I sat in my car and giggled. Have you ever done that when you get a video game you’ve been dying for? Maybe that’s just me, but I’m no stranger to letting myself get all giddy and excited when a terrific new video game is in my possession. It has been a very long time since I’ve been able to do that, so I’d consider that a huge compliment to NBA 2k12. If you’ve been following me on Twitter @thetempestblog (probably none of you, so help a brother out) then you’ve been forced to watch me gush over NBA 2k12. I’ve been at it for weeks, and I guess all of my hype and anticipation caused me to put this game into “holier than thou” status. In my original estimation, there was absolutely nothing that could dampen the mood. In my eyes, there wasn’t any foreseeable scenario that I could think of that could cause NBA 2k12 to be a less than stellar experience. Two short days later, I’m sitting here absolutely startled at how much of a disappointing game NBA 2k12 actually is.
It isn’t as though my initial confidence in this game lacked justification. I enjoyed NBA 2k11 beyond my wildest expectations, and the post-release patches and updates alleviated almost all of the issues that could have knocked the experience down a few notches. With that said, there comes a point in my mind where I am going to assume that those issues, bugs or glitches that 2k Sports fixed for NBA 2k11 won’t be present in the follow up – a lesson learned, right? However, after two days of consistent playtime with this year’s game, I’m suddenly very upset and disappointed that most of the same issues came back to NBA 2k12, and then some. I placed this game at the number two spot in my predicted Best of 2011 list, and I’m ashamed to have done so after what I’ve been seeing out of this game. Sure, I can sit here and reassure myself that in due time 2k Sports will fix these reoccurring issues. Even though that is likely to be the case, that can’t prevent me from being furious at 2k Sports for giving us so many problems out of the box. In other words, I’m not handing out a free pass. NBA 2k12 is very much the best depiction of NBA basketball, in video game form, of all time; but when nearly every mode, feature and online component built around the core game is a mess, then criticism is deserved… no, better yet, then a lashing is deserved. Fixable or not, these problems make me feel like I’ve been conned out of the experience I was told I’d have; and worse yet, I look like a fool for preaching the good word about this game for all these weeks and months. I just got posterized. As I stated before, the core basketball gameplay is as unrivaled and unmatched as one would believe – as close to perfect as can be. In fact, it’s the only silver lining out of the entire ordeal. If we’re talking about just playing exhibition games, NBA 2k12 is a dream.
The enhancements and improvements to the player control, animations, AI logic, post game and player tendencies comes together beautifully to depict an incredible rendition of the sport. The strides made in the presentation department never cease to amaze me, since it actually feels like I’m watching an NBA broadcast. All of my favorite players look, move and act just like their real life counterparts, and each team operates as a carbon copy of the real thing. In those regards, I couldn’t be any happier with NBA 2k12 – if only the modes and features built around it were able to catch up to that quality. Instead, 2k Sports fans are being given the same list of problems all over again. The biggest problem with NBA 2k12 is the online component by far. I don’t think I need to sit here and give you a string of bulletpoints about how lag, latency and connectivity issues can dismantle an experience, but I do need to sit here and explain how this issue will mangle NBA 2k12’s longevity if it isn’t addressed soon. In one fell swoop, NBA 2k12’s online lag issues obliterated all of the advancements made to all of those high marks I listed off earlier in this paragraph. All of the sophisticated controls, strategies and smoothness of the game are gone, and nobody in their right mind is going to force feed themselves that diminished experience. 2k Sports has been notorious for not addressing their online issues -- instead choosing to place their priorities on improving the core game. I can’t knock them for that choice… look at what it gave us. Yet still, it comes across as unabashedly bone-headed for them to sweep these longstanding online issues under the rug for yet another year. They deserted the quick match addicts, Online Association gamers and My Crew enthusiasts straight out of the gate.
Even the offline modes are riddled with quirks and problems; old and new. Take the NBA’s Greatest mode as a huge example. 2k Sports made it a mission to shove this mode down our throats for months on end. They went on and on about how immersive and accurate this mode was going to be. Specifically, they touted a very special retro styled audio filter for the classic NBA games from yesteryear, among other era-specific presentation throwbacks. 2k Sports championed the Bill Russell game from the 1960’s as the de-facto proof of concept, in that the audio would sound crackled and the commentary would sound as if it was coming out of an old tin-can. Thanks to a bug that somehow slipped past the grip of 2k Sports, many people (including myself) have reported that all of those audio tweaks aren’t present in NBA 2k12. I couldn’t wait to jump into those hardwood classics, but now I’m refraining from doing so until this problem is addressed. My intent isn’t just to be immersed in the gameplay, but in terms of this particular mode, I wanted to become immersed in the era. I want to feel like my nice little HDTV is an ancient, black and white fish bowl TV with terrible reception and tin foil wrapped around the antennas. I wanted to be teleported to the glory days, but in reality, I was snapped back into the unfortunate realization that they’d botched their own self-professed killer feature. I simply cannot understand how they could have missed this one.
Out of all the modes to tinker with, my personal favorite is the My Player mode. I love creating my own little digital likeness of myself and taking my player on a trip of a real life NBA superstar. 2k Sports put a lot of effort into this mode, as well as the Association mode that allows players to be in direct control of all team-related operations. I appreciate the fine tuning and refinements made, but they let a very familiar bug crawl under the door this year. That bug is called trade logic, meaning that almost every mode that involves playing through a regular season (My Player included) will be susceptible to constant off-the-wall trades that aren’t set in reality whatsoever. Within a matter of weeks of your regular season, regardless of the mode, your team is likely to be overhauled without a single rhyme or reason. The infuriating thing about this bug is that this was a massive problem in NBA 2k11, but it was identified and solved. I’m beside myself in confusion that they could let this happen again… I mean, I really don’t get it. I wasted my time. I spent nearly an hour on creating my player and choosing his moves and style, and logged in several hours of playing through the season and my original team is about 75% new players via trade, so my first foray into the NBA 2k12 My Player mode is a wash. The other bone to pick about My Player is how little the mode has changed as a whole. Other than the early stages of the mode being void of the rookie combine and summer league (in favor of a one off NBA rookie showcase game before you’re drafted), there’s nearly nothing new. Skill points are distributed in different ways, and there are a few new drills to do, but that’s about it. That means that the player creation tool is still extremely limited, post-game conferences (and the game-related ramifications from them) are the same thing as last year and worst of all, you can’t choose the voice you want your player to have – your white player will sound black and say “you feel me?” all the time.
I’ll have to sit around and wait for a patch before I can fully enjoy NBA 2k12 as it was intended, and that is an awful takeaway from a game that I held in such high regard before it released. The thing that stirs me up the most is that 2k Sports is too busy tweeting links to NBA 2k12’s high review scores instead of being vocal and addressing these rampant complaints about these major issues. Of course there’s one or two people from 2k Sports that are actually getting out there to try and help, but overall it seems like all of these problems aren’t too important to them at the moment… especially when the game is scoring 9’s and 10’s across the board. They can have their moment in the sun and relish in the glory of their high MetaCritic average for a little while, but they have to remember just how many people they’re letting down right now. Until they put some effort into patching these bugs for our sake, I’ll be forced to play nothing but exhibition games, because that’s the only mode of the game that isn’t flawed for some reason. All disappointment aside, I believe in 2k Sports, and I know all about their pedigree as developers and how passionate they are about this game. I know they won’t leave these loopholes open for much longer, but I have to be fair and call it like I see it. NBA 2k12 having been released in this state was flat out wrong and shame on them for letting this happen! I love NBA 2k12 for what it can be… not necessarily what it is right now.