Developer: Visual Concepts / Publisher: 2K Sports / ESRB: Everyone / Played on: PS3 / Price: $59.99
Breaking news, Michael Jordan is coming out of retirement…again. Just when you thought the NBA 2K series could call it a day after dominating the court for so many years, and enjoying back-to-back champions as cover athletes, they drop his Airness on us. Lace up your Jordans, it’s time to hit the hardwood running.
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Fans know that this franchise is no Kwame Brown in its grading of controls. First off, the IsoMotion dribbling has been upgraded giving you full control over ankle breaking moves. I suggest you study hard because getting through defenses isn’t easy. Errant passes, over dribbling, and bad judgment will result in numerous turnovers. The AI will clog lanes, double team your superstar before he gets a shot off, and dominate mismatches on switches.
NBA 2K11 delivers the most realistic basketball sim to date thanks to its smart AI. Series veterans will notice that the pace has slowed down to deliver a more authentic hoops experience. Long gone are the days of holding down turbo and dunking over and over again. Every team feels more like their real life counterpart when it comes to defense, offense, and tempo. You can feel the triangle offense being orchestrated when facing the Lakers or the up-tempo speed of a revitalized Knicks.
However, the biggest addition is the Dynamic Shot control. Drop aerial bombs as you adjust shots mid air, hit fadeaways, lean in, dunk, or step back and knock one down from downtown. What the superstar does or accomplishes is completely in your hands.
A few quibbles still keep us hankering for even more virtual hoops perfection. The animations for blocking shots are scripted so it doesn’t feel free flowing. Low post drop steps and spin moves are easier to execute this year, making defense on the interior difficult. And speaking of defense, turnovers are abundant especially when you pass the rock using the right analog stick. Overall, these minor shortcomings don’t take away form the great hoop experience that NBA 2K11 delivers.
Online, NBA Blacktop, an updated NBA Today, and of course Allen Iverson’s favorite, Practice, have all received a facelift. The Association Mode has been beefed to feature smarter trading and signings during the season and off-season.
The biggest update revolves around the very popular and fun My Player Mode. It’s easy to spend countless hours without even noticing as you continue to build up your Mini Me. Create a future Hall of Famer, send him through the NBA Combine and participate in updated drills until you are finally drafted. Depending on how you perform in Summer League, you will wind up in the D-League or the NBA team that drafted you. 2K Insider returns with more commentary, tidbits, and instructions on what to do with your career. He’s definitely more insightful than his MLB 2K counterpart.
However, the best part about of the My Player mode is the realism. Grinding through the season and fine-tuning your skills is tough but you have to pay attention to what you do off the court. Post game conferences has you in front of the media, being asked questions based on your team’s performance, losing streak, or how you are doing as an individual athlete. You have four answers to choose from and each answer will affect how your fans, the league, and your teammates react to you. This definitely a cool RPG element that goes along perfectly with the skill building.
NBA 2K11 also features new modes that revolve around M.J. himself. The Jordan Challenge let’s you relive and virtually recreate 10 legendary match-ups through out his greatness’s career as you take on the likes of Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing, and Clyde Drexler, just to name a few. Once you pass all ten legendary matches, the Creating a Legend mode will be unlocked. This mode is similar to the “My Player” mode but you are putting a rookie Michael Jordan into current teams. So if you want to see Jordan play with Rose on the Bulls or team up with Kobe and dominate the league with a much older Phil Jackson, you can. Or maybe you can do what the “King” couldn’t do and get a championship to Cleveland. The possibilities are endless.
The presentation is epic right from the beginning. The game begins starts off with Jordan asking you “Are you ready”. Honestly sir, I wasn’t. This game delivers the best televised broadcast style to date. Everything from the player models, dynamic crowds, down to the pre-game match-up ups, and even the new Adidas jerseys are spot on. There are even more unique player animations and it makes you appreciate the little things like when a player falls down on a fadeaway trying to get a call from the referee.
The intro to each game is different as they highlight the top player. You’ll get a shot of the arena, players arriving, and locker room banter. As the game progresses you’ll see cutaways, replays, and crowd reaction shots. The halftime reports have a really cool graphics package, insightful delivery, and a TV style color effect as they highlight the Player of the Game. Playing the Jordan Challenge gives you that nostalgic feeling with the grindy camera shots from the 80′s, retro short shorts, the old team logos, and Phil Jackson’s full set of hair. You got to love that kind of detail.
The only negative thing to say about the presentation here is that the loading times are a little longer this year, and that the substitution menu stays up a bit too long during gameplay. These are minor things in an otherwise fantastic package.
The commentary team is back, but we say goodbye to Cheryl Miller and hello to Doris Burke as our new sideline reporter. The play-by-play is very dynamic, pointing out the game’s top performers as well as individual stories from last year’s season. Playing in Association or My Player mode, the announcers will mention previous games, dry spells, and everything else you can think of.
My favorite, however, has to be the authentic lines recorded for the Jordan Challenges, from MJ’s first Playoff appearance down to his epic matchup with Dominique Wilkins. All this and you even get a soundtrack that features Drake, an exclusive Snoop Dogg song, as well as Ron Artest’s “Champions”.
NBA 2K11 is not a minor upgrade with an updated roster. Starring the greatest player ever to ever grace the basketball court as your cover athlete means that you have to deliver the best game possible, which elevated our expectations, and 2K Sports delivered. This is definitely the best basketball game to date and I can strongly say that this is quite possibly the best sports game ever made. For the nostalgic fans that want to play as Jordan in a non 8-bit form to the new-schoolers who want to learn a little about history and the future, do yourself a favor and buy this game, you will not regret it.