NBA 2K11 Xbox 360 Review

I remember playing the first NBA 2K game, aptly named NBA 2K on the beloved Sega Dreamcast some 10 years ago. The game had Allen Iverson on the cover in his 76ers uniform. This year 2K Sports have taken the bold move and signed His Airness, Michael Jordan as the cover athlete. Will having the greatest player in NBA history on the cover translate into NBA 2K11 being the best basketball game in history? Read on to find out.

GAMEPLAY

NBA 2K11 blows you away right from the start as when you pop the disk in for the first time and it has loaded, you get an awesome visual display hyping up the man himself, Michael Jordan. After that, you are transported into the tunnel of Chicago Stadium for Game 1 of the 1991 NBA Championship (Chicago vs. LA Lakers). Jordan turns to look into the camera, right at you, and asks, “Are you ready?” Then he turns, runs out onto the court and the pure majestic feel of NBA 2K11 begins. I was initially like, where is the menu? But then I lost myself in the battle between Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. You see, finally a developer has utilised its cover athlete to the max! Although Michael Jordan may not be playing in the current real life NBA season, the NBA 2K11 experience is very much centred on him and what an experience it is.

Obviously the meat of NBA 2K11 is still the Association mode and the My Player mode, but the best new mode implemented into NBA 2K11 has to be the Jordan Challenges mode. In this mode you have a chance to recreate history by being challenged to take the role of MJ and the Bulls and play through 10 of Jordan’s most memorable moments. Complete all of these 10 Jordan Challenges and you unlock the special version of the My Player career mode, where you take the role of a rookie Michael Jordan and place him in a current league team of your choice and develop his talent and see how he stacks up against today’s greats. The 10 Jordan challenges are as follows:

The Arrival

When and Where: April 20, 1986. Game 2, 1st round playoffs vs. Celtics, at Boston Garden.

Goal 1: Score 63 points or more

Goal 2: Shoot 50 percent or better from the field

Goal 3: Record 6+ assists

69 Points

When and Where: March 28, 1990. Regular season game vs. Cavaliers, Richfield Coliseum

Goal 1: Score 69 points or more.

Goal 2: Shoot 50 percent or better from the field

Goal 3: Record 6+ assists

Goal 4: Win the game

Shootout

When and Where: Any date in 1990, a regular season game vs. Hawks

Goal 1: Outscore Dominique Wilkins

Goal 2: Hold Dominique under 25 Points

Goal 3: Record 5+ assists

Goal 4: Win the game

Bad Boys

When and Where: May 26, 1990. Game 3, Eastern Conference Finals vs. Pistons, Chicago Stadium

Goal 1: Score 47 points or more

Goal 2: Record 4+ assists

Goal 3: Win the game

1991 NBA Finals

When and Where: June 2 through June 12, 1991 vs. Lakers, Chicago Stadium and the Great Western Forum

Goal 1: Average 31.0 points or more for the series

Goal 2: Shoot 55 percent or better from the field

Goal 3: Average 11+ assists

Goal 4: Win the series

The Shrug

When and Where: June 3, 1992. Game 1, 1st round playoffs vs. Blazers, Chicago Stadium

Goal 1: Score 35 points or more in the first half

Goal 2: Make 6 or more three-pointers in the first half

Goal 3: Hold Clyde Drexler to fewer than 20 points for the game.

Goal 4: Win the Game

Double Nickel

When and Where: March 18, 1995. Regular season game vs. Knicks, Madison Square Garden

Goal 1: Score 55 points or more.

Goal 2: Shoot 55 percent or better from the field.

Goal 3: Record 2+ assists

Goal 4: Win the game

Father’s Day Victory

When and Where: June 16, 1996. Game 6, 1996 Finals vs. Sonics, United Center

Goal 1: Score 22 points or more.

Goal 2: Grab nine rebounds or more.

Goal 3: Record 7+ assists

Goal 4: Win the game

The Flu Game

When and Where: June 11, 1997. Game 5, 1997 Finals vs. Jazz. Delta Center.

Goal 1: Score 38 points or more.

Goal 2: Grab 7 rebounds or more.

Goal 3: Record 5+ assists

Goal 4: Win the game

Michael’s Last Dance

When and Where: June 14, 1998. Game 6, 1998 Finals vs. Jazz. Delta Center.

Goal 1: Score 45 points or more.

Goal 2: Get 4 steals or more.

Goal 3: Record 1+ assist

Goal 4: Win the game.

Those who followed MJ’s career will know of these 10 memorable moments well. The cool thing about all these challenges is that you get to play against the classic teams of the past and the stadiums, players and coaches look like they did back in the day and the commentary is even scripted to the commentary that actually happened in those games, which is just such a huge effort from the guys at 2K.

Now although it is great to see the implementation of MJ taken to the max, if the game played like a dog, there would be no reason to pursue all this MJ goodness. Thankfully the game plays like a dream. The control mechanics have been improved dramatically over past versions. Personally prior to this year’s game, I had been more of a fan of how the NBA Live series controls were handled and felt they made for a smoother feel. However, this year there have been a lot of tweaks and a simplification of the IsoMotion controls. Now you have 1-to-1 control over every movement and you won’t find yourself making moves you didn’t intend to make. The days of easily shaking a defender out of his shoes and dunking on every play are gone, but the level of control is outstanding.

The AI has also been upgraded and even on the lower difficulties the game will keep you on your toes. The AI seems to definitely be able to clog the passing lanes and snatch any wayward passes. Actually, one gripe I do have with the game is that passing seems to be very difficult as way too many passes seem to get stolen by the opposition. This makes fast breaks difficult, but not impossible. You really have to be careful how you pass the ball and need to make sure that the AI won’t have a chance to intercept it. Playing a more slow tempo game will help in that regard. The good thing about this is that the game forces you to play a more realistic style of basketball and that’s where NBA 2K11 shines in that once you have taken this more realistic approach you will notice that NBA 2K11 plays more like a real world NBA game than any basketball game before it. Expect to play strategically and make the most of mismatches etc. Every team has its own distinctive feel and you have to adapt to each teams style. This makes for one great experience.

The improvements to the Association mode are very welcome with the mode having a stylish new look which has a very NBA.com feel about it and, more importantly, working trade AI. Trading is much more realistic and you can’t pull a swiftie by the virtual GMs like you used to.

And then there is the My Player mode. To me this mode is pretty much a waste of time. Whilst there have been some improvements which include tracking of fan support for your created player and press conferences, the ability to earn spots on posters and billboards and the ability to be handed a shoe contract by MJ, there’s a lot of work to be done to make My Player worth your time. My main gripe with this mode is that it takes way too long to get your player to the NBA and even longer still to get him some decent skills. The implemented My Player career mode using Michael Jordan which is unlocked after completing the Jordan Challenges is the only My Player mode worth your time as at least in that mode you start off with a rookie MJ and take him on an NBA team straight away.

The online portion of NBA 2K11 is essentially the same as last year except that the lag issues with NBA 2K10 have been improved. My experience of playing against a person located within my own country was great with hardly any lag to speak of. Once again, 2K has given players so much to do on and offline it is frightening.

GRAPHICS

NBA 2K games have always looked good and NBA 2K11 has gone to the next level. NBA 2K11 sports some amazing graphics that make the players look very true to life. The animations of the players are outstanding and the crowd reactions are dynamic and true to real life. Most of the players look spot on to their true life counter parts with tattoos etc being extremely well detailed and facial expressions and nuances that you would see from the players in the real world NBA. Of course there are still some odd looking players and you have to wonder where the developers modelled some of the players faces from as some have little or no resemblance to their real world self. But for the most part NBA 2K11 is a joy to look at and the added presentation to this years game through the new dynamic player of the game presentation and the brilliant half time reports make it as close to watching a real NBA game as a videogame has achieved.

SOUND

The sound in NBA 2K11 has been stepped up a notch too. The commentary is a lot more varied and really adds to the overall experience, especially in the Jordan Challenge games where the commentary replicas the commentary that happened in those historic games from years gone by. The crowd reactions to what is going on in the game are spot on too and the sounds in the arena are in tune with what you would here if you were actually at the United Centre or The Madison Square Garden. The music that accompanies the menus suits the game well.

VALUE

To say that NBA 2K11 is value for money is an understatement. With the added Jordan Challenges, the added Jordan My Player Career mode, the ability to play as classic teams and the usual Season, Association and online play modes, NBA 2K11 won’t be leaving your disk tray for some time.

CONCLUSION

The move of 2K to sign Michael Jordan to the cover and implement him in the game so much was an absolute master stroke. The improvements made to the Association mode and the IsoMotion controls are the icing on the cake and make NBA 2K11 the best basketball game of all time and most likely the best sports game ever made. The polish that NBA 2K11 has simply has not been seen in a sports game before. If you like basketball or want to experience what it was like to “Be Like Mike” then you owe it to yourself to pick up this gem of a game.

AAG SCORE: 9.8/10

Pros:

+ Awesome Graphics

+ Jordan, Jordan, did I mention JORDAN!

+ Classic Teams

+ Great atmosphere

+ Great online modes

+ Huge gameplay improvement over NBA 2K10

Cons:

- Passing can be difficult

- My Player mode is boring

Reviewed & Written By Craig Cirillo

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