NBA 2K11 review
As bold as it seems, the choice of Michael Jordan as NBA 2K11's cover athlete isn't too far removed from Electronic Arts' powerplay moves in the sports genre for the NFL, MLB and the like. Michael Jordan still brings a reputation that supersedes almost every athlete in sports today that isn't named Tiger Woods. So placing "His Airness" on the front of the box art with his tongue sticking out is bound to bring in countless basketball fans who may or may not have been sitting on the sidelines this generation of sports titles.
2K Sports should be thankful that throwing Michael Jordan on the front cover wasn't just a ploy to sell copies behind a terrible basketball title -- this notion couldn't be further from the truth even if it tried. NBA 2K11 is an all around superb title with a few hiccups that still plays similarly to titles from the past, but this time, with a lot more vigor. Longtime 2K fans should be able to pick up and play NBA 2K11 with ease, and this fact alone should be able to draw fans in with or without MJ on the front.
The best update to this year's installment has to be the addition of game modes that revolve around Michael Jordan and the ever-popular Chicago Bulls that brought forth the spectacle of the NBA and its superstars that demands attention of sports fans worldwide. The franchise mode (Association) is among the best I have seen on this generation of consoles. Initiating trades -- whether manually or automatically from CPU offers -- has never presented itself intelligently in the past and NBA 2K11 finally raises the bar. Building the perfect team -- you know, a team that can win the NBA Championship without a superstar player -- is beautifully played out in NBA 2K11.
While Michael Jordan is on the cover, and I don't think that idea alone is enough to warrant a purchase of NBA 2K11, it is a surprising tale to see the team behind the title go the extra lengths to craft a title that shows the beauty that was Jordan's career. The Jordan Challenges add a new level of depth to a genre that has often relied on the same set of game modes that have grown tiresome in recent memory. In comparison to the dreadful dunk contest and stale 3-Point-Shootout, the Jordan Challenges are a welcome addition. The downside of having the teams from yesteryear is not having them represented in full. Rocking out with the Bad Boys that roughed up Jordan any chance they could and not being able to substitute in Rick Mahorn and Vinnie Johnson is a letdown, but perhaps this will be an area that the team can work on in the future for fully capturing the era that made basketball what it is today. Until then, NBA 2K11 does a fantastic job at capturing the environment, but doesn't have every piece in play at this current point in time.
The presentation and graphics are a cut above the rest of the genre, though, a few players -- Joe Dumars to name one individual -- often have the stink face stuck to their mug. Still, the fact remains that NBA 2K11 lives and breathes the NBA environment with authenticity to make fans live in a world filled with wonder. Straight from the get-go, gamers will notice the fantastic loading screen where Michael Jordan invites them to stick around for the show as it has just begun. From there, the late 1980's and '90's is lived out throughout 2K11 to the point that nostalgic isn't enough to describe how the title personifies the simplicity of the NBA during the rivalry heavy era.
On the flip side, the menus in NBA 2K11 aren't the easiest to navigate and could've had extra weight cut off around its belly. It's not a deterrence, but it certainly does create a few extra headaches that weren't necessary.
Playing NBA 2K11 against the computer AI has been jacked up on the default settings. Gamers will want to fully grasp control of the maneuvers, playsets, strengths of their players and the like before jumping into ranked online games as it's no longer a breeze to stride into the lane and slam-dunk the ball with enthusiasm. In the past, it always felt as if the series was focused on the offense side of the ball; in NBA 2K11, the defensive portions outweigh the rest, so it's important to freshen up before heading immediately into the competitive grounds.
That's not to say the title isn't without its AI flaws. Playing a game of 21 against Shawn Kemp and Patrick Ewing proved to one of the most idiotic games I have ever seen in action. Patrick Ewing would jack up long distance threes while Kemp would finger roll in traffic rather than using his dunking prowess to overpower the opposition. So it was blatantly apparent that a few players, whether superstars or not, would never play to their strengths and try their best to screw everything up. Watching Dwight Howard attempt to beat his opponents off the dribble and pull back for a fadeaway three-pointer was worthy of a headshake or two.
NBA 2K11 has a lot to take in for basketball and sports fans, so it's a title that deserves a second look beyond the Michael Jordan cover art. The Association Mode improvement of better trade AI is worth it alone. For players who normally stick to the online affairs, they can find and play in competitive leagues with ease. Initial online matches ran smooth, but after the servers are hit with the masses this week, we can't confidently state they'll remain that way. So, for the time being, we are crossing our fingers that online matches continue to play with no disturbances.
NBA 2K11 is a well-rounded package that deserves the attention for any sports aficionado.