NBA 2K12 is a testament, in video game form, to America’s love of professional basketball. Perhaps more than any other sports video game*, 2K Sports’ latest offering shows a respect and love for its source material that most other titles do not match.
And given the labor troubles afflicting the NBA this season, NBA 2K12 may be the only way basketball fans will be able to enjoy the professional game for a long time. That makes it a little harder to decide if NBA 2K12 is a “must buy” for the fan and his or her hard-earned $60.
On the “pro” side, NBA 2K12 offers a quality single-player experience and by featuring a dozens of NBA legends in its “NBA’s Greatest” mode, 2K Sports offers a worthy successor to 2K11′s “Jordan Challenge” feature and thus has probably done more than any other developer to make annual sports titles feel like a worthwhile experience.
On the “con” side, real-life business issues mean consumers may not be able to use this year’s game as a mirror for the real-life NBA for several weeks, if at all.
A die-hard NBA fan who is most interested in the opportunity to play as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird or any of the other all-time greats featured in the game will probably get his or her money’s worth from NBA 2K12. But someone who wants to play online matchups with current NBA rosters will be disappointed. It may not be fair that a real-life labor dispute between NBA players and owners may reduce the game’s value, but that’s life.
In terms of NBA 2K12 as a video game, there’s a reason 2K Sports has built its advertising campaign upon the title’s NBA’s Greatest mode. It’s excellent. Besides offering a chance to play as Jordan, Magic and Bird or other players, like Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in their primes, the game also recreates the look and feel of NBA broadcasts from decades past.
For example, when playing as Bill Russell and the 1964-65 Boston Celtics in the Greatest mode, the action takes place in a black-and-white world with crackling audio. Games that take place in the 1970s, 80s or 90s are similarly presented with video effects and graphics that mimic old-school television broadcasts. Announcers Kevin Harlan, Clark Kellog, Steve Kerr and sideline reporter Doris Burke also provide some of the best commentary in any sports game, mixing historic anecdotes, play-by-play and exclamations of surprise at dramatic moments, the digital announcers actually sound like they’re covering a real game.
For single-player aficionados, the “My Player” mode also demonstrates considerable attention to presentation. After customizing their avatar’s appearance, moves and playing style, players get to compete against other virtual prospects, interview with teams and earn their spot on the draft boards. I enjoyed the idea of not knowing who I would play for, which I thought added more verisimilitude than simply being able to pick a favorite team. On the downside, I don’t have a lot of experience with previous versions of NBA 2K, so I’m still learning how to play and my three-point specialist is having to face some tough Philadelphia 76ers fans.
I should note here that the controls are very complicated and require the kind of dexterity needed to master a fighting game. That makes sense from the standpoint of recreating the speed and adroitness required to play competitive basketball, but new players should expect a spend some time learning how to control their players.
Online play appears to be where this game hits a snag. Aside from the NBA lockout preventing players from having access to new rosters, there are many reports of gamers having difficulty with the online experience. All I can say for now is that the last time I tried to connect to an online match, the game spent several minutes looking for a connection, but not ultimately finding one. If it’s any consolation for online players, 2K Sports has decided to keep NBA 2K11′s servers operating longer than initially planned.
If not for the issues detracting from online play – not all of which are the game’s fault – this reviewer would be happy to give NBA 2K12 a solid recommendation. As it is, NBA 2K12 has excellent single-player features and is clearly made by and for people who love professional basketball. But for online-oriented gamers, the title may not be worth a full $60 investment. Those who find themselves among that number may be better served by waiting for a price decrease and more patching.