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Posted by on Oct 29, 2011

Review: NBA 2K12 (Xbox 360)

Review: NBA 2K12 (Xbox 360)

Title: NBA 2K12
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3, PSP, Nintendo Wii, PS2 (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Developer: 2K Sports
Publisher: 2K Sports
Tagline: The only way to get your pro basketball fix as of now
Family Friendly: It is a basketball game and follows the rules of the sport. NBA 2K12 is completely safe for anyone to enjoy, unless you are afraid that digital Wilt Chamberlain might try to add you to his sexual conquest list.

You really have to feel for the guys and gals over at 2K Sports. It is tough to put together a sports game without having the actual sport to back you up. And so it is that NBA 2K12 comes to the marketplace, hosting a bevy of new changes and upgrades from last year’s killer entry. It adds more features, tweaks the formulas on a number of game mechanics and allows for a huge amount of customization in the My Player mode, but it is missing that one ingredient that pushes it over the top and that is a basketball season to accompany it to market. It shouldn’t be a hindrance, but it rears its ugly head on more than one occasion, leaving you feeling you have not received a complete and whole product.

Things start off well enough as you dig into the number of modes and features that you can find in NBA 2K12. For me, My Player has always been my jam since I started playing the series back in 2009. The mode allows you to create a player from scratch, and build him through the NBA ranks, from the draft all the way until you decide to have the player retire. But other modes are here as well, including the Quick Game mode, the Association, Online match play, Online Association, Shoot-arounds, Drills and much more. NBA 2K12 has never been guilty of not giving you enough ways to enjoy the game of basketball.

The most celebrated addition to the NBA 2K franchise this year had to be the NBA Legends feature. Last year, 2K Sports hit a goldmine with the Jordan challenge mode, where you played through several challenges focused around huge performances in Michael Jordan’s career. 2K Sports did not want to just do the same thing this year, instead, shooting for the concept of including a number of players and historical teams to unlock and play around with. There are 15 classic players that you can play with and they range from the early 1960’s with Bill Russell and move through the years into the likes of Karl Malone and the aforementioned Michael Jordan in a return appearance.

These classic games do not just offer up the players from those eras and the teams, but the game plays out with the technology of the era, adding an authenticity to the mix that has never been found in a sports game that I can remember. Bill Russell played in the 1960’s and when you play his classic game, the game is in Black and White, with film grain, rounded edges and the most basic of on –screen overlays. The tech was lacking in that era and it shows. Moving forward into the 1980’s you start to see the tech changes, with better overlays, color display and even the dreaded short shorts. The 80’s also featured interlaced screens which have color bleed and all of that is in these games. The classic players are varied and the games are very challenging, but with the only goal being to win the game to unlock the player and a couple of teams, it does not have the push of the Jordan Challenges. There you had goals, some extremely difficult to achieve and you felt a little more satisfaction when you unlocked them all. The Legends mode is not bad, but it is something that can be built upon for better implementation.

My Player is the other huge mode that sucks me into NBA 2K12. The idea is to create a player that you guide through an NBA career. This mode got a nice overhaul from 2K11, changing the early interactions with the game and giving you more significance from the start. Gone is the NBA Draft Combine, and in its place is the NBA Rookie Showcase, where you play one game, giving it your all to show off your skills for potential team owners. It speeds up the front end of the game, and allows for the new draft interview sessions where you meet with an owner and answer questions that will impact which team wants to draft you. My Player continues to tweak the formula adding something for you to do with your salary like buying new shot and dunk packages, sponsoring fantasy camps and more. Your player seems to actually have some form of life outside of basketball and it does flesh out the experience quite a bit. I also love the fact that your player is not completely worthless at the beginning of the season, as your skills seem more in-line with a normal rookie coming out of the draft. I could actually make a decent amount of shots and rebounds from the start instead of waiting for a year and a day to be a player of significance.

Of course, you can get into the Association and Online Association mode where you manage one of the pro teams with the goal of winning championships. You can draft, trade, negotiate salaries and so much more with these modes and things like computer AI has been upgraded so they make better trades and act a little more like an actual person rather than talking a bot into trading Blake Griffin away from the Clippers for a song and a tune. Online Association takes the single player experience and mixes you in with a number of other real players all with the goal of winning championships. Of course, you will need 29 other friends to start up a league or luck into a group that is short a player to take on this daunting mode.

But throughout this experience, there was one glaring problem that continued to rear its ugly head and there was no way to avoid it and that was the lack an active basketball season. NBA 2K12 does not have any roster updates from last year’s end of year roster update, because nobody can change teams right now. When you enter the game, you have a huge banner display that shows off today’s games in the NBA, but you know that a lot of those games have already been cancelled. You are not going to get any roster updates anytime soon since the NBA strike looks to lurch its way into 2012 at this rate. Everyone takes a hit on this glaring issue, from the consumer who loses out on a current updates and 2K Sports, who has to sell you a game without a supporting product. Even players and owners in pro basketball are hurt, because fans will look at them in ire of killing their gaming experience because they cannot get the updates due to the sport pulling a vanishing act up to this point.

With those caveats, NBA 2K12 is still a solid entry for the series. It does tweak the formula from last year’s huge successful entry and gives the player more options for their dollar. It does present itself with a sleek presentation style and commentary work that is among the finest in the sports genre. But at the same time, you can tell that there is a final coat of paint that needs to be applied and while it is not clearly visible; you notice it in subtle ways. I have no problem recommending it to the NBA 2K faithful, but go into it knowing that there are a few things missing.

The Good:

  • Extremely authentic basketball experience
  • My Player mode adds tons of customization to shot motions, dunk packages
  • Legends are well selected and the games are challenging
  • Voice over work is great and does not repeat itself often

The Bad:

  • NBA labor strife rears its ugly head at every turn
  • Legend games do not offer specific challenges to beat them, taking them a step back from the Jordan Challenges of last year
  • You will need 29 other people if you want to play the Online Association. No bots can apply

Joseph Haygood

When not writing news and reviews for GGS Gamer, or hosting the truly terrible You Like the Worst Stuff podcast, I am actively seeking an on-call arch-nemesis.

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1 Comment

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