I’ll admit it: I’m not a fan of sports games (unless you count WWE video games). Imagine my surprise last year when, on a dare, I picked up NBA 2K11 and loved it! The game captured so much of what I enjoyed about the NBA from my youth, including my all-time favorite player Michael Jordan. Heck, this game was so good it got me back into basketball. Or at least it would have, if the NBA would just start playing some games again. But fear not hoops fans! While we might not have a season, we have NBA 2K12. Yet the question remains: Is this game good enough replace the NBA?
The game has all of today’s teams, and then some. Like its predecessor, it has teams from yesteryear, but many more now. Joining Michael Jordan from different years with the Bulls are Larry Bird from the Celtics, Dominique Wilkins from the Hawks, Magic Johnson and Wilt Chamberlain from the Lakers, and many more from various years. This gives you a lot of room to end some long standing arguments you may have with your friends. Meaning if you think the Bulls from ’92-’93 are the best team or maybe you think the ’86 Celtics are overrated, then you can have at it and prove it. This also happens to be 2K’s entire marketing campaign as well.
The graphics of this game are excellent for the most part. I’ll admit however that up close, the graphics can be a little off for some of the players. Some are really life-like while others can look like they’re melting. Thankfully most of the game is shown from a wide-angle shot to feel more like an actual broadcast. From this perspective, the game looks so life-like it’s incredible. So much so that I’ve had friends walk in on me playing the game and think that the lockout had ended. It’s that good.
As for the presentation, 2K really out-did themselves here. If the devil is in the details, then this game is full of sin. The game looks and plays like an actual NBA game in every sense of the word. Each game you play, the broadcasters even introduce you to tonight’s game just like tuning into a game on TV. They even change up the look of the broadcasts depending on what era the game your playing is in. For instance, if you play with teams from the ’60s and ’70s, the game is played in black and white. The announcers call the game as it happens, keeping up with points, assists, steals, and other stats. At the end of the games, they pick out the Player of the Game, and give him a nice replay package. This game goes a long way towards feeling like an NBA game, and it accomplishes this in spades.
There are also some definite gameplay improvements. The game is a lot smoother, and easier to play. For example, I remember having a difficult time stealing or swatting away the ball from the opposing team in 2K11; I can more than double my steals in 2K12. A lot of the players handle a lot easier now as well. For instance, with my 2K11 Celtics, I was never that good with Paul Pierce, as I could never get the timing with him for shots correctly. However, my first time playing in NBA 2K12 I was invincible with him, hitting threes and slam dunks with no problem. 2K has definitely gone out of its way to make the game play easier, probably to get more casual players involved. However, fans of the challenge of 2K11 shouldn’t fret. There is still a definite challenge with this game, and lots of stuff to master.
The controls work very efficiently, and some changes actually make the game a little easier. For instance you can use the right stick to make shoots, releasing when the character comes to the top of his shot. The characters also have UI circles around them that flash certain colors when you release the ball. I enjoyed this too as it effectively helped me get better with other players.
Music-wise, they have a nice selection of music from popular artists to once again give it an NBA feel. The music is more or less a huge calibration of hip hop. It’s all right, but it does fall short in one aspect. The game will sometimes decide to pick one song for a game, and just have that play during commercial breaks and time outs. For instance, I heard the song “Basketball” 15 times during a single game. Added to the fact that the song is the main theme for game, it led to me getting annoyed with it really quickly.
The game has a lot of interesting modes to it. Aside from quick play you get Association mode that lets you play as a team through a season and lead them to the championship. This mode plays like you’d remember from last game, however they now have an “online association” mode so you can play your season against people online.
My Player mode has seen some changes as well. They made it a little better by letting you skip the developmental league and jump right into the Rookie showcase, where it will end with 3 teams offering a you contract. I’m still not a fan of the viewpoint they use for this mode, but I must be in the minority since they keep using it each year.
NBA 2K12’s crown jewel is the “World’s Greatest” mode. Replacing the “Jordan Challenge” mode from last year, they’ve changed it from to now focus on other greats from NBA’s past. Such names include MJ, Bird, Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, and nine other greats with their teams. The challenge of this mode is also a lot easier. Before, as well as winning the game, you had to perform certain actions (like score 69 points, shoot 50% from the field, and win the game in one game). Now, all you have to do is win the game to unlock the rewards, which is more teams to play as. While this was yet another change to make the game a little easier, I was really happy that they dropped all the extra goals for the games. The added goals made the Jordan Challenge more frustrating than anything for me in 2K11.
There was only one part of 2K12 that actually upset me. The marketing campaign behind this game is to settle the debate on who was the best team, even going as far as doing commercials featuring Jordan arguing with fans. You’d think that the obvious goal here is to allow fans of all eras have at it, right? Wrong! In a move that really makes no sense, you can only play a classic team vs. a current team locally. As far as online goes, you can only play currents teams. This is exactly the opposite of what their ad campaign had been promising. This was a huge letdown for me.
NBA 2K12 is a great sports game. It flows wonderfully, and it looks and runs so much like a real NBA broadcast it’s incredible. Don’t let the fact that I used the phrase “They made it easier to…” as this game being simple — it’s anything but. In fact, I have great respect for anyone who fully masters it. I would rate this game an A if you could play the classic teams online. Most of the unlockables are classic teams! It just feels like a tremendous oversight for a game that is supposed to be replacing the NBA this season. But at the end, NBA 2K12 is still a lot of fun, just with one big misstep.
FINAL GRADE: B+