NBA 2K12 Review
Be A Legend
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The last two years have been fantastic for fans of the sports game genre, as we’ve gotten what I believe to be three of the best sports games ever made: NBA 2K11, FIFA 12, and now NBA 2K12. I don’t think anyone expected 2K Sports to so successfully expand on what was a superb outing with NBA 2K11, but that’s exactly what’s happened: developer Visual Concepts has improved a number of areas drastically, namely the rewarding My Player mode, while refining ball and player physics as well as presentation. The final outcome is a superb basketball game, one that has been slowly tweaked and reworked over the past few years, becoming arguably the best sports game series around. NBA fans might have a gloomy next few months ahead with the player strike continuing, but they can rest assured that NBA 2K12 has everything (and more) to fulfil any type of hoop cravings.
What NBA 2K12 Got Right
Subtle Gameplay Tweaks - For the most part the gameplay in NBA 2K12 remains the same from NBA 2K11, with some subtle but welcomed changes to AI (both friendly and opposing), passing mechanics and shooting. These changes aren’t especially obvious, but the gameplay has been refined in a way that makes for less frustrating turnovers and fewer mysterious blocks and steals from the opponent AI (although these still happen). What I found to be an especially rewarding tweak is that the game is less forgiving, but also less likely to punish with ridiculous moves if you make an error. Furthermore, the gameplay is more reliant on your own ability to control the team around the defense, as opposed to the AI and animations doing it for you. I felt more in control of the ball handler in NBA 2K12 than I ever have in a basketball game, and moving my players around defense made for a very tough and grinding experience. This makes that tough mid-range jumper or layup in traffic that little bit more rewarding, and while novice players might not notice the change from NBA 2K11, the changes give the experience an extra sense of realism that makes the experience considerably more memorable.
My Player - I wouldn’t go as far to say that I loved My Player in NBA 2K11, but the novelty in itself kept me coming back time and time again. The problem with last year’s mode was that it was perhaps too mechanical and simply not rewarding enough, and I found myself grinding away for weeks on end without any real progression for my player. It was an RPG mode that dictated considerable amounts of game time to feel even remotely rewarding, and while the prospect of creating, improving and guiding your player to NBA stardom fulfilled almost every single one of my boyhood fantasies, there was something especially artifical about the experience. Your responses during press conferences didn’t seem to have that much of an affect on how teammates, fans and opposing players dealt with you, and while your local fans booing you after a trade request was a nice touch, the boos would soon disappear, even if your character was playing poorly.
Thankfully, one of the main focuses during development for NBA 2K12 has been improving the My Player mode, and I’m very pleased to say that it’s fantastic a second time round and a vast improvement on what was a solid if dry experience in NBA 2K11. No longer will you have to grind your way through long, tedious and clunky d-grade matches pre-draft, with a single fully televised and commentated match your sole opportunity to prove you have what it takes for the big time. Once you’re finally drafted you’ll find that your teammates are more forgiving when you make errors on the court, so no longer will you be punished for simply allowing your direct opponent to score.
The core objective of the mode is to make it into the Hall of Fame, and the game actually wants you to make it there. Last year’s My Player mode made it feel like such an achievement was a prestigious honor (as it truly is), but that mentality didn’t really make for an especially exciting experience, unless you were prepared to play the mode for months on end. NBA 2K12’s My Player will certainly take you a while to complete, but it feels more robust, more rewarding, more forgiving and just simply more enjoyable. My created player had a particular aura about him, that he truly was an NBA star, something I didn’t quite feel with last year’s mode.
Vintage Feel - NBA 2K11’s featuring of the one and only Michael Jordan (basketball fan or not: you cannot ignore the man’s greatness) added considerable worth to the title, offering a number of fantastic scenarios that were challenging and superbly presented with everything from vintage courts and jerseys, to fantastic character models and animations. NBA 2K12 takes it a step further.
When you think of the NBA’s greats, who comes to mind? Jordan, obviously, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen. They’re all in the game, along with a handful of other champions of the sport. Not only can you control these trailblazing superstars, but also every single vintage team you go up against will be unlockable and playable, making for one of the most robust collections of classic teams in a sports game ever. Some matches even share the same vintage presentation and feel of their real-life broadcast, full with black-and-white treatment and commentary with its tongue firmly in cheek. If you grew up watching the NBA during the 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s, or all of them, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well these vintage teams and players have been recreated, all in true honour of their greatness.
Stunning Presentation - NBA 2K12’s presentation is as close to perfect as you can get: TV-style presentations that make you feel like you’re watching an actual broadcast, complimented by awesome menus and some hilarious commentary that is at-times more energetic and engaging that real-life NBA commentators. One thing I am especially surprised at is at the crowd detail: while the occasional random animation can be a bit off, stadium crowds react to how your team is performing. This means that if your team is traveling poorly, so will the home crowds. This is a presentation feature that the NBA wasn’t especially keen on in the NBA Live series, with EA Sports implementing it for the first time in NBA Live 2003. The league’s stance has been that it doesn’t want stadiums to look empty, even in a virtual capacity. Thankfully this level of presentation remains in NBA 2K12 after a very subtle implementation in NBA 2K11, and it’s insanely cool to see your home crowds increase throughout the season as your team improves on its way to the playoffs.
What NBA 2K12 Got Wrong
Opposing AI Inconsistencies - One of the most frustrating aspects of the NBA 2K experience in recent years has been how aggressive the opposing AI can be, to the extent that it can predict what you’re going to do and intercept a pass even if an opposing player has its back to the ball handler. Centers still come out of no where to block shots, even if they’re a few feet away, and passes are still pocketed if the opposition is close enough. It can be quite frustrating when you’re running a play, only for the random player out of the passing lane to magically jump into the path of the pass, leading to the opposing fast break.
The Final Verdict
There isn’t much to fault in Visual Concepts fantastic NBA 2K12, a basketball sim that takes the series to new heights after the fantastic NBA 2K11. Who’d have thought that such a fantastic game could be bettered, with the developer listening to the fans to improve and expand some of the series’ best features. Everything from My Player, Association and the vintage team implementation feel and look great, and alongside what was already a highly rewarding, engaging and challenging on-court experience, make for arguably the best sports videogame ever created.
By Gaetano Prestia
Be A Legend
Jam packed with value, depth and an all-round superb presentation, NBA 2K12 is the best sports game going around.
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