NBA 2K11 Review
The NBA 2K series has been clobbering the competition since its inception back in 1999. Ever since the Dreamcast days, NBA 2K has been slowly snatching away fans from Electronic Arts’ NBA Live series. The beating EA was taking got so bad this year’s incarnation of NBA Elite (EA has since dropped “Live”) has been shelved indefinitely due to their lack of producing a quality product capable of competing with what is thought to be 2K’s biggest edition of the series to date.
And oh, what a monster NBA 2K11 is.
The most obvious attraction is Michael Jordan. His Airness hasn’t appeared in a video game since 2004 and the manner which 2K has decided to involve the greatest basketball player of all time makes NBA 2K11 the greatest basketball video game of all time. It’s that serious kids.
Right when you fire up the game, you are greeted with a visual hyping up Jordan’s return to basketball video games. You are then thrown right in the midst of Game 1 of the 1991 NBA Finals where Jordan began his first of six championship runs against Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers. Jordan stares right at you before exiting the tunnel and says “Are you ready?” It’s at this point you realize you are playing a game unlike any other sports game in recent memory.
You are then tossed right into the mix—no training, no menus, nothing. You are immediately tipping off Game 1. It’s a perfect way to introduce Jordan to the series and it sets the stage for one of the game’s modes that will have any Jordan fan drooling—The Jordan Challenge.
Before we get into anything that has to do with a franchise, season or otherwise, we must talk about how remarkable The Jordan Challenge is. In short, you are offered the opportunity to relive ten of MJ’s greatest on-court moments. You’ll have to drop six three-pointers in the first half against the Blazers, score 63 against the Celtics in 1986 at the Boston Garden, put up 55 against the New York Knicks and more. Even though you are MJ, these are no easy feats. But what makes each of these moments special is how the game’s are brought to you. When playing against the Celtics, you’ll be pitted against Bird, McHale and Parrish. The commentary provided explains exactly what was going on in 1986 as Jordan was still looking to make a name for himself against a monster Boston squad. It’s jaw dropping to witness in all of its incredible detail and to play it is downright extraordinary.
Get past all of the Jordan challenges and you are offered an opportunity to bring in a rookie version of Jordan in today’s league and see how he fares.
Once you spend all of your time with MJ, there’s still a basketball game to play. NBA 2K11 has managed to improve in every aspect to ensure the game doesn’t end once you finish The Jordan Challenge. The graphics are ramped up, AI enhanced, controls are even better than before and the overall product is simply awesome.
The presentation is the best yet. A halftime show summarizes not only what is going on in the virtual world, but once the NBA season starts you’ll get information on what’s going on in real life. Cutscenes are fresh out of a television broadcast and there were many moments a family member walked by and asked “Did the NBA season start already?” It looks that good.
This year’s edition of “signature” play has stepped up considerably. Not only are player tendencies and animations spot on, but this year 2K has made sure that even the small details are included. LeBron James‘ hitch in his jumper is there, how Kobe sizes up his opponents is in there, too.
The controls are tighter than last year’s version. The way the defense actually invades passing lanes to snatch a lazy toss in traffic is done exceptionally well. Small nuances like players bobbling passes in the post and rebounds tipping around are all present. It’s really hard to imagine where this game could have been better.
The other game modes (Franchise, Season, My Player) haven’t changed too much which is actually a good thing considering the 2K team decided to tweak a few things such as the silly GM AI that you could manipulate into making lousy trades. That’s no longer the case. Not only will you have to work on the court, but off of it as well.
NBA 2K11 is the pinnacle of all basketball games and the measuring stick for just about all sports games. With everything beautifully done down to the soundtrack which includes heavy hitters like Drake (#24, pictured above), Big Boi and Snoop Dogg, it’s hard to see how they can improve in 2012. But that’s the fun of it. NBA 2K11 is the game to get. No wonder why EA chose to back out. There was no way they could win against this behemoth.