Let me get this out of the way so you won't dismiss this review as ignorant gushing. NBA 2K11 was the best sports game of all time. Period. End of story. With the classic teams ranging from the Seattle Sonics to the rugged Detroit Pistons, it was a real treat for both new and old NBA fans a like. Then they threw in the improved graphics engine and the few core gameplay tweaks that helped refine the experience. I honestly thought NBA 2K12 had no chance to match what NBA 2K11 accomplished, but I was wrong. Once again, 2K Sports puts out another solid addition that is better than its predecessor.
One of the things that fans of the series are going to notice right away is that the gameplay is now at a fluid, organic pace. In previous versions, player movements were often seamless, but were sometimes buckled by awkward animations. It could ruin the experience and make you realize that you were playing a game. Now, the player movements are seamless and the animations have never been better. All the animations in NBA 2K12have all been tuned to look identical to the person on court.
A big focus for this year's game is the re-design of the post game. All you have to do is press ‘Y’ to get into post. Hop step is now a part of the shot stick, which gives the player more options to easily dominate the court. It felt weird at first, but as time went on, I enjoyed this year's controller set-up more than last year's setting. Much like the post game, the overall defense has been improved. No longer will AI run out of position, giving up an easy bucket. Now players will deflect and steal passes if you're not paying attention who you're passing it to.
Michael Jordan returns to be the cover athlete for NBA 2K12, but the story is really about who’s playing with him this year. Sure, the Jordan Challenge feature was fun and the highlight for many Chicago Bulls fans, but NBA’s Greatest mode is the best sports mode ever. One of the few problems I had with Jordan Challenge was the stat-tracking milestones you had to achieve. It really took away from reliving and experiencing the Chicago Bulls as a unit or the teams they played against. In NBA Greatest mode, they have done away with the side objectives, creating an unforgettable experience.
There is a 15 total legends you can play with, ranging from favorites like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Shaq and Michael Jordan, to old superstars like Jerry West and Bill Russell. After you win a match, you are awarded with the ability to let NBA’s Greatest players face off against today’s superstars.
The Highlight and main attraction for me in NBA 2K12 is the presentation. It’s simply staggering how they captured and recreated the best sports broadcasts in a game. In the commentators' booth, for the first time we have three play-by-play commentators, with Steve Kerr joining an already stellar cast alongside Kevin Harlan and Clark Kellogg. Steve Kerr gives real incite about your favorite player with a dose of humor and brief Basketball trivia. 2K Sports has gone to great lengths to present basketball games as they were presented during their era. I found it odd to play Bill Russel's Celtics in the mid ‘60’s and have it presented in black and white, but it grew on me and I found myself having a better appreciation for the NBA (please no lockout) and how it has changed over time.
My Player, one of the most popular modes in NBA 2K11, has received the most changes this year. If you thought My Player was impressive before, then you're going to be blown away by how much has changed. The gameplay has been vastly improved, more accurately reflecting real-world gameplay. I was drafted as a point guard for the Phoenix Suns. This time I was not automatically given an important role like last year. I had to work my way into the starting role, but because it’s more streamlined, the mode is incredibly rewarding.
New to the mode is player contracts. You can know, bargain and control where you want to take your talents during the off-season. Besides rookie contacts, you automatically have the power to change a team into playoff contenders or be the missing piece to the triangle offense. This plays into post-game interviews, something that has been greatly expanded. Before, what you said to the press didn’t make a difference on the court. Now, players won’t pass the ball to you if you call them out in the press. It brings a little of an RPG aspect to the game. One of the few problems that still remains with My Player Mode is the cheesy AI. Far too often, the AI would storm back while my teammates acted like Lebron James in the 4th quarter. Overall, My Player is a sweet gateway for fans who can spend endless hours playing in this rich, deep mode.
Association Mode returns, but it’s mostly the same, which is a good thing. Association Mode puts you in control of your favorite team. Thanks to a bump in presentation values, Association Mode truly jumps off the screen. Trade AI is smarter than ever and “it won’t be fooled again" (YEAAA). Commentating makes playoff games seem important, as you eventually win an NBA championship. The newest addition to Association Mode is the new online feature. Time will tell if online mode will be a success, but I'm glad that 2K Sports have finally fleshed out online leagues. If the servers hold up, this could keep players interested for a long time and turn it into a basketball version of Madden’s Online Franchise mode.
NBA 2K12 is a great game. By far the best basketball game I have ever played. What I fear could hurt 2k Sports is the impending NBA lockout. With a lack of roster updates arriving, many will soon be turned off, muting how great NBA 2K12 is. That would be sad to see, because many would be missing out on one of the most complete games on the market. I would recommend this to anyone, sports fans and non-sports fans alike. The sheer amount of high quality content on here is exceptional. NBA 2K12 is a must have for basketball fans this holiday season.
Score: 9.5 out of 10