Video Game Review: ‘NBA 2K11’ Continues Excellence in Sports Gaming With Michael Jordan

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CHICAGO – The learning curve may be steep enough that casual gamers could get thrown off by a title that demands a lot of its players but once you get the hang of “NBA 2K11” it becomes one of the most addictive and accomplished sports games ever made. With an amazing depth of play matched by fluid detail in the pursuit of basketball realism, this is a fantastic release, A nearly perfect sports game. Video Game Rating: 4.5/5.0
Video Game Rating: 4.5/5.0

Of course, the big draw of “NBA 2K11” has been the unusual choice of cover star, one that seems to have been made both to appease fans who have long-wondered what it would be like to play some of the classic stars of the game in a modern setting as well as with the recognition that a lot of b-ball fans are a bit frustrated with today’s players. Could they really have put Lebron James on the cover in a Miami Heat uniform and not taken crap for it? And they put Kobe on last year. So, why not look to the past?

NBA 2K11
NBA 2K11
Photo credit: 2K Sports

If you haven’t heard, Michael Jordan not only graces the cover of “NBA 2K11” but plays a major role in the game as well. Most of the Chicago Bulls players from that era have been recreated, along with many of Jordan’s competitors, as you can play through some of the career highlights of one of the best athletes that ever played the game. We’ve been playing modern stars in modern games for so many years that the thrill of playing a legend like Michael Jordan is reason enough to check out “NBA 2K11.”

NBA 2K11
NBA 2K11
Photo credit: 2K Sports

But, naturally, the Jordan sections of the game are mere icing on the cake. Most gamers play sports titles in an effort to stay current with their favorite sport. To that end, the brilliant “NBA Today” has returned, allowing you to play that day’s real-world match-ups with fully-updated rosters. Of course, you can also set your own match-ups, play through a season, or skip to the playoffs. “NBA 2K11” is remarkably deep in its ability to give the player exactly the basketball experience that they’re looking for with multiple game sliders and overall difficulty levels that shape the game to each player’s individual abilities. Although, to be honest, “NBA 2K11” is a tough game to master even on the lowest difficulty levels. But, like the real sport, as you get better and better, it becomes more rewarding.

What about the gameplay? 2K Games has refined the on-the-court gameplay even further than with last year’s best-selling title. Fluid animation and smooth ball control beautifully recreate the flow of an actual game. Most of the controls are the same as last year’s except for two major differences. First, the player can call a play right on the court by pressing the right series of buttons. It’s nice to feel like you have control over players other than the one with the ball and the system works beautifully.

Second, the title allows for usage of the Playstation Move controller. You’ll still have to use the controller in one hand to move but you use the Move controller in the other, flicking it up to shoot or grab rebounds. I found the Move play to be incredibly easy-to-learn and smooth, but holding a controller in one hand and the Move wand in the other feels a bit awkward. I will say that if you’re having trouble timing shots with the control stick, shooting seemed much easier with the Move; to the point that I raised a difficulty level when I experimented with the wand. Having played several games with both, I’ve gone back to the regular controller, but it’s nice that players will have the option.

NBA 2K11
NBA 2K11
Photo credit: 2K Sports

Visually, the game is even smoother than years past. Jump shots, dunks, fadeaways — they all look even better with characters only rarely locking into animations or patterns. There are still times, especially with all-star players, where it feels like no matter what you do on defense, you’re going to get dunked-on — as if the animation is locked in place — but these were more infrequent than years past. The game does place strong emphasis on b-ball all-stars to the point of occasional ridiculousness, but it’s a minor complaint, and, I suppose, Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant will occasionally score half of the overall points in a game.

The realism of play feels even more accurate this year. Taking on a season and a playoff run of the Chicago Bulls, I was stunned at the level of individual player specifics. Carlos Boozer, Derrick Rose, and Joakim Noah all have clearly different strengths and you’d be wise to learn them if you’re going to try and play through a season on any difficulty above Rookie. For example, don’t expect Kyle Korver to drive the lane as smoothly as Rose. It would help if you knew your enemy’s as well as it will undeniably help you on defense. “NBA 2K11” may be the most player-specific sports game on the market; not just basketball, but all sports.

As for the graphics, the game looks gorgeous from menu screen to court. Highlight shots look flashy, menu screens are informative and well-designed, and on-court animations are strikingly fluid. Even the end-of-game highlights have a professional sheen that make them an unforgettable part of the title.

The modes from last year have been imported as well with an improved “My Player” mode, “Association,” online play, and much more. Essentially, “NBA 2K11” has what you would expect from an award-winning basketball franchise plus Michael Jordan. One of the leaders in sports gaming is not about to lose its title any time soon.

NBA 2K11’ was released by 2K Sports and developed by Visual Concepts. It is rated E (Everyone). The version reviewed was for the PS3, but the title is also available for the XBox 360, PC, PS2, and Wii. It was released on October 5th, 2010. content director Brian Tallerico

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