Sports fans have been on the edge of their seats waiting for the NBA to resolve its contract disputes, as there’s a very real chance that there won’t be a season this year. The threat of an NBA lockout means that there’s only one place to turn for authentic hoops action: NBA 2K12. Visual Concepts’ b-ball game has something for every NBA fan: Older players will enjoy the evolution of 2K11‘s Jordan Challenges, which lets gamers play with Hall of Famers in big games. Younger players will appreciate the revamped My Player mode, which lets gamers guide a player’s career. In short, Visual Concepts has captured all the flair and drama of the NBA, and throws players in the middle of it. If we don’t have a season this year, we can all sit down and make our own with a new online association that has many strong points and just a few minor setbacks.
NBA 2K12 looks, feels, and sounds like the real thing. The broadcast TV like team intros make you feel like your sitting at home watching an NBA game. The players all have their signature moves and attributes; Lebron throws his powder, and Wade hangs off the rim. Players have their official shooting forms and free throw motions; these are the small touches that give the game a really polished feel. In addition, the iso motions have never felt easier to perform, the many different jump shots have their disadvantages and advantages, and the dunks are more jarring and momentous than ever.
Graphically, NBA 2K12 surpasses its predecessor. The players’ faces have received the biggest bump; Kobe Bryant no longer looks like an alien, and Mark Gasol doesn’t like a ghoul (lesser known players still need some work, however). The animations are all smooth, fluid, and life-like. The arenas look exactly like their real life counter parts, and crowds interacts with players if they fall into the first row (they either try to catch you or let you fall depending on whether your home or away). Jerseys are detailed and sway when players move, tattoos are accurate, and signature sneakers are on the respective players’ feet (so Paul wears his Jordan’s, Kobe wears his Nikes).
The game sounds like a true-to-life NBA broadcast. The crowds are loud, and the commentators are spot on. They discuss players’ current situations and stats, and if an exciting play is occurring they speak out with excitement, only to return to their previous conversation afterwards. The on-court sounds are phenomenal; players groan they battle for position in the paint, sneakers squeak as you cut around the court, and the beautiful swoosh after a heart breaking shot sounds clear. You can blindfold someone and sit them down and they would not know that this was a video game–the sound is that good.
Visual Concepts has learned from its previous mistakes. Last years brutal, psychic ball snatching AI is toned down from cheap to realistic. The defense will still punish errant passes, and lazy offense, but it doesn’t feel cheap. Games played on Hall of Fame difficulty are close and difficult but if you play smart and well it’s not impossible to win like last years game. The rosters are without rookies or updates–they are the way they were on the last day of the last season. This isn’t Visual Concepts fault; if the lockout is resolved in the near future, expect an update.
Players’ signature moves are all authentic and realistic in 2K12; this is where Visual Concepts hit the nail on the head. If you’ve seen a player take a certain shot during a television broadcast, you will see that during games. Kobe has his famous fade away jumper, Derrick Rose has his highlight reel passes, Lebron crushes the rim with his powerful tomahawk jams. On defense you have the ability to lock players down, mainly because the basketball is no longer attached to players; it’s now a free-flowing object. If you try to push down court and dribble the ball in front of you, the ball can hit the back of a player’s leg or a defender can easily snatch it away. You can also bolt down court and block dunks from behind–it all adds to the game’s realism. The crowd and players on the bench react realistically, too, so if you’re taking a three by the opposing teams bench, they’ll jump off the bench to distract you. If you hit said three, however, the opposing team’s crowd sinks into their seat.
The online multiplayer is much like last year’s game, but with a major feature added. Players can now begin an online Association with friends or complete strangers. Everything included in the offline Association is present here. You can drafts rookies, sign free agents, and trade players. Thankfully, trades are subject to league approval, meaning that the other players can stop bad trades or attempts at cheating by casting a vote on whether a trade should occur. The players also have to stick to a set schedule, so if someone can’t play their game it’s simulated or computer controlled against a human player. This can be frustrating, but it keeps things moving forward.
The online multiplayer does have a flaw, a small one, but does hurt the experience a bit. If you were hoping to create classic match ups like Bird vs. Magic, you have to pay cash. Classic teams are now-pay to-play online which is a bit surprising, and comes off as 2K trying to take a bite out of the DLC pie. The offline franchise is still has everything you remember, but with an added level of presentation. Playoff games feel and look different than regular season games, and the commentators speak to the situations teams are in. If you’ve been having an off-year and your record is less than .500, you will see attendance, dwindle. If you’re winning games, be ready for the thundering cheers of a sell out crowd. Small additions but draw you in to the experience.
If you rather focus on your individual stats then dive into My Player mode, Visual Concepts improved on everything players enjoyed about last year’s outing. The slow drowned out progress system moves along at a quicker pace; you don’t spend as much time in the D-league with the day-to-day nuisances, and spend most of your time in the NBA. Here you can earn cash to upgrade your skills, take the team out to build chemistry, or work at youth centers to increase your fans. You can also enter the hall of fame by meeting 10 of the 15 laid out requirements before the end of your career. These can range from making All-Star teams to winning championships.
NBA’s Greatest mode is my hands down favorite inclusion this year. Visual Concepts ran with the Jordan Challenge idea and has made it into a tribute for the players of yesteryear. Here you play with Jordan, Magic, Bird, West, and eleven other Hall of Famers (and their respective teams), to play out some of their legendary games. The presentation is spot on; when you play a game before 1965 you won’t see three pointers, as they didn’t exist then. Also, if the game were broadcast in black and white, you’ll play in black and white. Some gamers might not like this effect (and, unfortunately, there isn’t any way to turn off this effect), but I loved it. Winning these games unlocks these teams for use in exhibition games.
NBA 2K12 can’t replace the possibility of a lost NBA season, but it comes close. This might be the only basketball fans get this year, so let’s be thankful that it’s this damned good. The presentation is incredible, and is akin to an actual NBA game. The tribute in the form of NBA Greatest mode is a great distraction from the franchise and multiplayer, and is a great history lesson for younger players. If you’re a sports fan looking for a great gaming experience this is the definitive sports game to get.