The world of sports and its presence in the video game industry has become huge for many reasons. For one, the average person can sit on their couch and immerse themselves in a professional sport and be throwing touchdowns and pulling off 360 dunks just like their favorite stars in no time. You can hop on PSN or Xbox Live and compete against your friends and talk trash, which is a personal favorite past time of mine. These games also give players the ability to play out the future and see how it stacks up to how the next season really plays out.
Two developers have dominated the sports genre over the past decade EA and 2K who bring us yearly renditions each year of basketball, football, baseball, and other sports games such as EA’s Fight Night boxing titles. The masses line up for each new edition just to hop into a franchise mode or start with bragging rights online, whether the game has any new features or qualities or not. This year, 2K has brought a NBA title to the shelves that has a legend on the cover and his name is Michael Jordan.
This title is by far the best year over year improvement in a sports franchise I have ever seen. That statement alone I know is huge but this game packs a basketball lovers punch. There isn’t just one aspect of the game that makes it so spectacular. I don’t want to spoil too much but the game begins with Michael Jordan in the tunnel at the 1991 NBA finals game one looking back at you saying “are you ready”. The fun doesn’t stop there before even seeing a menu screen you play out that game as the 1991 Chicago Bulls against Magic Johnson and his Lakers. This alone had me floored and wanting more right off the bat.
Now you are probably wondering with Jordan on the cover this year “does that mean Jordan is a big part of the game?” YES it does. The title offers a Jordan challenge section that allows you to play through 10 historic scenarios in his career. They are called challenges because you have to do as well as he did in those historic games to complete the challenge. That isn’t where the love stops either for completing different aspects of the game you unlock different Jordan edition sneakers that have cool attributes, such as +2 to speed. The best Jordan feature in the game in my opinion is once you complete every Jordan challenge you have the ability to bring Michael Jordan into the current NBA league as a rookie. This gives you the ability to see how he fairs against the leagues best like Kobe, Lebron, or Dwayne Wade. The amazing Jordan experience is alone enough to warrant the purchase of this game but that’s just the surface of this title.
The presentation of the game is phenomenal with great character models except for a few like Kobe Bryant for some reason he looks like he is from another world. This is the first basketball game that truly feels like you are at home watching a real NBA game 2K really nailed the simulation this year. The commentating is top notch and where there is a little repetition its not enough to take away from the great feel of the game. The player animations and player specific reactions like Kobe Bryant’s fist in the air after a great dunk are spot on.
Now earlier when I said this is a basketball lover’s dream that is exactly what this game is. The weird player mechanics and horrible AI of past NBA titles are long gone with 2K11 there is a new standard. The AI is amazing in this game they make the right defensive switches on their own and challenge you on defense at every turn. The ability to throw a lob pass and dunk every time down the court is long gone. The AI in this game is too smart. You have to think your way down the court this year and be aggressive. You can call plays for each position, picks, and alley oops with ease. The end of every game is just as much a treat as it was playing the game. The player of the game highlight is amazing to watch and intelligent. There is a photo reel that is full of close up snap shots of the action that you can upload to the 2K servers. You can also record replays this year and make your own high light reels.
The franchise mode is amazing and the best I have ever seen with the ability to be in a sixth or seventh season and the league not be in total shambles. It also is smart enough to keep things realistic as well. The Miami Heat will not be giving you Lebron James for a couple early draft picks so you can create a monster team. This is where I will talk about the few aspects of the game that keep it from a perfect grade. This title is the most realistic sports game experience I have ever had. That aspect actually holds it back a little because the level of the difficulty can be a little frustrating. This really is apparent in the weakest part of the title the My Player mode. This create your own player mode is detailed and fun its just too darn hard and it takes FOREVER to up your skills enough to just get drafted into the NBA. I would say most players would start this mode and probably give up. Which is a shame because it is a lot of fun playing in the NBA and seeing your player rise to be a star. You actually hold press conferences after each game and decide whether you want to be loved or hated by the fans. The last aspect that needs improvement is the passing in this game. The passing won’t hinder your fun with this title too much but sometimes you will end up chucking a ball down court when you just wanted to toss the rock to the man five feet in front of you.
The Blast Factor: In closing this game was an amazing surprise and is the best sports game to hit the shelves in years. The people at 2K really put in the hard work and attention to detail that warrants having a legend of the NBA like Jordan on the cover. This is an NBA lovers dream game and will keep you hooked with the Jordan challenges alone. If you are looking for a fun wacky arcade basketball experience pick up NBA Jam, but if you want the most realistic sports experience out there pick up NBA 2K11.