Last year, the big deal about the NBA 2K series was the inclusion of Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time. Sorry Lebron and Kobe. In addition to MJ, there are a bunch of classic NBA stars to help players relive that brief time when the NBA was the number one sport in the United States. Instead of just arguing with friends about how Magic and Kobe would match up or Superman Dwight Howard versus Superman Shaq, you can go head to head and answer the question using your b-ball skills in 2K12.
Everything that players liked in last year’s release are back and practically everything that created gripes and complaints has been overhauled. It’s not something that sports fans are used to. Madden‘s Tiburon Studios have trained gamers to believe that if you think it’s broken, it’s your fault. Visual Concepts has never taken that approach. After hearing complaints about things like odd looking player models and bad defensive AI, the developer put a lot of focus on those aspects while polishing the rest of the game and still adding features. The defense isn’t perfect, but it is much more realistic. Now instead of the defense reading your mind and knowing where your shot or pass is going with their backs turned, you can actually take advantage of the defense and catch them off guard. 2K didn’t make things super easy, just more realistic.
The polishing and fixing didn’t stop there. The My Player mode got streamlined as well. Now instead of the long drawn out process of getting your guy into the limelight of basketball superstardom, you simply play one full game to show off your talents. After that there’s an interview process and you go straight to the draft. The faster pace makes the experience even more rewarding than last year’s My Player.
NBA 2K’s version of franchise mode, known as Association Mode is more fun to play through than any franchise-style mode in any other sports game. The level of detail is so great that you’ll probably want to keep playing through with your favorite teams. This is especially true if you’re a fan of a team like Cleveland or Minnesota. Now instead of facing the reality of empty arenas as a result of losing Kevin Garnett or Lebron James, you can manage your team and build up a following through the season and watch the seats gradually fill up in The Q (Quicken Loans Arena) as you lead the Cavs back to the playoffs. It these little touches that really show the amount of attention given to NBA 2K12’s presentation.
Speaking of presentation, that is where this game shines. It’s not just things like arenas slowly filling up to reflect your growing fan base or the upgrade given to player models. For example, say you’re playing a game in the 1960s like the Bill Russell challenge. The game is actually presented in black and white just like it would have been on your old tube television back in the day. Every game gets the full television broadcast treatment. The commentary is so well done that it too reflects the era. Visual Concepts had to go to great lengths to get all the little details like “short” shorts, lighting, filters, and more depending on the decade a game is being played. The result is an NBA title that offers something for basketball fans of all ages. You’d be missing out on a lot of extra touches if you only played the main game or online. Seeing magic and Bird in grainy color from the 80s is awesome.
NBA 2K12 isn’t just one of the best basketball games ever released, but in terms of design it is one of the best sports games ever. The physics and collision detection is amazing. Player’s sizes, build, and physical abilities come into play when they match up and occasionally “bump” into one another. Point guards will rarely move a power forward despite barreling through the lane. The same can’t be said if Lebron spins into Nash. The Canadian MVP will get floored. 2K12 shows what a sports game can be when the proper attention is given. It can pay homage to the roots of the very sport it centers around. Your grandparents might not want to play videogames, but even they’ll get a kick out of seeing the retro-styles presented in 2K12. For everyone else, NBA 2K12 is one those titles that you have to pick up if you like the sport. Considering there might not be an NBA season this year, 2K12 could fill that void. Yes, it’s that good.