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PlayStation 3 Review: NBA 2K11

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NBA 2K11 is the deepest sports game I have ever played. There is so much here I could probably go the rest of my life without another yearly iteration of 2K’s NBA series, and that would not bother me a bit. Michael Jordan graces the cover, the UI, and several game modes, serving as the central theme for NBA 2K11. The game opens with a bombastic tribute to MJ, and instead of initially being presented with a menu to select your desired game mode, it immediately throws players into one of Michael’s signature games.


This opening sequence gives the player their first taste of the Michael Jordan challenge mode available in NBA 2K11. This mode puts the player in Michael’s shoes, tasking players with completing various objectives. Objectives include things like scoring a certain number of points before the half, completing a designated number of assists, and getting a certain shooting percentage. Completing all of the Michael Jordan challenges allows the player access to the MJ: Creating a Legend game mode. This puts a rookie level Michael directly into the players hands, allowing them to develop his career as they see fit.

Beyond the Jordan challenges, the game offers various other quick play modes encompassing both current and classic teams. There is an NBA blacktop mode that includes various mini-challenges such as three point shootouts and dunk contests.  Snoop Dogg, Drake, and various other celebrities are available for play beyond the normal NBA roster. Players have the option of taking their own custom character through a ‘My Player’ mode, which has them managing the player’s entry into the NBA. This mode is more about the journey than the player’s actual NBA career, and there’s a long road before reaching the NBA itself. This mode is pretty sweet and has the player reacting to game decisions at press conferences, signing sponsors, etc. This is another long term game mode that will have players continuously coming back to NBA 2K11.

NBA 2K11‘s actual gameplay is infinitely deep and is not only difficult to master, but pretty difficult to simply learn as well. This can prove troublesome for players new to the NBA 2K series as there are virtually no tutorials and no in-game help provided within the UI. This leaves players with the need to consult the physical game manual, which is simply blasphemous. Simple actions such as shooting or passing have a multitude of variations depending on what other buttons are pressed in conjunction with the pass/shot. More advanced players will want to get the analog sticks involved for on-the-fly play changes such as dribbling behind the back to get around a defender, or making a last minute hand change on a layup. After taking the time to learn the system, players can make some truly great and flashy plays, pushing the momentum of games off the charts.

NBA 2K11 is truly a joy to watch. Onlookers will believe they are watching an actual live game if they’re not told otherwise. Player animations are the most believable I have ever seen in any game, let alone a sports’ game. Court textures, crowd behavior, and amazing commentators all add to the level of immersion. The biggest folly graphically is in player models themselves. While the animations are a sight to behold when looking down on the court, player faces are just plain goofy, and in many occasions look nothing like their real life counterparts. Low textures and sub-par facial capture are most likely to blame, but these deficiencies probably help with NBA 2K11‘s unbelievably smooth frame rate.

Players have the option to do their own coaching and substitutions, which adds another layer to the complex nature of NBA 2K11. AI teams have their own coaching styles, and coupled with individual players on the specific team being faced, there is quite a bit of variety in each game. Playing through association mode, which lets players run through a season with their preferred team, I found the 76ers to be a pushover against my Miami Heat. In the next game though I got stomped against the Magic. I would chalk this up to team coaching and player matchups on the court, but this kind of variety makes NBA 2K11 seem all the more real.

It must be said that there are a few issues I’ve encountered in my short time with NBA 2K11. Passing can be a chore, and is one that should be handled carefully. The computer will constantly be intercepting passes with a ferocious tenacity. Every pass made needs to be deliberate and calculated to avoid a turnover. To make matters worse, quick passing with the left analog stick is not as accurate as one would assume, demanding further attention that could be devoted to play tactics instead. The commentators can be off at times as well. When playing as the Miami Heat, my team was referred to as the L.A. Lakers more than once. Beyond those items, I haven’t run into any other major hiccups with NBA 2K11.

Online play is fairly stable, though when the game demands precision, a small amount of lag can alter the effectiveness of shots, passes, and especially free throws. I’ve occasionally been disconnected during online games, but I’m not sure if the other player simply lost connection or quit the game.  Rather than that being made clear one is just presented with a network error message and no specific details. Players have the option to join crews, similar to clans or groups in other games, which is a nice feature to include this time around. The game does support Move on the PS3, but I have not had an opportunity to try this out.


NBA 2K11 is a vast paradise for NBA fans and gamers alike. The good comes in spades, and the bad is mostly non-existent.  The title has enough content to keep players busy until NBA 2K12, but 2K Sports has set the bar so high they will have a hard time surpassing NBA 2K11 with their next installment. Sports fans absolutely need to pick this up, and any gamer should give NBA2K11 a try, as it is more than deserving of their attention.

 

NBA 2K11 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: PC, PS2, PSP, Wii, and Xbox 360.

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