NBA 2K11 was released to the masses this Thursday, and it marks the first time since 1999 that a NBA Basketball Simulation game has been released into the market without a competitor. Sony's NBA 09 was the last installment of their basically titled "NBA" series, and EA Sports has delayed NBA Elite 11 into next year due to technical problems. (The reasons behind the technical problems can be summed up here.)
So if you're a NBA Sim fan, this is all you've got to deal with until next spring. With a full roster update coming to NBA Live 10, is it worth it shelling out the cash for a wholly new NBA 2K11?
The answer depends on your situation. Lovers of the historical NBA (especially the 90s) will love this game, as it features many of Jordan's best Chicago Bull teams, along with the Showtime Lakers, Bird's Celtics, Drexler's Trailblazers, Payton's Sonics, 2 Versions of Malone's Jazz, and Wilkins' Hawks. This is an unprecedented amount of historical teams featured in the game, as most previous editions of 2K NBA Games just featured East and West All-Stars of certain decades or All-Time teams for famous franchises. Some of the teams go 9 to 10 deep with their rosters, while some only have the starting lineup. Nevertheless, you can hit up Basketball Reference and create the bench players for yourself if you are so inclined.
Below: Jordan Moments, Ratings, Gameplay, Presentation, Music!
Going along with the use of the historical NBA teams is the option to play through some of Jordan's greatest moments. Even if you're not an MJ fan, each game presents a unique challenge. For example, when you play as the '86 Bulls, the team, for the most part, is terrible, so you have to rely on Michael to do all the scoring. This is fitting, as the main goal is to score 63 Points, as Michael did in the real game. Other Challenges include beating the 91 Lakers in a 7 game series, hit 6 three pointers in the first half against the 92 Trailblazers, and playing while sick against the 97 Jazz. But, I think we can all agree that be best part of the Jordan challenges is that you don't have to beat them in order to use the historic teams. They're there if you want them, but they don't get in the way if they're not your thing.
As for the actual gameplay, it really hasn't changed much from the previous game. It seems like it's a lot easier to get the ball stolen on quick passes, and it seems like it's a lot easier to make shots while dribbling the ball. But, that could just be my mind playing tricks on me.
The one issue a lot of people are worried about is ratings. Nenad Krstic was rated a dismal 58 by the powers that be, and this has led to concern over the viability of the Thunder team. Well, let me be the first to tell you that the overall ratings in NBA 2K mean absolutely nothing. The overall rating is simply a guideline of how a player's overall skills shape up, and have nothing to do with their specific skills. Let's continue with the Krstic example. What does he do in games? He scores on the pick and pop, he occasionally goes inside against softer centers, he sets picks, he defends quite poorly, and he rebounds sometimes. In NBA 2K11, he basically does the same things. He can still overpower weak centers. He can still hit mid-range shots. He can still rebound to an extent. And he can't handle the ball, he can't defend well, and he can't overpower stronger centers. It sounds about accurate to me. You see, in NBA 2K, it's never about how good your players are and how their overall ratings shape up, it's how you utilize your team.
There are several game modes to choose from, but they're all the usual fare. There's the quick game mode, in which you jump into an exhibition game between two teams. There's the online modes, which include playing a quick ranked or unranked game, forming your own league, or playing as one player with an entire team of online competitors. Then, there's the rather broken Dunk Contest Mode, the 3 Point Shootout, and games of 21 or one on one in the NBA blacktop area. Finally, there's the Association and My Player modes, which allow you to control an entire team or just one player throughout several years of game play.
The main problem of last year, which featured an annoying pop-up menu that relied on pushing a directional stick towards a certain portion of the screen, has now been dealt with. The game is now back to the good, old fashioned list menus.
The presentation of the game is superb. The announcers have new dialogue that allows them to ramble on about things like the Thunder's practice facility being a converted roller rink and the fans meeting the Thunder at the airport. The graphics are true to life, with the coverage fading out for pretend "TV Breaks" at the end of quarters and the game featuring an extensive HP Halftime Report. The only downside to the graphics has to be that they can sometimes get in the way of the game. You don't want to be overloaded with graphics when you're trying to make an intense fourth quarter comeback. Usually this isn't an issue, but when the CPU keeps making seemingly random substitutions at the end of the game and you have to wait 5 seconds for them every time they come in, it can get quite grating.
There's music in the game too, but I'll refrain from commenting on it in too much detail. If the music is your thing, then you'll like it, and if it's not, then you won't. It's as simple as that. The tracklist does a good job of keeping to a specific type of music though, in that you don't have to adjust between alternative rock and hip-hop all of the time, or something like that. A complete list of the music tracks in the game can be found here.
Overall, I'd definitely give this game the time of day if you haven't picked up a NBA Sim title in a couple of years. But as to whether it's really worth it if you have NBA Live 10 is all up to you. Can you wait until playoff time for a new game? Do you care about having historical teams from the 90s? Do you find the My Player mode appealing?
If you don't fit into the above two categories and you're interested in buying a new NBA Sim Game this year, I don't think you can go wrong with buying this game. Sure, it doesn't have KD on the cover, but a cover is only worth so much. And it's probably going to be heralded as one of the best installments of NBA 2K for some time to come.
What did you think of the game? Voice your opinion by voting in the poll or posting a comment below!