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Game Over Online ~ NBA 2K12

GameOver Game Reviews - NBA 2K12 (c) 2K Sports, Reviewed by - Dan Nielson

Game & Publisher NBA 2K12 (c) 2K Sports
System Requirements Xbox 360
Overall Rating 96%
Date Published Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011 at 05:17 PM

Divider Left By: Dan Nielson Divider Right

Never has it been more important for fans to be given a top-notch virtual version of the game of NBA basketball. With labor talks dragging on and the 2011-2012 season in doubt (not to mention cut short already, at the very least), NBA fans are waiting for a new collective bargaining agreement to be signed so that we can again spend Thursday nights with the TVs tuned to TNT for the weekly NBA double-header. The one consolation for the unfortunate delay would be a great basketball game from 2K Sports. And luckily, we’ve got another one.

NBA 2K11, last year’s iteration of the series, was simply a fantastic basketball game. In fact, in the Game-Over review (, I said it was the best sports game I had ever played. This was high praise, to say the least, as I’ve played many, many sports games in my lifetime. Not only was it a release that drove EA not even to bother releasing a basketballer on consoles, but it was a game that redefined what a basketball video game should look like, setting a new bar for future efforts from any developer.

So with NBA 2K12, 2K Sports had a self-imposed and massive challenge ahead of them. I would wager that nobody would have blamed them for releasing a largely-unchanged game, or even taking a year off to concentrate on 2K13. Fans will agree that 2K11 would easily have lasted us until then. 2K Sports has chosen to press forward, however, and it’s a great thing for gamers that they did. By making subtle improvements to multiple aspects of the game, and following up the focus on Michael Jordan with the implementation of fifteen NBA legends to possess, they’ve managed to improve on what was already the best basketball game of all time.

The first thing you should know about this game is that the controls, gameplay, and feel are virtually identical to NBA 2K11. There are minor adjustments here and there, such as a bit more control around the basket in terms of finishing/layups/dunking, but the core elements will be immediately recognizable. This is NOT a bad thing. Last year’s game was the smoothest-playing, best-looking, and tightest-controlling basketball game ever, and it is great to see that the developer did not try to fix something that was not broken.

It also looks very much the same, with a one-year-newer level of polish to it. The visual changes are mostly presentational this time around. For example, you’ll see players shaking hands before games and interacting with coaches and teammates in more believable ways, reactions to calls and celebrations aren’t as tacky, and fans are more diversified (i.e. you no longer get the feeling that the entire stadium is on a stand-up/sit-down rotation). Player models still look great, aside from a few alien heads that always seem to fall to the same players (why does Kobe always look like an alien?), and the environments and collisions remain true to their real-life forms.

Aside from Legends and My Player, the core game modes are largely unchanged. A slew of online options will certainly keep you busy, ranging from hopping into a quick match-up with a friend to the full-blown online Association mode. There is nothing like creating your ultimate franchise, and being able to put it up against the best players out there. In terms of the standard Association mode, it’s huge. That really is the best way to put it. After a week of taking my Chicago Bulls through the process of building an elite team, I am still uncovering new options, stats, tweaks, and features.

The biggest addition to this year’s game is the inclusion of a series of Legends of the game. There are 15 stars included, notably Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, and of course, Michael Jordan. You’ll play famous games as these legends and the teams of which they were a part. The biggest improvement this time around is that you’re simply charged with winning the game. No more annoying challenges to complete, such as getting 10 assists and 8 rebounds. Do enough to dominate and win, and you’ve succeeded. This allows the games to feel like, well, basketball games, instead of an exercise in stat padding.

The other highlight in Legends mode is how the presentation and broadcast style matches that of the era. When you take control of Bill Russell in the late 50s, you’ll be playing in fuzzy black and white. It sounds crazy until you experience it – it really is a neat touch. Not only the picture matches, but also the mannerisms, uniform styles, arenas, commentating, hardwood floors, and so much more as well. Even if you didn’t see any of these games live, it’s still a treat to experience a virtual version. And if you remember watching Jordan vs. Magic in the 80s, this will be a fantastic trip down memory lane.

The other mode that has seen significant change this year is My Player – and the change is for the better. Last year’s mode, while smooth, tended to turn into somewhat of a chore. The training sessions, the D-League, the rookie camp games… it often dragged on. This year’s My Player mode has an increased focus on extra-curricular activities and playing basketball. In other words, it’s less repetitive and boring.

More interviews during pre-draft, pre-game, and post-game time periods bring your player to life more than last year, and you’ll also be given a more in-depth look at your three areas of personality, namely league-wide popularity, teammate chemistry, and local fan support. These are now assigned stats and trends, which makes raising them something to shoot for instead of an arbitrary trending arrow. A notable time-saver is that you’ll only have to play in a single rookie-showcase game before the draft, allowing you to get to into actual NBA games much quicker. It can be tough to find the right balance of realism and accessibility, but 2K12 does an excellent job with this mode.

NBA 2K11 does not do anything earth-shattering or drastic. There are no highly-touted changes to the controls, animations, or gameplay. This is because none was needed. 2K Sports has tweaked a few things here and there, beefed up Association mode and online features, streamlined My Player mode into a manageable affair, introduced new presentation elements that create a true-to-life NBA experience, and spanned decades of greats with a Legends mode that is simply awesome. There are no complaints here; NBA 2K12 stands alone once again as the best basketball game of all time. And just as we would’ve all given 2K a pass if they’d taken a year off, we’ll plan to be ready to do the same next year – they’ll deserve it. Here’s hoping they don’t read this.


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