Let’s face it, when most people think of basketball a picture Michael Jordan comes into their heads, so what better way to market an NBA game than to splash Jordan all over it and that’s exactly what 2K Games have done with their latest instalment of the NBA 2K series, NBA 2K11.
The moment you begin the game, before being sent to any menus, you are put in the shoes of Michael Jordan who is walking onto the court of the 1991 NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers. After playing this game you are taken to the extensive menu system that is featured in the game. With Jordan taking the limelight, the main game mode features a set of challenges that take you back in time to some of Jordan’s most famous games and have you complete certain tasks such as get x amount of points, x amount of assists and grab x number of rebounds.
There are only ten challenges in total and may seem easy on the outside but actually managing to complete them in the space of a game can be quite touch but you are rewarded with some of Jordan’s sneakers which you can use to pimp out your custom player and increase his stats. Once you manage to complete all ten challenges you will unlock the “MJ: Creating a Legend” mode which allows you to play as MJ from the very beginning of his career but lets you decide in which direction the career goes in. A nice treat after completing all those challenges!
Other than the Jordan options, the game features the standard modes from the previous titles, such as The Association which allows you to take a team through a full season. The Blacktop games were my personal favourite with little mini games such as slam duck competitions, 3-point shootouts, and little of pickup games of up to five vs. five. I think the attraction to these mini games was that most of them would only last a few minutes and meant I could switch from dunking to a quick game and wouldn’t become bored. Also, having the option to pit two AI players against each other was quite entertaining.
There are also some online leagues and play-offs or you can simply start a quick game by yourself with a friend or go online to play a random opponent. Surprisingly, I actually managed to find some other players online, which has proved difficult in other video games recently, so it was nice to actually be able to play all the modes for once. While playing online I experienced little lag and managed to have a few decent matches although I lost most of them. Bad times.
The other major game feature is the My Player mode which makes a return from the previous titles and allows you to create your very own player and start from the original draft and try and make it as a professional basketball player, similar to the MJ: Creating a Legend mode.
Controlling your player throughout any of these modes will take some time if you haven’t played a basketball game at or for a long time, like me. The AI is ruthless and will not go down without a fight even on the lowest difficulty, which at first made me want to just give up. However, after heading over to the Blacktop games and learning how to dunk and dribble correctly, I began enjoying each game and started winning most. Even after learning how to play however I was still frustrated at how the AI would magically intercept my passes when there appeared to be a clean gap between the players but maybe this is my fault, who knows.
Regardless of any AI issues, presentation is amazing and players look very similar to their real life counterparts with little features such as bandannas and glasses. Also, signature moves and quirky gestures have been introduced which just adds to the realism. Sometimes, while watching replays, it was almost as if I was watching an actual game of basketball – it just shows how much detail has been put into the game, not only graphically but with commentary and sound effects too.
Veterans of the 2K series will need no persuading in picking this one up as it is by far the best game yet. If this is your first time purchasing a basketball game, be warned: getting used to the controls can be quite tough if you don’t put the time in and it’s not one of those games you can just pick up and play. Saying that, the game is fantastic and offers so many modes and has such an in-depth system that you will definitely get your money’s worth!