NBA 2K12 Review
Written Saturday, October 15, 2011 By Richard Walker
While over the years we've let our real-world basketball skills fade, as demonstrated in a 3-point shootout at a theme park recently – 12 air balls in a row, thanks – the NBA 2K franchise has continued to go from strength to strength with each annual iteration, building upon a successful foundation of solid gameplay, stellar presentation and stunningly authentic visuals. Last year's update slapped 'His Airness' on the cover and presented players with a host of Jordan Challenges to complete, but this year it's all about the NBA's All Time Greatest. So, 2K12 will see your Michael Jordan and raises you another 14 NBA superstars into the bargain.
2K Sports obviously has the basketball genre all to itself these days and consequently, it has the market sewn up. Developer Visual Concepts could theoretically rest on its laurels and churn out the same game with new rosters and stats, but thankfully for us, there's none of that going on in NBA 2K12, which refines NBA 2K11's gameplay and presentation, and then takes it a little further with a few new modes and features. As well as the staple quick match and My Player modes, you'll also be able to join online associations, or hit the 'Build a Dynasty' mode where you can boost your favourite team's prospects by creating a line-up from scratch and leading them to greatness.
"Look ma! I can fly!"
Build a Dynasty is absorbing, but it's still the My Player mode where you'll find the meatiest and most engaging NBA experience, as you create a player from scratch and build a career from the proving grounds playing in front of the scouting agents to being drafted and striving to make a name for yourself on the NBA. Getting into the real crux of My Player is much more streamlined too, so you'll quickly go from a single game in which you'll show off your fledgling skills to the talent scouts, and then partake in interviews with teams where you have to answer some probing questions to show you're the right fit. Our player drew interest from the Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz, but it was the Sixers who chose us as their 16th pick in the first round of the draft, where we successfully became the leading scorer on a consistent basis. We're still waiting to join the starting five...
My Player is as gratifyingly deep and involving as ever then, as you fight to fit in with the team, answering questions during each post-game press conference, which affects your team chemistry, league-wide popularity and fan support. Arrogant answers obviously negatively affect your standings and buzz, whereas adopting a more humble, measured approach normally works in your favour. Each game you participate in grants skill points for boosting your burgeoning abilities and attributes, and as you accumulate the dollars from your pay packet, you can also purchase new signature moves, more skill points and a host of other stuff.
Negotiating your contract and endorsements all play their part too, as you gradually progress with your player, boosting him from a lowly rating of 60, by assigning skill points earned based upon the proficiency of your performance. There's hours and hours of gameplay in My Player mode, and even more in NBA: Creating a Legend, Build a Dynasty and the NBA All Time Greatest mode, which features 15 stars and their teams, each with matches to play through complete with period details, from the camera style to the broadcast graphics and overlays. Once again, NBA 2K12's presentation is second to none in every conceivable department.
"Magic vs. Bird. Who's best? Fight!"
These matches expand nicely upon the Michael Jordan challenges from NBA 2K11, enabling you to relive some pivotal moments from the careers of greats like Jordan, Magic Johnson, Dr. J, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and others. Beat these 15 games, and you'll unlock both teams from each, granting you 30 old-school NBA teams to add to the current roster of teams and players. This is all accessed from a far more aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate menu system, where you can also jump straight into a quick match from the 'NBA Today' panel, or sift through the massive array of options from the 2K Nav menu that can be brought up with a nudge on the right analogue stick. There's a daunting selection of features, modes and other extras to explore, in what might just be the most comprehensive NBA 2K game yet. Something we're fairly sure we said last year too.
On the court, the action still plays a lot like it did last year, albeit with a little bit of tightening up here and there. Generally, the AI behaves more realistically, with post play feeling more fluid, while the ebb and flow of offensive and defensive play simply feels natural. Driving the lane is still pretty tough though, and so scoring in traffic can be a rarity, unless you've got a strong player who can part the defensive wall that gathers in the paint. There's a new collision system in the game too apparently, but we'll be damned if we noticed it making much of a difference. Players still occasionally clip through one another and there's a few glitches here and there, as well as some stilted animations during the cutaways in between plays. All in all, NBA 2K12 still plays brilliantly and looks fantastic, although fluidity seems somewhat compromised at times as a result of the animation.
Online, NBA 2K12 is an incremental improvement over 2K11, but it still has its issues. Quick matches and team up games work just fine, but again, lag does sometimes rear its ugly head and during the games we played, players would often drop out, which is especially frustrating when you're in the middle of a team up game where relying on teammates is part and parcel of actually winning. Some additional stability wouldn't go amiss, but the addition of online associations is a good one, enabling you and 29 others to pick a team each and compete.
"Miami Heat fans... Look away now."
Luckily, there's few achievements devoted to the online portion of NBA 2K12, so you won't have to spend too much time online, beyond dabbling in a few matches. There's a nice even spread between all of NBA 2K12's modes and each achievement strikes the perfect balance in being suitably challenging, yet obtainable without too much grinding. The list isn't completely bereft of hard achievements though, and reaching the Hall of Fame in My Player will take a lot of time and dedication to attain, so 30 Gamerscore is short shrift for so much work. You'll still want to put in the time with NBA 2K12 regardless, so a solid achievement list is more than welcome.
Don't be put off by the NBA lockout causing a lack of rookies in the game, NBA 2K12 is still a massive basketball game with unfathomably deep gameplay and an astonishing array of game modes that'll easily last you until next year's instalment. My Player is where the real longevity lies, but you'll find plenty to do in the NBA Blacktop mode, Association mode, All Time Greatest and more. Presentation is still top-notch and the commentary is also very smart, as it always is, adjusting to the in-game action on the fly and entertaining with anecdotes, stats and other interesting info that seldom repeats. Once again then, NBA 2K12 is a major triumph and not only a great basketball game, but one of the best sports games on the market, period.
A great track list of beats and tunes, NBA 2K12 also has the on-court atmosphere down to a tee and the commentary is undoubtedly the best you'll find in any sports game out there.
Player likenesses have been improved since last year and the attention to detail is remarkable. Animation is also excellent, although the game isn't entirely glitch free and despite a new collision system, there's still instances of clipping.
Still as intuitive as it's always been, 2K12 plays beautifully, with its right analogue shot stick still working a treat and the refinements to the gameplay making for the best game of basketball yet.
There's almost too much stuff to do in NBA 2K12 with My Player, Build a Dynasty, NBA: Creating a Legend and NBA's Greatest offering almost infinite play time. Online modes aren't the best however and the online issues hold this back a bit. Presentation is exemplary once again though.
The achievement list is nicely balanced, with plenty of tough tasks for the hardcore NBA fans to tackle and some more accessible, straightforward ones for the more casual player. It's a nice enough list and one that ensures you'll at least dabble in each of 2K12's many modes.
NBA 2K12 is yet another great addition to the NBA 2K franchise, building upon the strengths of 2K11 with some worthy gameplay enhancements, Online isn't quite up to scratch, but My Player, NBA: Creating a Legend and Dynasty mode are all superb and will keep you playing at least until NBA 2K13 arrives.
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