NBA 2K12 Review (Xbox 360)
2010′s NBA 2K11 was a massive achievement in sports video games. A towering tribute to Michael Jordan through and through, it featured His Airness on the cover, let players relive his greatest accomplishments and gave them the chance to mold Jordan from rookie to elder statesman. The ability for players to simply plot their own NBA career alongside some of the greatest players ever to hit the court seemed an added bonus to an already incredible game and the total package, evidenced by our own 95/100 score, was nearly perfect.
Those are some big basketball sneaks to fill, and I’m happy to report that NBA 2K12 does so handily, in every way that counts. In fact, I liked it so much I’m reduced to using every cliche in the book. It’s a slam dunk. It proves the series can be called a dynasty. And if you count 2009′s NBA 2K10, it’s a threepeat for 2K Sports. Whether you’re a Bball obsessive or a casual fan, it’s a thrilling experience that makes you feel, and I apologize for the cliche, like you’re part of the game.
NBA 2K12 (XBox360 [Reviewed], PS3, Wii, PC, PSP, PS2, iOS)
Developer: Visual Concepts/Virtuous
Publisher: 2K Sports
Release Date: October 04, 2011
Probably the greatest thing about NBA 2K12 – and that’s a very difficult thing to nail down – is its presentation and feel. That’s thanks in large part to the excellent, responsive controls, largely carried over from NBA 2K11 but improved. New players will find it ridiculously easy to pick up and old hands won’t even miss a step. Animations are also simply excellent, with everything from players banging into one another to jumps and passes looking eerily real. Yes, they have that creepy uncanny valley thing that most photorealistic animations have – if you accidentally see them looking at the camera it’s creepy – but it isn’t as distracting as it can be in fantasy or action games; it helps that you’re looking at almost entirely real people.
Another great aspect of the game’s presentation is the wonderful color commentary provided by Kevin Harlan, Clark Kellogg and Steve Kerr, that seeks to reach a level of realism that ought to surprise even the most hardened sports game old timer. Commentary is active, constant, relevant to your personal progress and even to the progress of individual games. They’ll even stop whatever they’re talking about if something really cool happens on the court; if you’re like me and have a problem with being distracted by OOH shiny objects, be prepared in advance for how cool this turns out to be.
All in all, tremendous effort has been put into making the player not only see the visceral, if vicarious, thrill of NBA play, but experience it as authentically as is possible in video game form, and Visual Concepts has succeeded spectacularly.
NBA’s Greatest Mode
Last year’s NBA 2K11 had Jordan Challenge mode, which literally put players into the most iconic moments of Michael Jordan’s nearly 20 year professional career. It was awesome, of course. And it’s been topped handily with NBA’s Greatest mode. Simply put, NBA’s Greatest mode is the Basketball equivalent of asking “could Superman beat up Batman” and giving players the chance to find out in a way that feels real. Players can pick from 15 of the greatest (no longer) active players in the history of the game and have access to their trademark moves. Each player plays as part of his most iconic team, against that team’s historic rivals, meaning you’ll battle the Celtics against the Hawks, the Lakers against the Celtics, and so on. And in case you’re not drooling, I’m taking about Wilt Chamberlain for the 71/72 Lakers, Larry Bird for the 85/86 Celtics, Michael Jordan for the 92/93 Bulls.
It’s a lot of fun seeing period-authentic uniforms with accurate play styles. Alas, you don’t get to enjoy Kareem’s amazing prescription goggles, but you’ll deal. And better, after you win one of the NBA’s Greatest games, you unlock both teams and thus have the ability to match up the teams and players against basically the entirety of the NBA’s history going back to the 60s.
But of all the things that make NBA’s Greatest mode awesome, the best is the fact that each of the games you’ll play is set in the time period in which you’re playing. Choose Bill Russell and you’re watching your game in black and white with period fonts as though it’s actual footage from television archives. Play as Larry Bird and it’s a totally 80s game, right down to the crummy video quality. Seriously, you almost expect the Atlanta Hawks to have big hair and parachute pants.
The only problem I had with it – and it’s a very minor problem, I promise – is that the color commentary, (most of it by Harlan and Kellogg) is portrayed as remarking on archived footage. I think it would have been a lot more fun if the commentary was played straight, as though the game was actually happening, instead of as if the player is watching a historical document. Yes, I realize getting the likes of Brent Musburger or Bob Wolff would probably be expensive, not to mention impossible to recreate their golden years of color commentary, but hearing the very modern-sounding Kevin Harlan talking over ‘footage’ from a game set in the 70s took me slightly out of the moment. But only slightly.