Giant Bomb Review

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NBA 2K12 Review

5
  • X360

2K's latest hoops simulator isn't without issue, but those few problems barely register compared with the sheer volume of incredible content contained within this package.

Who needs real basketball? The NBA season is already delayed, games have been canceled, and in all likelihood, we won't even get a season this year. To that, I say to hell with it all. Real basketball, dramatic as it can be, is filled to the brim with egotistical players, coaches, and owners who bicker endlessly about the direction of a league that can best be compared to the Titanic. Top heavy with talent and encumbered with too many teams, the NBA as it currently exists feels more or less doomed, fated to crash into a David Stern-shaped iceberg the likes of which it cannot possibly recover. Even if it does come back this year, some big changes will have to happen to keep this boat afloat. Frankly, I think the league would be better off sinking, and dredged for salvage parts next year.

Posting up has never felt better.

I say this with such reckless fervor because of NBA 2K12. Without context, that might sound insane, but understand what I mean. With NBA 2K12, a game I can say without even the slightest hint of doubt or discomfort is the best basketball simulation I've ever played, I am constantly reminded of the qualities of the sport of basketball that I fell in love with so many years ago. The athleticism, the flair, the sheer thrill of the game is on display in such tightly constructed, beautifully playable form, that in a weird way, I honestly don't care if there even is an NBA season. The sheer volume of content 2K Sports has included, alongside some of the best pure gameplay you're ever going to find in a sports title, make me forget about all the bitching and bickering of the real life NBA, and bring me back to the essence of what makes the sport so great at its core.

Granted, if you played last year's NBA 2K11, the gameplay side of things won't feel wildly different. 2K made huge strides in the last couple of iterations, and this year the tweaks are more subtle, albeit still fantastic. The biggest difference you'll notice is in the post game. Posting up in the paint was always a bit of an awkward situation in NBA 2K games, but here it's been improved drastically. Just tapping the Y/Triangle button puts your player into his post stance, and from there, you can choose from a variety of different, dynamic shots, as opposed to having the computer pick one for you. Defense in the post game is more dynamic now too, but you'll notice the changes more on offense. Whereas before you once felt governed by canned animations, now you can move with greater fluidity and control.

The opponent AI also feels different this time around. 2K11 had moments where you were quite certain the computer had simply decided it was going to win this game and began tossing up crazy alley oops and bizarre passes that seemed completely preordained. While 2K12 occasionally dabbles in this sort of thing, it's far less frequent. When opposing teams go on scoring runs, there isn't often the sense that the computer is suddenly unstoppable. If you lock down your D and play tight, you will be able to get the W.

Training up your player is actually a lot of fun. The minigames are surprisingly a blast.

Otherwise, this is very much the same amazing game of basketball you've played before. The big difference is that now there are many more ways in which to do it.

Chief among them is the newly upgraded My Player mode. Sports games have been flirting with this idea of creating a total, all-encompassing experience of following a player's career from draft day to retirement, with all the endorsements, controversies, and championships such a thing would (hopefully) entail. Among them, the NHL series has perhaps gotten closest to actually achieving this idea--at least until now. Without question, NBA 2K12's My Player mode creates the most engrossing version of a unique player identity anyone has attempted thus far. While character customization options are maybe a tad limited, the sheer breadth of events and actions around that character are anything but.

You begin with a quick pre-draft exhibition game with other top rookies, aiming to showcase your talents to prospective teams. That's followed up by some post-game interviews with interested teams, who gauge your interest in playing for them with insanely detailed questions. 2K knows the NBA, and knows the makeup of the league. When the Wizards interview your prospective point guard, they're frank about the fact that they already have their point guard of the future in John Wall, and are mainly looking at you as a depth player. How you answer these questions affects both your draft status, and your own persona.

That's the really interesting thing about My Player: you actually have a persona. The mode is far more than a series of sometimes incoherent menus that feed you statistical data and let you sim to the parts where your player actually gets on the court. The mode includes tons of great ways to keep you playing, from a teammate rating that goes up and down depending on how you perform on the court, to a series of drills designed to help you upgrade your stats (that must be performed in between paychecks), and even post-game press conferences, where your answers to reporters' questions will affect your chemistry with your teammates, as well as your standing throughout the league, and with your local fans.

You can also play a version of this mode using any player in the league, be he superstar or scrub. However, it's way more interesting to craft your own superstar and put him through the paces of the league. If you want to be a diva, demanding trades and generally invoking the wrath of the fans for financial gain, you can do so. If you're a total team player that doesn't mind giving up minutes for a solid sixth-man status, you can do that too. It's detailed in all the right ways, and feels far less sterile than nearly all other attempts to do anything like this.

On the court, NBA 2K has never looked more authentic than it does this year.

Sterility is simply not something you could accuse NBA 2K12 of in any facet of its game. Unsurprisingly, it looks great, animates brilliantly, and with the broadcast camera turned on, looks as close to a real game of basketball as you could possibly hope for with polygonal players. Even better is the commentary, a feature so often treated as a cheap bullet point by other developers, is given an almost absurd amount of tender loving care here. The addition of Steve Kerr as a third commentator is a welcome one, as he adds a nice boost to the flow of the dialogue and actually offers up some informative tidbits as games go along. More impressive, however, is just how tight it all feels. When a player throws down a massive dunk, or hits an insane three-pointer, the commentary stops dead in its tracks to react, making a big point to highlight what has just transpired. Then, in most cases, the commentators will actively pick back up where they left off, transitioning naturally to their previous exchange. I don't know how 2K's editors managed to edit all this together without it sounding like a herky-jerky nightmare, but they did it.

The commentators are especially informative in the new NBA's Greatest mode. Building off the good feelings earned from the inclusion of Michael Jordan in last year's game, 2K went kinda nuts this year, including 30 classic teams (as well as a couple of pre-order bonus teams) from 15 noteworthy rivalries and feuds from the many years of NBA history. Bill Russell's Celtics, Michael Jordan's Bulls, Magic Johnson's Lakers, and Dr. J's 76ers are among the many options here. Even better, the full rosters for both teams are included, so when you take Larry Bird's Celtics into battle against the Atlanta Hawks, Dominique Wilkins and crew are all there to fight back as they should be.

During these match-ups, the commentary team delivers ample history as well as play-by-play, outlining the historical significance of the rivalries and the players involved. It's a great, dynamic history lesson for anyone whose basketball knowledge doesn't extend beyond the day Lebron James got drafted. These sequences are also presented with correct rulesets, and visual filters meant to represent classic broadcasts. '60s games are in straight up black and white, while each successive decade moves from washed-out color to increasingly crisp picture.

Regrettably, the legendary teams aren't available online, presumably because the '85-'86 Celtics would just destroy everyone. However, you can take the Association mode--NBA 2K's version of the franchise mode--online this year for the first time, with up to 29 other friends. It works functionally how you would expect it to, though that's not always a positive thing.

NBA's Greatest games come with their own unique aesthetic.

Let's be blunt: online in NBA 2K games has often sucked. Be it lag, connection drops, or whatever other manner of weird glitch, something in this game's netcode has been infected by angry, malicious goblins who hate basketball and/or you. NBA 2K12 is, at best, a slight improvement on this. Save for a couple of connection drops, I mostly found myself unblocked when attempting to get into games. However, in a game this focused on well-timed shots and ball-handling, any amount of lag is a real problem. And there is most definitely still any amount of lag. I played in one game that felt close to the offline experience, and that player ended up dropping halfway through. I don't know if it was on purpose, but I'm presuming not, since I was down 15 at the half.

Were it not for the online issues, NBA 2K12 would be the closest thing to a "perfect" video game basketball experience we have yet come to. In fact, it still probably is. This is one of those rare sports games where the offline content nearly made me forget about the online component. There is just so much to do, see, and mess around with, that I almost forgot playing online was even an option. NBA 2K12 is an easy game to lose one's self in, a perfect remedy for the NBA-lockout blues. Let the players and the owners haggle over profit splits and broken contract systems. With NBA 2K12 around, you'll hardly even miss the real thing.

Alex Navarro on Google+
85 Comments
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Posted by rmanthorp

@Zabant said:

@rmanthorp: you say that as if the same dev made both games.

Haha yeah it comes across like that huh? I just meant for expecting greatest out of Batman I'm also happy this did well :D

Now Rocksteady's NBA game, that would be TIIIIIIIGHHT!

Moderator
Posted by SmilingPig

Too bad that I dont like B-ball, it looks great.

Posted by Aegon
@craigbo180 said:

@H2Oyea said:

@Rolyatkcinmai said:

@Thiemen said:

They review this but not FIFA? ;___;

Who cares about FIFA? Doesn't Eurogamer or something review that?

More people care about FIFA than NBA.

That's great but no Giant Bomb reviewers care about soccer in the slightest so what would be the point in reviewing it? I doubt they know even all the basic rules of the sport. Alex is reviewing some sport games and that's cool but he at least seems to have a base level of interest in the sports as well. Giant Bomb has never really been a resource for reviews on sport simulations.

Yeah, I never said they should review it. Just a response to the "who cares" portion. 
Posted by BlatantNinja23

@Bobby_The_Great said:

@groin said:

@Thiemen said:

They review this but not FIFA? ;___;

In general, US citizens do not care about soccer. Giantbomb barely covers sports games anyway so why are you expecting a FIFA review?

What he said. Giantbomb is US based. We're the only country in the world that doesn't care about FIFA/Soccer, and I like it that way.

Fifa still sells great in the US, the issue is probably that know one at GB cares enough that they feel they can do a worthy review. But Fifa 12 is amazing, go buy it, there's your review

Some of the players in 2k 12 still look really weird by the way, that engine still needs some tweaks

Edited by jozzy

@Mumrik said:

2k11 really needed at solid training mode with detailed instructions and specific challenges etc. (like PES back in the day). I never got into it because the learning process was so frustrating. Not sure I'm going to give 12 a shot.

nba 2k12 has a training camp that covers all the controls grouped by different categories like shooting, passing, post-game and defense. They show you how to do a move and then you have to replicate it. At the end of a category you get a challenge 1 on 1 to use these moves and score enough points to proceed to the next category. When you get through all of them you can boot the seperate categories up again. It helped me a lot, and I will revisit this mode quite a lot until i can remember all the different moves, there are so many!

Since I am such a beginner I set the difficulty to rookie and play with an all-star team against one of the lower ranking teams and I have been able to win some and just generally having fun. It will take me a lot of time to master this game but it seems worth it.

Posted by Sander

Could somebody explain to me what's happening on the box art? If it's supposed to be Jordan, then why is his jersey # 30-something?

Posted by lead_farmer

NBA 2K has basically been the most consistent sports game in recent memory.

Improvements made without taking parts of the game away that made it enjoyable? Finding ways to keep the controls polished and features fresh? Take notes EA. This is how you make a basketball game.

Posted by JCTango

After playing 2k11 so much, it was hard to get into this version of the game because its predecessor was so arcade-y, even though it was awesome. This one is more sim-y and is therefore more challenging... at the same time though, it's very rewarding when you pull things off. Plays and getting open looks are very important in 2k12.

I'm just kinda bummed that Dominique Wilkins wasn't one of the Legends you can play as in the challenges.

Edited by GorillaMoPena

"Bill Walton's Celtics"

He did so much excellent towel waving those years. Are Dominique Wilkins' Celtics in here too?

Posted by l3illyl3ob

@TheClap said:

The PC version is half priced. Are there any differences?

PC version is identical to the console version, as far as I can tell. No real graphics options to make the game look better than the console versions, other than resolution and anti-aliasing. But otherwise with a 360 controller plugged in, it's exactly the same. I haven't found any bugs, either. Go for it.

Posted by Hunkulese

I'm not sure why people are shocked about the review. NBA 2k11 was just as good.

Online
Posted by Fjordson

Not surprised at this score. Loving 2K12. Easily the best hoops game of all time. Don't know how 2K does it.

Posted by craigbo180

@H2Oyea said:

Yeah, I never said they should review it. Just a response to the "who cares" portion.

Fair enough, FIFA is easily one of the biggest franchises in video games I mean it is the best selling sports game for EA year after year. I live in England literally 90% of people I know who play games buy FIFA religiously.

Posted by alexisg

@JCTango: yeah kind of a bummer for sure. I also hate that you can't play with 2 or more people in those challenges. That being said you can unlock Wilkins and the rest of the hawks if you beat the Larry Bird Challenge.

Posted by JayDee

great review. i'm happy the series has been getting proper recognition the last 2 years.

Edited by Slaneesh

Ive bin playing through the my player mode and i must say im having a blast.

When you get good enougf though the coach keep you in for almost the entire game and i wish there was an option to be subbed out, simulate stale minutes where you already have an a+ rating and the game in the bag

Posted by AV_Gamer

Great Review, Alex

Posted by manawatermelon

@Sander said:

Could somebody explain to me what's happening on the box art? If it's supposed to be Jordan, then why is his jersey # 30-something?

It's 23... you can see the two if you look closely.

Posted by Greenlight13

The opening paragraph is kind of insulting to NBA fans. This last season was the most watched in history and how can basketball have too many teams when the NBA, NHL and MLB all have 30 teams? The only "doomed" part of the NBA is the way the league is structured in terms of finance, and that's all stuff that's worked out behind the scenes. The actual quality of on court action is fantastic and the players of today are on average more athletic than those that came before them, so the entire critique just smacks of "I watched basketball when I was 12 but then Michael Jordan retired so I refuse to watch anymore".

All that being said I'm glad this game is every bit as amazing as 2K11. Problem is I own 2K11 and I still can't really say I'm bored of it so I don't wanna pay full price for some game mode additions. Maybe in a few months when the price drops... if it drops.

Posted by MelficeVKM

Suprised at the score!

Posted by Mumrik

@jozzy:

Thanks. That sounds like everything I was surprised and annoyed to find missing in 2k11.

Posted by Vkramac

@Greenlight13 said:

The opening paragraph is kind of insulting to NBA fans. This last season was the most watched in history and how can basketball have too many teams when the NBA, NHL and MLB all have 30 teams? The only "doomed" part of the NBA is the way the league is structured in terms of finance, and that's all stuff that's worked out behind the scenes. The actual quality of on court action is fantastic and the players of today are on average more athletic than those that came before them, so the entire critique just smacks of "I watched basketball when I was 12 but then Michael Jordan retired so I refuse to watch anymore".

All that being said I'm glad this game is every bit as amazing as 2K11. Problem is I own 2K11 and I still can't really say I'm bored of it so I don't wanna pay full price for some game mode additions. Maybe in a few months when the price drops... if it drops.

This is 100% correct. Much more succinct than the review from Alex I didn't need.

Posted by PoToSkull

Great job on there review Alex. Your description on 2K12's online issues was spot on and hilarious.

Posted by Bruce

I love this game.

Posted by Capt_Ventris

@groin said:

@Thiemen said:

They review this but not FIFA? ;___;

In general, US citizens do not care about soccer. Giantbomb barely covers sports games anyway so why are you expecting a FIFA review?

Well FIFA now has most of it's sales in the US. So obviously some yanks like it

Edited by Chewii101
@Greenlight13: Insulting to who? Both the NBA and NHL need to contract eventually, the 30 teams are not sustainable. Huge changes are needed to both leagues. David Stern is rightlfully stopping the season because the current NBA CBA is not viable. How can a system where there are 5,6 teams that attract all the big names and dominate while the smaller markets just simply wallow work?  
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_OqzmTCtIQ&feature=feedu (If u disagree with two of the greatest players ever then.......wutevs.)
 
PS. This game looks awesome. 
Posted by TweetTweet

Well I'm not insulted and considering buying the game. :) While I love watching real NBA I have very little experience playing basketball games. Is it tough on hoop noobs?

Posted by Mezmero

Your written reviews are always such a joy to read! I'm not really into sports games but maybe I'll give this a shot. Even if it somehow doesn't float my boat I'm sure my brother will love it, especially if the current season is looking as dire as you say for basketball. He's very much into career modes and create-a-player stuff, making the My Player mode sound especially awesome. Please continue to write as many reviews as possible for Whiskey Media.

Posted by Greenlight13

@Chewii101: I acknowledged the financial structure sucks, but these things will get worked out eventually, even if we lose a season in the progress. I don't know how the other leagues work, but dividing up shared revenue from the entire league amongst the players is a ludicrous idea in the first place, and agreeing to give said players more than 50% of that revenue is down right laughable. Sure, people pay to see stars, but those stars have a shelf life. In 5 years Kobe will probably be gone, but the Lakers will still be there. How players can make demands that will continue to worsen the financial shape of their teams I do not know. I agree that it sucks that only 5 teams draw free agents, but there's still more variety than in England's premier league, in which only 3 teams have won since about 1996. There needs to be one fixed, hard cap otherwise why even bother capping salaries in the first place if certain teams are just going to go over it continually.

Anyway, I was merely trying to point out Patrick's opening paragraph was a little more damning than is justified. I think we can all agree this game is great and that the real life NBA has some issues that need working out.

Posted by Godlyawesomeguy

@Capt_Ventris said:

@groin said:

@Thiemen said:

They review this but not FIFA? ;___;

In general, US citizens do not care about soccer. Giantbomb barely covers sports games anyway so why are you expecting a FIFA review?

Well FIFA now has most of it's sales in the US. So obviously some yanks like it

Perhaps nobody on the staff is a fan of football?

Posted by YoungBuck

Right now I would give it 4/5. Too many bugs, and the update that was just released to fix the online lag and disconnects makes the offline game lag. I really hope they fix this game, because I played 2k11 for an entire year without having feelings of being disappointed as I am with 2k12.

Posted by zombie2011

Looks like a great year for sports games, too bad there won't be that much real life basketball to go along with the game.

Online
Posted by Scowl

I was able to grab a Larry Bird cover despite not pre-ordering and I absolutely love this game. After completing the Legends Mode I was able to assemble my "Ultimate Celtics" team with Bird, Russell, Havelicek, McHale and Rondo my starters and I've been having lots of fun with it.

I have to question whether FIFA is selling more in the US than anywhere else. The worldwide sales are no doubt impressive and the US sales have improved from last year's iteration BUT nowhere near as impressive as Madden 12 in the US. I am a natural born US citizen and like most really don't care for soccer. Popularity has spiked somewhat but I don't expect a US soccer revolution anytime soon. If Pele couldn't pull it off then no one can.

Posted by PapaBear45

Am I the only one who wanted Mugsy Bogues on the cover? Other than that giant oversight, great game!!!!!

Posted by MormonWarrior

Just picked this up for $11 on the 360 since there's been a lot of talk about NBA 2K14 and I wanted to see what I've missed. Enjoying the presentation so far. That whole "My Player" mode sounds right up my alley since controlling an entire team sounds like a nightmare.

Oh, and I would've loved a Stockton/Malone cover, but the only cover that looked good was the Jordan one since it matches the red background.