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Xbox 360 Review: NBA 2K11

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2K Sports’ new revision of the NBA2k franchise is receiving a lot of attention this year. Getting the rights to feature Michael Jordan on the cover and in the game sparked a buzz that has continued well after its release. On top of that, the game is receiving rave reviews. IGN claims that it is “the greatest basketball game ever made”. So, what makes this game so much better than the rest?

  

Historically, 2K has typically done as well if not better than its basketball sim competition since its genesis back in late 1999 on the Sega Dreamcast. What has set 2K above all other sports games is its signature shooting technique. Maybe the concept works better in basketball than other sports, but the mastering of multiple players’ shots separates the good gamers from the great ones. The game’s ISOmotion move set is still something that is available yet not mandatory (though certainly recommended). To be able to pull off certain dribbling maneuvers using ISOmotion is helpful but not essential.

In 2K11, they continue their normal attention to detail and incorporate the personalities of the players as well. Each player has a tendency scale that shows where a majority of their scoring takes place whether it is driving to the hoop, launching threes, or somewhere in between. This makes the AI actually running more accurate offensive sets that won’t have J.J. Redick the high scorer on the Magic.

The detail also shows in their Jordan Challenge Mode which for most people is the ultimate draw in this iteration. 2K Sports had no choice but to be impressive once Jordan allowed them to have him as a playable character in the game and they did not disappoint. You’ll play as Jordan in different parts of his career which will cause you to use him differently (especially since you’ll face different legendary stars and teams). Ten challenges are set up to recreate nine different games and one playoff series in which Jordan wowed basketball fans. You’ll face Magic, Bird, Gary Payton and the Supersonics, Stockton, Malone, Clyde Drexler, Dominique Wilkins, the Cavs, Ewing and the Knicks, as well as the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons. Not only will basketball fans enjoy using Jordan in these challenges, they will no doubt appreciate the attention to how these teams and stars play. The Celtics will slow the game down on offense and lull you to sleep. The Detroit Pistons will bang Jordan around and make him work. The Lakers will razzle-dazzle and run every chance they get with their seemingly unlimited amount of scoring weapons. 2K even sweetens the pot by allowing use of all of these classic teams (except the different Bulls’ teams) in the various single player modes (Association, Season, Playoffs, etc.). For some people this alone makes it better than virtually any modern sports game to date.

 

Sports fans love to talk about “what-if” situations and NBA 2K11 delivers. The award for finishing all of the challenges makes Jordan available to be drafted into the single player modes as well. This allows you to see “what-if” Jordan was still playing today. Of course, this will make b-ball aficionados wonder if 2K will venture into allowing the use of other NBA legends or teams into the main portion of future entries. Even better, it makes you wonder if 2K will release DLC to allow the usage of more classic teams.

The My Player mode is another area that has received a lot of praise as well. Though this mode still has its flaws, 2K has made improvements to its experience system and even added a few features to give your created player a bit more personality. Now the Insider (thankfully) talks to you less between games. Instead, your character has a voice via the post game media conference. This allows your character to gain and lose popularity that affects not only team chemistry but endorsements.

As you advance your created player to superstar status, you can take them online with your friends in the My Crew mode. Here you’ll create a team based on current rosters and play with a number of your friends against another user-created team. The gameplay will cause you to be locked to a particular position much like the My Player mode is conducted offline. My Crew exists in addition to their typical online features such as ranked matches, custom player matches, leagues, tournaments, and blacktop games.

2K has listened to the hardcore fantasy players that want control over multiple aspects of their teams. From drafting of players on down to trades, controlling them, and managing finer aspects, you can run your team just about any way you want.

Still, this amazing franchise still has its share of problems. Don’t think that this game is perfect.

When it comes to controls with this game, there are still a few gripes. In previous 2K games there were canned animations which, as soon as they started, you knew the outcome of (and those outcomes were typically bad ones). You would be forced to watch your player shoot the ball off the back of the backboard or slowly step into the backcourt for a violation. Now you have a bit more control to allow you to cancel or pass out of these animations. Still, there are certain ones such as the “cross body tackle” steal animation that will occur all too often. At other times you’ll see Dwight Howard dribbling slowly off of his leg after receiving a pinpoint pass from Jameer Nelson. Passing now is even harder to do since bounce passes are almost nonexistent and the defensive AI throws their hands in the passing lane all more than they should.

Additionally, the defensive controls have been changed a bit as well to accompany all of the new ISOmotion changes. Players will find their PG magically drawn away from the ball carrier in the midst of a lackluster crossover. Defensive switching still remains a bit of a chore as well since the response of the player you switch control to has a fairly slow reaction time. This makes anticipation the name of the game when doing most anything online. If you are banking on your ability to react to the moves of your opponent to get your steals or do your offensive maneuvers, then you will find yourself giving up a lot of points and making a lot of turnovers. Timing is definitely key in this game.

In a way, that isn’t a bad thing. It will cause a lot of sloppy gameplay until players recognize the importance of practicing using their favorite teams and plays in order to really know them inside and out. It will, in short, definitely separate the casual from the skilled players. Unfortunately, it will probably also cause some of the casual ones to drop out.

Again, these issues are certainly nothing that should turn away die hard 2K fans or even newcomers to the series. NBA 2K11 certain deserves its high praise. It also makes you wonder what they’ll do next year.

With so many features, modes, and possibilities, along with the amazing presentation that 2K Sports always puts into their games, NBA 2K11 is certainly an NBA game that should not be missed whether you’re a casual or hardcore fan.

NBA 2K11 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: PS3, PS2, Wii, PSP, and PC.

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