certainly be getting a lot of sports game of the year awards.