Reviewed: November 2, 2011
Released: October 4, 2011
Well here we are at another beautiful October when every major sport is playing. Baseball and soccer are in the playoffs, while football, hockey and basketball are just starting their seasons. Well, not so fast. Every couple years there is some kind of labor problem in at least one of the major sports. Sometimes it gets extreme like when Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League cancelled their seasons. Both of those leagues lost a lot of fans in those years and some would say they havenít fully recovered. Iím one of the fans who found other sports to watch. Though I have enjoyed going to minor league hockey, I have never returned to MLB or NHL games. |
NBA basketballÖ whether itís the players or owners is debatableÖ is about to do the unthinkable. They may cancel their season. This is staggering on two levels. One: this group of very wealthy people didnít seem to pay attention to how much the MLB and NHL were hurt by their lost seasons. Two: in this economy for many fans to attend a game where average ticket prices are above $50 is a major decision. A night out with the family is easily over $200. Thatís a car payment for some people. The average NBA bench warmer is making over $4 million a year. They get paid millions to play a game. To entertain us. Now they say thatís not enough? I really donít think they realize the level of backlash the fans will be dishing out if they donít get back to work soon.
So all we may have for pro basketball this season is the engaging fantasy that is NBA 2K12. Honestly, I will enjoy this videogame a lot more than going to an NBA game. Last year 2K Sports set the sports videogame world ablaze by signing Michael Jordan as their cover guy. But it wasnít just the cover; the game had a fun challenge mode playing with Jordanís Chicago Bulls and a good list of Jordan era teams. Great teams plus great graphics means great reviews and satisfied gamers.
2K11 was so good that EA cancelled their nearly completed NBA Elite. Yes, EA realized their game was so bad compared to 2K11, that they decided to eat the considerable development costs and not release their game. Instead EA brought out a revamped arcade classic NBA Jam, which is fun, but itís an arcade game. NBA 2K is on a different level. Itís a simulation; an incredibly accurate simulation with a boatload of gameplay options.
NBA 2K12 isnít quite the Michael Jordan show like last year. So good was the reception of NBA 2K11 that 2K decided to give us even more classic players in 2K12. Now there are several different covers featuring Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. 15 classic players with over 30 classic teams is great, but many of the complaints about last yearís game revolved around the lack of capability to play the classic teams on Xbox Live.
The problem still remains. Unless you want to pony up some Microsoft Points to get the Legends DLC coming soon. But even that is rumored to be a basic ďstreetĒ basketball. Once again a potentially great game is crippled by corporate shortsightedness. It really pains me to see games like NHL 12 and NBA 2K12 pay all this money for legendary player licensing, and completely blow the potential for these players and teams. 2Kís commercials brag that you can finally see which player is better Ė Jordan or Lebron, Magic or Bird. Magic even went on Jay Lenoís show to promote this game. But those players are nothing without their teammates. All I wanted to do was set up a season with all the current NBA teams and classic teams, one home and one away game against each team, then playoffs to decide who was best. Canít do it. What a waste.
It is frustrating that these companies expect us to pay $60 for a game, and then expect us to shell out $10 or more on downloadable content to get features that should have been included in the first place. Itís basically crippleware. They let us play the basic game for $60 but charge us more for the really fun part. Itís a business, and all these big name classic players cost big money to license. But itís us paying the bills.
When you start the game you are greeted with a very internet style menu to pick from a handful of options (including an ad for the upcoming DLC). 2K really needs to work on some ease of use issues. There are several menus that you cannot back out of, which force you to waste time loading a game before backing out. All the standard game modes are back, including all the current NBA teams and additional All-Star, Rookie and Sophomore teams. There have been significant changes in some of the gameplay A.I. Ė especially with the computer controlled defense. They seem to learn your style of play and they will exploit any weakness they see, including height and speed differences in players. Last year NBA was a good game, these little detail improvements really push NBA 2K12 to the next level.
Association is NBA 2K12ís version of a Dynasty mode. With links to NBA.com and plenty of history links, as well as a fairly deep dynasty simulation, anyone who enjoys the nuts and bolts of basketball will spend a lot of time here. One of the most popular modes is My Player where you create a virtual you and try to make it to the NBA. This year My Player has some significant improvements that make this my favorite mode. Last year it was a little laborious going through the process of pickup games and D-league to get drafted.
This year you can just play a game and start interviewing with a few teams before draft day. Once you get drafted the gameplay takes off very similarly to last year. Like other sports games with this type of ďbe a playerĒ mode, you try to be a team player while still getting the stats to be noticed and become a star for the team. NBA 2K12ís My Player is a slightly different take on this mode, but itís certainly on par with anything Iíve played in other games like NHL 12 and FIFA 12Ö and that is a great thing.
The overall presentation is quite good despite the lack of licensed network logos such as ESPN or Fox Sports. Instead we get 2K Sportsí brand, which works even though it affects the realism of the game. Commentators include the always good Marv Alpert and Steve Kerr who replaces Clark Kellogg. Kerr used to be on EAís NBA Live. Sideline reporter Dorris Burke also chimes in once in a while.
The classic teams get an interesting classic presentation treatment. Bill Russellís 1960ís era Boston Celtics games are in black and white! Other classic teams get a little bit of the washed out colors like itís an old film off the shelf. While that is kind of neat Ė I am old enough to remember seeing some of these classic teams live in person or on TV and having washed out colors and present day commentary Ďlooking backí on the classic teams just bothers me. But most gamers probably donít remember Larry Bird in his prime.
Music within NBA 2K12 is the usual mix of 28 hip-hop beats. Thereís nothing terribly innovative or interesting in these tracks, just the usual heavy beats with a few old songs remixed. Artists include Kurtis Blow, Jamaica and others. You even get a 10 point achievement just for making a playlist.
Player modeling is again very impressive. Slight improvements have been made in facial textures and uniforms though the jerseys still donít sit on the players quite right. The team manager seems to have put too much starch in with the uniform washer and it looks incredibly stiff. Players look amazingly accurate to where you can recognize people without seeing their name and number. Joakim Noah looks like he hasnít showered in weeks so itís spot on accurate. One of the main troubles with making lifelike players is found in the eyes and mouth Ė the two areas of greatest expression. 2K has done significant improvements in this area and itís certainly the most believable player models yet. However itís still not quite there.
Just a note to those wanting to play the ďcurrentĒ NBA rosters: there are none. At least not until the strike is over. Contractually they had to just use last seasonís rosters until the strike is settled so hopefully there will be an update soon. Unfortunately that doesnít do any good for those without an Xbox Live connection, so donít expect to play with Purdueís EíTwan Moore or JaJaun Johnson on the Boston Celtics and no Jimmer or any of the other rookies. Even the ďRookiesĒ team is from last year.
Xbox Live functionality has improved slightly to keep in line with other sports games. Links to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are possible, so you can upload images, video and game information. There are routinely over 10,000 people online playing NBA 2K11 at any one time so finding a game shouldnít be an issue. There really isnít much to do online aside from straight up quick match games and tournaments. But in order to have a tournament you must register with Virgingaming.com which is yet another step (and another user agreement). Honestly online play hasnít improved much from last year. It seems a little more stable and a few glitches have been fixed, but itís still a ďnot bad, not great, just OKĒ. While basic online gameplay isnít a bad thing, there sure could be a lot more done with this mode.
NBA 2K12 includes 50 achievements for 1,000 Gamerscore points. Achievements range from simply making a music playlist to ďThe Whole ShebangĒ of unlocking every achievement. Many of the achievements are oriented to make you play online, so it keeps the 2K community going. There is also an achievement for giving to the NBA Cares charity in My Player mode.
NBA 2K12 is a great simulation with a lot to offer, from street pick-up games to World Champion classic teams. Hopefully the lack of current rosters is temporary. NBA 2K12 is an improvement over last year, but only a slight one.