NBA 2K12 ReviewBlake Anglin
While real life basketball may have a few issues right now (the lockout, the Chris Paul debacle and LeDrama James), basketball games have enjoyed a resurgence in the last few years. The 2K series has been consistently better than EA's basketball sim, and this year's installment is better than ever. With rock solid gameplay, top-notch presentation and the best commentary to ever grace a sports game, NBA 2K12 should be picked up by all basketball fans, and even non-ballers will find plenty to like here.
Oddly enough, it started off on a low note for me. If you plan on playing online, NBA2K12 forces you into a lengthy sign-up process to create a 2K account. I was a little irked that I was forced to do that, but my frustration faded quickly upon loading my first exhibition match. This game looks gorgeous. Character models and faces look amazing, right down to the pimples on Blake Griffin's face. The camera does a good job of framing the action, and the animation work is stellar. A friend happened by while I was playing, and literally thought it was real NBA footage.
The amazing presentation doesn't stop at the pretty graphics. Pre-game footage is jaw-dropping, with anecdotes about player matchups, detailed stat analysis and player and team specific comments. The commentary team of Steve Kerr, Chris Kellogg and Kevin Harlan are the most convincing announcers I've ever heard. Once, during the incredible Association Mode, they were talking about my Phoenix Suns three-game home stint, and how important it was that we make the most of it. They stop mid-conversation to remark on a nice assist I made with Steve Nash, and then delved back into the topic at hand.
Speaking of the Association, it returns this year in a big way. Even advanced players will find few faults here, as the scouting, trading and coaching options are all available and work very well. Fantasy draft and force-trade options are available for those who like to powerhouse their way through a season, but the traditional mode is as realistic as they come. I'd like a little more control over incoming trade attempts (for the last time, Nash isn't going anywhere Houston), but overall that is a minor complaint.
While the franchise options are fantastic, it's the on-court action that deserves the best accolades. Even a novice can pick up the controller and have a blast with this game, but the play options and in-depth yet simple control scheme allows for any number of options to attack the bucket. The analog stick shooting system works well enough, but I found myself sticking to the traditional button method. I wish there was a simple one-button pass system in place, because the current "pass to whoever the icon is on" makes some plays, especially inbounding, more frustrating than it should be. The post game is much improved this year though, with little to no "warping" that has plagued the series. You have to work to get close to the basket here, but it makes every lay-up that much more satisfying.
The returning My Player mode offers a few changes, and they are universally for the better. No longer do you have to worry about toiling in the Development League before making your way to the NBA. After one Showcase game and three post-game interviews, you start your career. The Team Grade system, which ranks you during the game on how you are performing, isn't as harsh as it was in 2K11, but you still have your work cut out for you if you are looking for an A. It's still not easy to get your player into a starting role, but it is at least easier now. Customizing every facet of your character, from his shot method to his stats, takes a lot of time and effort, but totally pays off.
The NBA Greatest mode expands on last year's Jordan Challenge, and offers myriad games and unlocks for you to enjoy. Trying to drop 100 points as Wilt Chamberlain in a black-and-white broadcast is pure gold, and again the commentary stunned me with intelligent chatter and pieces of trivia.
The online play falters a bit unfortunately. Exhibition games work well enough, but with no sort of progression system or persistent league, like the NHL series, it isn't a destination mode, but it is fun running an all-human game, until the novelty wears off. Then you'll likely find yourself back in the spectacular My Player.
With such a wealth of modes and second-to-none presentation and controls, NBA2K12 is the best basketball sim ever made, period. The few niggling problems I have with it, such as the airball-worthy on-line offerings and unbalanced player skill levels (the drop-off between the elite players and even good players is staggering), don't even hold much of a candle to its excellence. Heck, it's better than watching the real NBA.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.