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‘NBA 2K12’ refines an excellent basketball series

Columnist

Published: Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Updated: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 02:10

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Courtesy of 2K Sports

The Lakers’ Magic Johnson (left) and the Celtics’ Larry Bird are two of many classic players to choose from in ‘NBA 2K12.’

As a basketball fan, this was a rough summer for me. Coming off the heels of one of the best seasons in recent memory, the NBA entered its long-predicted lockout. Seemingly unbridgeable disputes between the players association and the owners concerning revenue splits have led to the cancellation of the first two weeks of the season and it looks as though the entire season may ultimately be in jeopardy. Fortunately, basketball fans can still get a little taste of the NBA this year in the form of 2K Sports' new game, NBA 2K12.

Last year's iteration of the series, NBA 2K11, was lauded as the best basketball game of all time, and quite possibly the best sports game as well. NBA 2K12 picks up right where the series left off, keeping all of the elements that made the 2K11 so successful while also improving it in several important ways. Part of 2K11's success was its intuitive gameplay. The animations were incredibly realistic and synced up well with the controls; players had weight, and it factored into how they played and moved about the court.

NBA 2K12 has continued to refine and hone this element by including more player-specific animations and improving the general physics of the game. The player-specific animations are in particular a nice treat for fans of the game; if you're playing as Dirk Nowitzki, for example, you can employ his signature off-balance, one-footed hook shot and just as in real life, it will miraculously find the basket. Developer Visual Concepts has also put a lot of work into improving post play, and it shows. The post game is far more robust and includes a wide array of new moves that are mapped to the controller in such a way that they feel natural and give the player complete control.

Along with the superior gameplay, 2K12 also boasts improvements in presentation. Character models look even better than in the previous game, and fans of the NBA should instantly recognize their favorite players. The game is clever with camera angles, player introductions and commercial spots that all add to the feeling that the player is watching a nationally televised game. Kevin Harlan and Clark Kellogg, who both broadcast in real life, return as the game's broadcasters along with newcomer Steve Kerr, a five-time NBA champion who has done voice work on other basketball videogames. Some dialogue is taken from previous games, but there is plenty of new banter and trivia, which adds a lot to the game. The commentators respond not just to what's going on in the game, but also refer to the general progression of the season, which adds a lot to the game's realism.

The game's several play modes feature significant advancements as well, from the ability to take Association mode online and compete in a league with your friends to the vast improvements in My Player mode, which include the elimination of the tedious Development League games of 2K11 and the new salary your player earns. These can be spent on training camps and signature moves. 2K12 also boasts an all-new NBA's Greatest mode, which lets gamers take control of 15 of the greatest NBA teams of all time including Michael Jordan's championship Chicago Bulls, the '88 to '89 "Bad Boy" Pistons and Magic Johnson's "Showtime" Lakers. Each of these 15 teams is paired up against rival teams from that era and as players win each game, they gain access to both teams and their players in the Quick Game mode. This allows players to match up teams across all eras of the game's great history; if you've ever wanted to pit MJ against King James or Shaq against Dwight Howard, now you can. This feature is absolutely brilliant and gives gamers a reason to pick up 2K12 despite the lack of an NBA season.

If I had one critique for 2K12, it would be regarding the ratings the game assigns to certain players. Ranking players is never easy and almost always sure to cause some disagreement, so I'm willing to give 2K12 a little leeway here. I'm not sure that Rudy Gay is better than Blake Griffin, but it's close, so I'll give 2K12 the benefit of the doubt. However, some of these rankings just seem obviously wrong. There's simply no way Amar'e Stoudemire should be ranked higher than Nowitzki. Nowitzki just single-handedly led his Mavericks to a championship against the Miami Heat. Meanwhile, Stoudemire couldn't get the Knicks past the first round of the playoffs, and that was with the help of superstar Carmelo Anthony, who also for some reason ranks higher than Nowitzki. Fortunately, the game does allow players to change the ratings of players in the game, but it would have been nice to have more accurate ratings as the default.

Despite this minor complaint, NBA 2K12 replaces its predecessor as the best basketball game of all time. It's a shame that 2K12 won't get the game of the year consideration it deserves simply because it's a sports game, but it is definitely at the top of my list. I give NBA 2K12 a 9.75/10.

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