Michael Jordan is back! It’s been over a decade since the name of Player 23 was momentarily eviscerated from digital basketball. So when 2K Sports unveiled Jordan as the cover athlete to NBA 2K11, most long-time bball gamers stood at attention. Jordan on the cover of a basketball game was huge. But, let’s face it: sports games that are updated and released yearly rarely show improvement. Developers and publishers dance the line of trying to make sports games more casual for wider audiences to accept, while keeping the controls complex enough to remain appealing to the core fan base. Usually, you get a game that’s good, but you’re always a little more than pissed off that you had to spend another $59.99 for no real improvement. Keeping up with the online gaming Joneses is indeed a B*%&h. If you’re concerned about purchasing NBA 2K11, have no fear. NBA 2K11 is the definitive basketball game all gamers have been dying to play. And, Jordan is only partial cause for the games abundant success.
From the moment you power on NBA 2K11, you will be engrossed in basketball game that is just as appealing to watch, as it is to play. The game bypasses any complex menu system and thrusts you right into the game. Michael Jordan wants to know if you’re ready. Hell yeah! Game on! While you’re eyes are drawn into what looks like a CG version of the 1991 Lakers vs. Bulls 1991 NBA Finals, you may just miss the tip off. That’s right; NBA 2K11 starts with game time and no real warning. But, that’s what makes this game so good. Even the commentary pulls in historical information, like references to the Bulls vs. Pistons match in the prior playoff matchup.
NBA 2K11 features several classic rosters from Michael Jordan’s career. This isn’t simply limited to the Bulls. In the Jordan Challenge mode, gamers will get a chance to play ten games from Michael’s now legendary career. So not only will you face off against Magic, but also Dominic Wilkins. Here is a warning: the challenges are very difficult and not meant for the casual player. It’s going to take time and effort to mimic the numbers that Michael put up. It also forces you to be somewhat of a “chucker” or ball hog on the court. For instance, one MJ challenge requires that you score 63 points in a 1986 game against the Celtics. In another matchup, the year is 1990 and you have to outscore Dominique Wilkins hold him under 25. Each challenge has 3 to 4 stipulations. Beat them all and you’ll unlock the MJ: Creating a Legend Mode, allowing you to draft MJ onto your roster instead of a created player. If you only beat a few, you can still use collect vintage Jordans to add boosts to your created player.
Most challenges require you to win the game. However, being a ball hog doesn’t necessarily work in your favor in a game like NBA 2K11. That’s because of the upgraded AI. Don’t expect to “skate” past screens like you did in the past. To be really good at this game, gamers will have to not only learn how master the controls but also how to coach. Much like Madden, knowing the playbook will only work to your advantage. Once you know it, you can call for fancier defensive and offensive plays to try to outwit the AI. There are several plays to learn online that transcend the standard passing, shooting and dribbling. This won’t make playing the AI any easier; they’ll still know precisely when to switch when a pick comes in. Another thing that’s changed are the long-bomb passes. Don’t do them. If you think a player is open across the court, think again. The other team will pick off the pass nearly every time.
Developer Visual Concepts really did their research in creating the best basketball simulation possible. Because that’s what NBA 2K11 is all about: realism. When you dribble, you feel it. You feel the give and go. You’re right there on the court on the post. Each movement doesn’t feel labored, nor does it feel fantastical like NBA Jam or NBA Street. On the offensive side, gamers have a myriad of moves allowing them to take several shots and execute different ankle-breaking dribbling tricks. Dribbling is not simply flicking the control stick. With over a hundred different basketball moves at your disposal, there’s a lot of learning and game to be found in NBA 2K11. Gamers finally have absolute control of their players’ offensive and defensive movements.
The Association mode really kicks up the bball feel to “damn is this real” level. Not only do gamers have post-game press conferences, but they also get the chance to win endorsements. Gamers won’t be able to trick the computer into making silly trades so don’t go trying to pick off LeBron James or Dwayne Wade if you’re anti-Miami Heat. If that’s not enough, just simple tweaks in the crowd offer a great basketball arena feel. You’ll see the bleachers fill up, crowd members move around and chants for team support. Plus, mid-quarter highlight updates are a nice touch as well as camera cuts to the benches during a timeout. Mascots break dance. Stats flash on the screen during substitutions. Oh, and that guy who wipes the floor just before an in-bounds pass is there too.
The only hiccup in NBA 2K11 is the online play. There has been less lag since the game launched, but it’s still prevalent. This happens especially when two gamers try to partner up with other players online in the Team Up mode. The great offensive and defensive AI will seem to disappear as players fall asleep on the court. The mode allows for upwards of nine players. However, the more players you add, the more you will start to see your players stand by idly as passes whiz by.
NBA 2K11 is about as great or even better than a basketball game can be. I liken this game to Joe Montana Sports Talk Football. When it was originally released, hearing a game give real commentary was revolutionary. NBA 2K11 is that next stage of basketball gaming evolution. It will be hard for any game to top this one.