Review

NBA 2K11 Review (PS3)

Given the now yearly release of NBA 2K, it’s surprising to see NBA Legend Michael Jordan adorning the cover. Compared to EA’s strategy of focusing on the here and now, with updating rosters and Cover stars making a name for themselves in their respective sports. 2K hasn’t abandoned fresh content, on the contrary there is more than ever, but they have put plenty of effort into adding some nostalgia for those lucky enough to have seen Michael Jordan in action. With as many modes dedicated to the NBA Star as a regular sports game, could this mark a new high for the series?
 

Is it me, or is he looking slightly... perplexed?
If the earliest of impressions are to be believed then the answer is yes. Once you boot the game up for the first time, you are thrust into one of Michael’s career defining matches. Up against his ‘rival’ Magic Johnson, this gives an introduction both to the underlying MJ theme, and to the improvements made to the gameplay itself. The plethora of modes features two distinctive ‘story’ modes, The Jordan Challenge and MJ: Creating A Legend, the first of which being 10 of the player’s best moments condensed into a short play through. The second however is where you’ll spend most of your time with Michael, advancing from a rookie player to legend as you see yourself age as each year of training goes by. This strong focus on one player’s life gives this narrative based portion of NBA 2K11 purpose, especially for those nostalgic towards the man himself.

Outside of this, the game takes on a standard sports structure, with quick play, league and multiplayer modes being the meat of the experience. Without these present, and obviously still important due to how central they are to the experience, the game might start to feel old once older scenarios grow tiring. Integrated around online leader boards and information from NBA websites, the experience navigating between modes feels intuitive, the menus being unobtrusive throughout. Instead of having a main menu screen, Quick Play replaces the Johnson/Jordan match as your first port of call. This puts the emphasis back onto the matches themselves, the perfect thing to do when you have gameplay as top notch as this.

I have to be honest here and say that the control scheme implemented in NBA 2K11 is the best in any Sports game I have ever played. By no means complicated, everything is kept to the minimum level of fuss. It has that certain level of polish that makes you content that if something goes wrong, such as launching a shoot rather than a pass, it is entirely your own fault. Though of course the defensive game stays true to the ‘less in more’ sentiment, and a fair bit of forward thinking is needed to make sure you don’t leave someone in a defenceless position, it’s undeniably easy to pick up and play. Due to the fast paced nature of the sport itself, the controls need to be tight enough for any of the more interesting plays to be possible. The game shines even more once you get the hang of said manoeuvres, passing the ball around the back of defence players before a sly dunk is as gratifying as it ever has been.

The pay off is even greater once one of the commentators notices your excellence on the court. 2K have taken the series to the next level of authenticity, with commentary, intro and mid game analysis pulled straight from TNT broadcasts of the sport. Obviously the most persistent players will find some comments repeated from game to game, but for everyone else, the experience looks and feels like a proper NBA game match after match. From the Sprite sponsored dunk replays, to the courtside analysis that often proves to be an asset in the last two quarters, everything is constructed in a way to make NBA fans feels right at home. It also adds that rare, onlooker enjoyment factor, essential for sports games like this.
 
Wait, why is this guy looking at me and not his opponent?
That said, of course the game is best experienced with multiple players, Online or offline. The online options are as top notch as ever, with smooth loading times and lag issues kept to a minimum. You can join an online league or tournament, which adds an ongoing sense of accomplishment and blurs the line between online and offline solo play. The major difference is perhaps the steep difficulty transition if you do make the switch to online play. The game is manageable against a AI, especially if you have the difficulty settings tweaked to reflect your skill level. Online can be brutal though, exactly why 2K have added a new way to play the PS3 version of NBA 2K11.

PlayStation Move support has been added to the game, and while it may be a major selling point on the box art, the effect it has is surprisingly subtle. It gives casual players a reason to get involved in the game, and while they won’t stick around for the decent Move implementation, they will hang in for a few nights of NBA magic in the main game. Those without the skills for online play can stick with solo, while those who find even that hard can turn PlayStation Move support on, it’s that simple.

Despite the incredible polish that the game has in nearly all areas of its structure, 2K are still lagging slightly behind their rivals on the graphical side of things. The visuals aren’t bad, in fact they are definitely the series’ best. It’s just that a certain next level of visual flair is missing in some key areas, the facial animations of the players for instance. At this point, I am merely nitpicking, but for those comparing 2K’s work to that of EA’s it’s a necessary point to make.
 
I imagine they'll be a lot of this sort of thing...

Despite this, NBA 2K11 is undeniably the best game in the series yet, pushing forward just enough without leaving behind the fans who fell in love with this version of NBA in the first place. As Sports games go, NBA 2K11 is up there with the greats, a balancing act of excellently conceived controls and the undeniable style of the Basketball we see on TV. If you pick up one Sports title for this Christmas season, you really can’t go wrong with NBA 2K11.


Top Game Moment: Booting up the game to be thrust into Michael Jordan’s most famous match against Magic Johnson is plain awesome.

Comments

By kieninger38 (I just got here) on Nov 08, 2010
kieninger38
A very good game to play. ALSO I WILL PLAY