NBA 2K11 Review
By -- Craig H.
Most people may think that putting Michael Jordan on the cover and in the game is a gimmick that will be used to bolster sales. The care and precision used in all aspects of the game show that Michael Jordan is just the cherry that sits atop the best basketball game ever made.
NBA 2K11 is packed to the brim with updates, improvements, and new features. From the new ‘My Player’ mode to the Jordan Challenges it’s not hard to find something to do. Add in new gameplay mechanics like the IsoMotion dribbling controls, improved AI defense, and new shot control and you have the best controlling basketball game too.
The game starts with a bang as you open to the roar of the crowd while in the tunnel of the stadium. As you move closer to the court you see the red Bulls jersey of number 23. The camera pans up and Jordan turns and looks right at you and says, “Are you ready?” You follow Jordan out onto the court of Game 1 of the 1991 NBA Finals against the LA Lakers. All of this happens before you see a single menu screen, create a player, or shuffle through the Jordan Challenges.
The amount of polish poured into NBA 2K11 is amazing. From the character models to the dynamic crowds it is truly the closest thing to watching the NBA on TV. A huge amount of custom player animations have been captured. Kobe’s jump shot is different from Jordan’s, Lebron’s, Wade’s, Durant’s, and so on. The custom animation continues to even the non-starting line-up players. All the teams play differently and you can easily tell you are playing the Spurs as opposed to the Lakers.
The improved defensive AI is a key upgrade to making the game feel true to the NBA. Gone are the days of easy dunks and lazy inside passing. If you try to force a pass into the lane or throw the ball across the court it will get stolen. AI will cut off your driving lanes and force you to adapt quickly to get open. This does not come without a price though. Many times you feel like the defenders have eyes in the back of their heads. With the defenders back to you, you attempt to toss a pass to a cutting player only to have the ball expertly broken up by that same defender. This can make the game feel cheap but after getting used to the gameplay you will know which windows you can and cannot pass in.
The IsoMotion controls are very intuitive once you get the hang of them. For most of the first several games you will be fumbling trying to get to the basket. The improved defensive AI does not do you any favors and will cut of your lanes quickly and force you to pass the ball to the perimeter. Though the improved defensive AI is welcome, it’s tough on new players to get to the basket without a lot of practice. This may relegate many new players to playing the outside role and attempt to drain mid and long-range jumpers. This is a bit of a shame since you always have dreams of slicing into the lane and dunking the ball.
The Jordan Challenges are extremely entertaining. 2K Sports have put together 10 of the greatest moments in Jordan’s career and tasks you with the role to relive those moments. From scoring 69 points against the Cavaliers to Jordans game-winning performance versus the Jazz in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals. Playing through each of these scenarios brings back childhood memories of watching Jordan and trying to mimic his greatness on the local court. 2K Sports did not want to make it easy to become the greatest though. These challenges are not easy. The improved defensive AI tests your gaming prowess with every shot attempt. Trying to chip away at the 69 point effort is not any easy task. You may be playing a video game but you truly feel how hard it was to do what Jordan did. If you do prevail you are rewarded with a new mode called “MJ: Creating a Legend”. In this unlocked mode you can bring a rookie Jordan into the current league and try to mold him into a superstar.
The My Player mode has been improved with deeper integration into all aspects of a superstar. Each player starts his journey in the NBA Combine. Performing well in the combine will place you in the NBA Draft where you will be selected to your first NBA squad. From there it’s up to you to battle through summer camp and get to the starting line-up. Throughout your career you will participate in press conferences, get sponsorship endorsements, appear on magazine covers, request trades and more. The journey will not be easy or short. The My Player mode will keep you busy for a long time. I did notice a few issues while creating a player though. For example, after starting a career as a 3-point specialist and dumping all my beginning points into 3-point shooting I could still not score consistently from the beyond the 3-point line. Even when obtaining a perfect release the ball would still clank off the rim. This had me very frustrated at the start. Once I obtained more points and applied them elsewhere it seemed to help but that does not explain the issues I had at my core competency of 3-point shooting. The My Player mode, in general, does take a while to get into and some may not wish to push past the first dozen games to reach its true potential. Those who choose to stick with it will be rewarded with a great experience.
Overall, NBA 2K11 is a fantastic game. Having Michael Jordan both on the cover and in the game only adds to the reason why this is the best basketball game ever made. Those who have even a remote interest in basketball should check out NBA 2K11 you will not be disappointed.
Classic teams and players
Great improvements to the defensive AI
Improved ball handling and shot control make it the best controlling basketball game ever
Jordan Challenges are extremely entertaining and challenging
Easily the best basketball game ever made
IsoMotion does take a bit of getting used to
My Player mode takes a while to get started