Gamescom 2011: NBA 2K12 Preview - For the Love of the Game
Written Sunday, August 28, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
As far as we're concerned, 2011 was the year when the NBA 2K series really made its mark, slapping Michael Jordan on the cover and slamming home one of – if not the – finest basketball games ever made. That said, 2K Sports has been the purveyor of great basketball titles for years and we've been sucked into checking out every year's instalment since NBA 2K7 strolled out onto the virtual court.
One thing has remained consistent in every annual iteration of NBA 2K, and that's a commentary without equal, great TV-style presentation and a horrible front end menu. The first thing we notice as we're lead through some of the new features being wheeled out for NBA 2K12, is the presence of a brand new main menu, which seems to have dispensed with the hideous layered directional navigation from previous NBA 2Ks. It's a small change, but one that had us quietly whispering “yes!” under our breath.
From this welcoming opening screen, you can head into the Association Mode or Build a Dynasty, have a quick game, play a game based upon the current ones being played in the actual NBA or jump right into the NBA's Greatest Mode, which is the main thrust of 2K Sports' Gamescom showing of NBA 2K12. Where NBA 2K11 had His Airness on the cover and a few Jordan Challenges to partake in, 2K12 steps it up with a total of 15 NBA legends to choose from and the ability to relive some of their best moments in the NBA.
Where 2K12's representation of the modern game is all razzle-dazzle with even more attention on replicating the look and feel of a TV broadcast with a pre-game montage, flashy overlay graphics, half-time shows and cheerleaders – all of which is amped up to another level during the NBA playoffs – the NBA's Greatest goes for period details. So when we're shown a game from Bill Russell's era in 1965, the presentation is grainy monochrome, the overlays are basic and the audio is crackly. Authenticity is clearly the watchword here, so every period gets the same treatment, with 1991 Magic Johnson getting the appropriate graphics and presentation you'd expect. The same goes for all 15 NBA legends, who also have their own 'Signature Styles'.
In fact all of the game's star players – and an array of other players - have their Signature Style, which covers the detail of the player model and all of their unique moves and animations. “We've tried to give as many players as possible their Signature Style,” says 2K Sports' Director of Marketing, Chris Snyder, and it's evident that extra effort has gone into improving the likenesses and really nailing each player's unique moves, whether it's Magic's baby hook or Dirk Nowitzki's fadeaway shot. In fact, a lot of player's models have been completely re-done to ensure that the looks of star players are as authentic as possible.
On the court, Snyder tells us that there's even more control on the right analogue stick, enabling you to effectively pull off pretty much every basketball shot or manoeuvre you can care to think of. You can even change direction in mid-air, weave around an incoming block during a lay-up or just generally alter your shots. There's even an all-new collision system, which is becoming increasingly de rigueur in the sports genre these days. In NBA 2K12, the collision system ensures more accurate foul calls and less interruption in game flow... or something like that anyway. 2K12 also steps up the defensive AI too – for both your fellow players and opposing defenders – but you can now quickly set up plays using the d-pad, which is handy.
As ever, increased realism is also on the agenda too, and this year you can interact with the entire first row of the crowd. It sounds strange, but it means you can make the extra effort to keep a ball from going out of bounds, jumping over the score table or diving into the cheerleaders. A neat touch. And NBA 2K12 still looks like a million bucks too, with suitably shiny hardwood, detailed players (even with their real tattoos and all that jazz), accurately rendered arenas and more besides. Add to that new offensive and defensive moves, which makes for an “open canvas” in gameplay terms, and 2K12 has all of the key features to make for a worthwhile update.
NBA 2K12 looks like more than just an update though, and the NBA's Greatest section could almost be considered a separate game in itself, with 30 teams from various periods with their respective players all present and correct. There's 15 legends to choose from, but all 30 teams have their stars even if they're not listed among the 15. So, in the LA Lakers versus Portland Trailblazers game we're shown from Magic Johnson's challenge, we get to see Blazers' star Clyde Drexler looking just like he did in 1991, as well as Magic's fellow teammates receiving similar attention. The game will even play more like it did during that period, so a 1965 game will have less shooting from range due to the lack of a 3-point line and dunking will be less prevalent. It's also worth noting that completing NBA's Greatest challenges unlocks classic teams to use in the rest of the game.
“Our number one focus with NBA 2K12 is to outdo last year,” says Snyder, and from what we've seen so far, it certainly seems poised to deliver on that remit. With 2K Sports bringing the NBA's Greatest mode, as well as working hard on bolstering the online features and fleshing out My Player, alongside the modes and features we've come to expect from the franchise, NBA 2K12 will surely be a winner when it launches later in the year. You might even say it'll be a slam dunk... Ahem.
NBA 2K12 is out on October 4th in North America and October 7th in Europe.