davebefree's NBA 2K11 (PlayStation 3) review

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Davebefree: NBA 2K11 Review

 As a fan of basketball, the NBA, and Michael Jordan, the release of NBA 2K11 felt a great deal like Christmas morning.  NBA 2K11 is a basketball game that promises a recreation of Michael Jordan in his prime, a full featured state of the art basketball experience, and a full overhaul to the series' modes and presentation.  It's a lot for a year to year iterative title and, surprisingly, NBA 2K11 almost accomplishes everything it sets out to do.  However, like the greatest basketball player of all-time, NBA 2K11 just narrowly misses perfection, leaving just enough room for a successor to conceivably usurp the throne.

NBA 2K11 banks fully on the Michael Jordan license, as merely booting up the game launches you into 1991 playing as Michael Jordan versus the Lakers in the Finals.  It's a surreal experience, with James Worthy, Magic Johnson, and Scottie Pippen being masterfully recreated.  There's also a terrific film grain effect that further draws you into this superb re-imagining of basketball history.  As the ball is tipped off, and you drive for the first time with Michael Jordan, you realize that truly loving hands have crafted this game.  This is a creation for hardcore basketball fans, and all weak-hearted dunk junkies are about to get schooled in the true beauty of one of the worlds most electrifying sports. 

NBA 2K11 captures the authentic feel of basketball, and the NBA specifically, almost perfectly.  The players are as close as possible to their real-life counter-parts.  If you know the difference between Kobe's and Lebron's games you will feel right at home.  This a game that does it's most to cater to fans, with diverse animations, detailed presentations, and totally distinctive teams.  Virtually no detail has been overlooked, as the crowds wax and wane with the action on the court, and the announcers describe events both on the court and in real life.  The authenticity branches further into gameplay, where the game really shines.  NBA 2K11 is both incredibly difficult, yet fun to play.  The AI is incredibly responsive, with defenders constantly picking off arrant passes, defending shots near the basket, and overall just playing smart basketball.  Consistent dunks are a thing of the past, and players will now have to work to find open shots.  NBA 2K11 forces you to play a complete and focused game, an incredible accomplishment considering the tools and abilities they leave at your disposal on offense. 

The game also comes packed to the brim with ways to play.  All of the modes return from past iterations, including the Association and My Player.  Additionally, 2K has done the work to recreate many great teams of the past, so that you can pit them against each other or the teams of the modern NBA.  You can even take a young Jordan and place him on any of the thirty teams in the NBA, re-imagining his career path.  The online competitive play is also fantastic, when it works.  Unfortunately, 2K still doesn't know how to launch an NBA title that works properly out of gate, so you may not be able to connect to their servers for a few weeks.  So far I've been able to play a handful of online games, with varying degrees of connection success.  It's clearly a work in process.

The game does have it's faults.  The Jordan Challenge is incredibly enthralling and laced with nostalgia, but the challenges themselves start to get a little tedious.  Dropping 55 on the Knicks is fun, but averaging a double-double against the lakers over a seven game series, not so much.  Furthermore, the online play comes out of the gate once again busted.  I'm sure it could be between weeks and months before 2K has the whole thing finally sorted out.  It's a shame, as many gamers will have moved on by then, and the infrastructure otherwise is terrific. 

This year 2K is the only choice for those who want a simulation style basketball game.  With that being the case, you absolutely should pick it up.  The inclusion of the Jordan Challenge, full season support, and various game modes make this game a bargain at the price.  Assuming 2K doesn't rest on it's laurels, and continues to consistently put effort into upgrading their already fine foundation, the series will continue to evolve and expand.  As it stands now NBA 2K11 is destined to be remembered as one of the greatest basketball games of all time, and certainly the standard to which all future competitors will be judged.  Kind of like you know who...    

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