Air Jordan, His Airness, The G.o.a.t, MJ, Mike whatever you call him, the name means one thing. Greatness. All throughout the 80’s and 90’s when you played, watched, dreamed or even thought about basketball there was always a tinge of Michael Jordan, whether it be from the shoes to the bald head to the number 23 to the longer then required shorts, if you looked up basketball in the true to life English dictionary, there would be a picture with him and his tongue out dunking on some poor unsuspecting 7 foot monster.
Unfortunately for gamers, in the digital gamer version of the dictionary, if you looked up basketball there would be a picture of some imitation Michael Jordan that plays for the Lakers (all due to sponsorship and money issues), until now as finally 2k sports have brought the history of Michael Jordan to life in this year’s installation of their basketball franchise NBA 2k11.
Sticking with the theme of the cover athlete, 2k has created the Jordan challenge, setting the scene for the player to repeat some of Jordan’s epic feats of athletic godliness in 10 games that solidified Jordan as the legend he is today. I have to mention that 2k had made an excellent attempt to be as realistic as possible with full rosters of teams dating back to 1985, animations specific to players and an updated (yet back dated) commentary that adds authenticity to the broadcast (even talking about what MJ had for dinner that made him sick during the game).The one downside to the mode is the fact that it turns you in to “that show off kid that never wanted to share the ball in P.E” and makes you forget that basketball is a team sport but otherwise it’s still a solid option that brings back nostalgic memories of how dominant Michael Jordan was.
2k basketball games have evolved in the 11 years they have been running, and that speaks the same for the control scheme. For any first time 2k player the learning curb may seem huge but with time, the use of isomotion (dribbling skills) and shot stick will become easier as your rank up wins with your favourite team. The A.I has improved immensely with defensive rotations and making changes to defend a star player certain way, the most improved inclusion this year has to be the play calling system, as with 2 buttons presses the play can control how the offense will set up, who will get the ball and how will he get it, this is a great feature that shows off the intelligence of your team mates A.I. One real down side to the increase of A.I is that it seems as if they have been coached by Nostradamus and can predict where you will pass the ball; this can be very frustrating especially in the last few minutes of a close game but nothing a fiddle with the game sliders cannot fix to adjust A.I attributes or using other option on offense. For true basketball enthusiast the 2k series may seem like a dream as it has the ability to simulate basketball rather than put emphasis on the show time dunks and fancy dribble moves of other E.A sport basketball games and simulation is really the driving force behind the success of 2k11, every player has his own style, shot, dunk and dribble package that is unique to the player and every team has its own team philosophy and play style that is very noticeable when playing from team to team.
Presentation has taken a more live broadcast transformation and added a impressive and informative half time show which will update scores around the NBA either in real life or in the your season mode called the association, also the player of the game/end of game show has to be one of the most notable change as it takes highlights and it cuts them together smoothly and can be easily mistaken for a true to life NBA highlight reel. The commentary has slightly improved on what is already head and shoulders above any other sport game that are available today, with statistical comparisons and human interest stories from side line reporters, the presentation is second only to a live espn broadcast.
The Presentation is linked effortlessly in to the association mode which is 2k series version of a General Manager mode, as you start off you are given the keys to a existing franchise and it is your job to make the team in to a winner, you can choose to play all the seasons games or simulate and see how the A.I will treat your treasured franchise. Before you try and get the best 3 players in the league to be on your team like the Miami heat, you will need to get some understanding of the salary cap and other rules of the NBA and then try to make some trades. The trade logic is by far the best trading engine I have seen in any sport game, you can now no longer trade a few crap bench warmers for one superstar and teams will trade for what their team really needs and not just for any player to fill a roster. The A.I for the other computer controlled teams are quite sneaky and will try to offer trades that will work under salary cap but unfair at the same time. Along with that the pre-existing association features from last year’s title of creating practice sessions and player development, you could easily spend hours developing a team and building them into a contender.
Last year introduced the “My player” mode which put you in control of one player on the court and took him on the quest to becoming an NBA player and then playing in the NBA, it seems as though 2k has put time into developing this mode from a very simple concept to almost a fully fledged basketball RPG. Being in control of a created basketball player and making decisions based on your play on court and media presences will create more opportunities for you later on in your career, from shoe deals to billboards and commercials I really like the progression that has been taken in this mode but still feel as if it’s not quite there yet. Unfortunately you cannot imitate the fast progression as 2k did and it will take you a while to progress your created player to something relevant and fun to play, after a few hours trying to complete challenges and really getting no real improvement this mode becomes stale.
It’s been a habitual trait of team sport games to have one real downfall and that is on the online features, with most of the NBA fanatical fans being from the United States and no feature for local searches the game does really lack an international approach to online play. They have eliminated the lobby search engine that was popular and now its left up to the lottery of finding a lag free and local game and with the games shot mechanic’s being around timing more than luck it is almost a handicap to not hosting a game which is unfortunate as the game of basketball is about shooting more baskets than the other team.
After years of trying to beat E.A sport and then years of being the better basketball game, it is easy to say that NBA 2k11 has done something the E.A sport could never do and that is “not be so fake and plastic”. It shows that they have really listened to the sport gaming community and put together an almost perfect sport title that has put a halt on the EA franchise. The amount of replay ability is amazing, if the Jordan challenges alone aren’t enough then the deep and rich game play should be good for a few more months. The only real question is where to from here?