While gaming sports fans may be disappointed with this generation's lack of competition in sports titles, thanks in part to EA Sports monopolization of the genre that all started with their exclusivity deal with the NFL, it has sort of become a blessing in disguise. Sure, there has been a premium on these games, especially with their high price year after year, but limiting the competition has also contributed to the lightening of our wallets. This isn't the case with the NBA games. EA Sports hasn't benefitted much from the tough competition with 2K Sports, and to combat the seemingly superior development team, they decided to re-do their marquee NBA Live series and re-release it as NBA Elite. Unfortunately, the game was cancelled, and once again gamers are left with only one NBA sim on the market. It'll sell for sure, but is it worth it? The short answer is yes.
What's It About?
Developed by Visual Concepts and published by 2K Sports, the only NBA sim currently on the market is sure to go under heavy scrutiny. Not only because it's the only sim on the market but because of its cover. While nobody should judge a book by its cover, just one look tells the story. The top of the case says "the greatest ever," and it features Michael Jordan as its cover athlete. It is quite clear from the get-go that 2K Sports wanted to produce the most realistic basketball experience ever created, and with NBA 2K11, they might just have done it.
Why Should I Care?
So you're a fan who really doesn't give a damn about Jordan. Maybe all those shoes and endorsements got into the heads of many, and you believe Magic was really the best. Well, that's one of the reasons why NBA 2K11 is so great. Upon first popping the game in, you're immediately introduced to Jordan himself as you're forced to play Game 1 of the 1991 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Bulls–Jordan's first championship series and Magic's last. This is where everyone finds out that the series has changed drastically.
NBA 2K11 makes its predecessor seem like an arcade game. All of the fundamental gameplay has been improved, and that includes the AI of every team. If you play the Spurs, they will wear you down on defense and rely on Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan to take the game over. If you play the Lakers, Kobe will play like absolute perfection, swishing shots left and right. If you play the Warriors, if you somehow don't get on top right away, they will fast break you into a non-stop shootout. Everything about the game has souped up, especially the defense. Passing is harder, shooting is more time and rhythm-based, and if you make a mistake on offense you'll regret it as the AI performs fast breaks extremely well.
Why Is It Worth My Time And Money?
To go along with the game's robust gameplay and realistic TNT-like presentation featuring the Kevin Harlan and Clark Kellogg with Doris Burke at courtside, NBA 2K11 features a slew of different modes that should keep players busy. The most advertised, of course, is the Jordan Challenge. Similar to "Madden Moments" in the Madden NFL series, the Jordan Challenge allows you to relive the most uncanny moments in sports history by requiring you to perform certain objectives during games. For example, at times you'll be asked to score over 60 points. Other times you'll be forced to score an even more ridiculous number of points all while getting a certain number of steals, rebounds, and assists. As impossible as they may seem at times, it's a video game. It's possible. Not only that, but Michael Jordan did all these things… in real life. While the Jordan Challenge may not be that fun for certain players, it does give you more respect for not only Michael Jordan, but for the game of basketball itself.
Aside from the tough Jordan Challenges, "My Player" and "The Association" also make a return. My Player allows you to create your own player and soup up his stats through all sorts of drills before getting drafted into the NBA. The problem with My Player is that it's too similar to last year's, and like last year's, it takes an eternity to even get drafted in the NBA. And once that happens, you're introduced to all these features like press conferences which are new to series, but they don't really do much to further gratify the experience. The Association is the game's franchise mode and it has remained quite solid. CPU trades are still plentiful, but all the problems from last year's game that allowed teams to trade whoever they wanted have been fixed, so for those of you who thought you could get away with trading Carlos Arroyo for Kobe Bryant–think again. But while those types of trades can't be done, you have the option of using some classic teams in the various single player modes, and that includes all those classic Bulls teams that Jordan was on. Ever want to see Kobe matchup with MJ in his prime? Now you can.
As with most sports titles, the need to want to play with friends comes in. While the Jordan Challenges are only one player, The Association can be a four-player affair and the games can seem more controllable because you don't have to worry too much about souped up CPU AI. Online, nothing new was added to the gameplay due to the fact that 2K Sports has consistently put up a weak online component. Online gameplay quality has substantially improved, which is quite surprising considering all the changes in the mechanics. However, there is still some noticeable lag, mainly in timing shots. Advanced players have to totally release earlier or later when shooting free throws, and it's still a bit of an annoyance. Playing on Xbox Live is less jumpy, but the lag is still quite noticeable. Either way, when playing the game with others, online probably shouldn't be the preference.
That being said, when it comes to deciding on which version of the game you're going to get, it has to be between the PS3 and Xbox 360. It's available on every other machine that plays games, but these are definitely the definitive versions to get. They both handle extremely well and the Xbox 360 will feature less problems with lag. At the same time, the PS3 version of the game is also easily the most responsive and it also performs faster–probably due to the console's processor. Also, if it means anything, NBA 2K11 on the PS3 is Move-enabled, so if you have a PlayStation Move, it might do more to justify a purchase.
A plethora of single player modes to keep an NBA fan happy, one of the best presentations a sports game can offer, and terrific controls should put NBA 2K11 over the top. The game will automatically sell because it's the only realistic choice on the market, and that's completely fine because the game is easily the best basketball game released of all-time. So if you need your realistic feel of the rock without going outside in rainy weather, NBA 2K11 is a must-buy.