With the real NBA mired in a lockout, frustrated fans start to look back on the glory days of the NBA to get their minds off what’s going on. Whether it was Wilt vs. Russell, Magic vs. Bird or Michael Jordan dominating the 1990s, fans always have fond memories of those good old days. The team at NBA 2K ran with this idea last year, making Michael Jordan the centerpiece of NBA2K11. The Jordan Challenge mode, the classic Chicago Bulls teams and their classic opponents, was an overwhelming success. NBA 2K11 gave older fans a taste of the past, and it allowed younger fans to learn more about the NBA’s history. 2K Sports has continued in that direction for NBA 2K12, with the “NBA’s Greatest” mode.
The “NBA’s Greatest” mode features 15 NBA legends: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Jerry West, Isiah Thomas, Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon and Julius (Dr. J) Erving. Each player has a matchup with another classic team. If you win the matchup, you will unlock both teams for use in exhibition mode or in your Association mode. If you win the Jordan game you will unlock the 1992-1993 Bulls, and their opponent, the 1992-1993 Charlotte Hornets.
1993 Chicago Bulls vs. 1972 New York Knicks
The difference between the “NBA’s Greatest” mode and last year’s Jordan Challenge is that you don’t have to achieve player-specific goals (for example, scoring 63 points with Jordan vs. the 1986 Boston Celtics), you just have to win the game to unlock the teams. The NBA 2K team did a great job of getting even more classic players onto the rosters. While the classic Bulls team in NBA 2K11 featured most of the real roster, the opponents had a lot of generic, or filler, players. NBA 2K12 has a lot more of the bench players as most of the classic rosters go 10-deep with real players.
My favorite part of the NBA’s greatest” mode is the era-specific presentation. When you play the Russell game (1965 Celtics vs. 1965 Lakers) the game is in black-and-white. The commentary team of Kevin Harlan, Clark Kellogg and former Chicago Bull Steve Kerr (new to the booth this season), have a muffled old-time radio sound to their commentary. Challenges from the 1990s feature the large font graphics that were used during that time, giving you the feel of 1990s NBA on NBC broadcasts. My only issue with the classic presentation, the games from the 1960s and 1970s, is the commentary being drowned out by the crown noise at times. Because the old time commentary has that muffled sound, when the crowd starts going crazy over a play, there are times when the commentary can’t be heard very well.
The overall commentary for NBA 2K12 is outstanding. The addition of Kerr adds tremendous insight to the broadcast booth, especially during the classic games. I was playing the Stockton challenge and Kerr mentioned how you’d like to force the Utah Jazz Hall-of-Fame point guard to the left on the pick-and-roll. That type of commentary works so well coming from a player that actually had to defend Stockton in the NBA Finals.
NBA 2K12 has added “The Association: Online” to this year’s game. This allows you to be the commissioner of a league, with up to 29 other friends, and play a real NBA schedule with trades, salary cap and drafts. “The Association: Online” features a flex scheduling system that will advance three calendar days every 24 hours. You will always have a block of games that can be played at any time. You can play ahead, if you have the time, and it also gives you the time to schedule games with other user opponents. It‘s nice to see this feature in an NBA game. Online leagues have been a part of football games for a few years; hopefully we will start to see this in baseball and hockey as well.
The My Player mode has had some changes and upgrades for this season. When you create your player, you no longer go through the draft combine, in which you played three games. You’ll play one rookie showcase game, and your performance will help determine where you’re selected in the draft. After the game, you’ll take part in pre-draft interviews. My interviews were with the Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers. The team representatives with ask you two questions, and you can select from four different answers. Once your name is called by David Stern at the NBA draft, you will sign your contract and make your NBA debut; mine ended up being with the Jazz. Your My Player will also have a bank account this year and you’ll be paid (based on your contract) every two weeks. You can use the money to buy new shot packages, skill points or make charitable donations.
You will not be able to use your My Player in crew games for NBA 2K12. This feature was taken out of the game, and the NBA 2K team hasn’t given any specific information as to why that is.
NBA 2K12’s biggest issue, which is no fault of their own, is the NBA lockout. The lockout has prevented the development team from putting in this year’s rookie class. If you’re a Cavs fan, you won’t be able to start up your season with No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving and No. 4 overall pick Tristan Thompson. It prevents users from having that realistic experience in their Association modes, online or offline. With no free agency, due to the lockout, the rosters are pretty much the same as last season. If, and when, the NBA lockout ends, the 2K team will have roster updates with the rookies and any free agent moves. Not sure how long it will take to make that update.
Overall, NBA 2K12 is an excellent game. From gameplay to presentation, it remains the best (and for now, only) basketball game on the market – a title it has firmly held now for about a decade.
Score: 9.5 out of 10
Upon further review...
I haven't played NBA 2K online, consistently, since NBA 2K7. And when I do play, it's in my personal league with friends or fellow sim gamers from message boards. Rarely do I play random people online. So my online Association will only have people I know in it.
After hearing all the complaints about how poor NBA 2K12 is for online play, I had to check it out myself. So I decided to play some random people online - and it was a cheesefest. For those of you who are not familiar with what a cheeser is, it's a person who plays video games and always takes advantages of glitches in the game or abuses exploits. For example, running the same play over and over because the AI can't stop it, etc.
I ran into two really bad cheesers online and it seems that NBA 2K12's online play was designed for them. First, it's way too easy to hit three pointers. I was playing a guy who was Boston, and all he did was shoot threes with Ray Allen - at about a 60% clip. On one play, I double teamed Allen with Carlos Boozer, leaving Kevin Garnett wide open under the basket. Instead of passing the ball to Garnett underneath for an easy dunk, he shot the three with Allen, over my double team of Ronnie Brewer and Carlos Boozer - he made the shot.
The second big issue with NBA 2K12 online is that it's far too easy for people to steal the ball. Cheesers will just hack at you the full length of the court to make the steal. The problem is fouls are never called. I wouldn't mind if some guy wanted to hack the entire game, as long as fouls were actually called. If you want to get Kobe Bryant three fouls in the first quarter - fantastic. If you want to put your team in the penalty with seven minutes left in the quarter - great. Unfortunately, fouls are rarely called and there is no risk for the reward of a turnover.
The third biggest issue, in my mind, are the tipped passes and how easy it is to play the passing lanes. Cheesers like to constantly double team - so they can easily get those steals I was talking about. The solution to the constant double team would be to pass the ball around and find the open man. But passes are frequently tipped and it leads to more turnovers. Again, it's seem that NBA 2K12 online was designed with cheesers in mind.
NBA 2K12 is still a very good title. The gameplay, presentation and depth are great. Your offline experience can be adjusted using sliders (mostly to tone down the amount the AI plays the passing lanes). And you can play simulation gameplay, where fouls are actually called. The problem is none of this carries over to online play.
One last issue, and it's been this way for a few years, there's no online lobbies for ranked matches. All other sports games have online lobbies where you can see an opponent's record and their DNF% (percentage of games they Did Not Finish). They need to bring that back.
There's a patch for NBA 2K12 in the works. But it probably won't address any of these online issues.
Revised score for NBA 2K12: 8.5 out of 10
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