This week we got the opportunity to sample the newest NBA 2k12 title. Releasing at a crucial time due to the current NBA lockout, the publishers have had to swing their focus towards basketball greats - and this year’s cover athletes are Jordan, Johnson and Bird, none of whom currently play in the NBA. Much like any big sports series, annual iterations are the norm and many die hard fans have come to expect this. The question for the average gamer is usually whether a cosmetic upgrade is worth the money.
Our impressions on sampling the preview build are that NBA 2k12 brings basketball into the living room like virtually no other title to date. The strength and agility of NBA players, and the passion and excitement of the stadium atmosphere, really come to life in NBA 2k12. The audiences shout and pump their fists, while the stadium is alive with cheerleaders, mascots and the like. The glitz and glamour of today's NBA is captured perfectly, and having previously sworn off basketball titles for their complexity we found ourselves strangely sucked in. In fact, we were downright passionate about shooting hoops and slamming dunks.
The gameplay feels smooth - really smooth - with controls adapting well to the game, and you feel like you might actually be in control rather than simply stringing together a set of preset animations. Even for a newbie the title was relatively quick to pick up, and after only a few games the intensity was building and we found ourselves on the edge of our seats. The physics feel real, and contact between players appears to be calculated well, with size on the court making a big difference to how you need to play.
Some other nice additions include a rating system which will give you some immediate feedback on how your shots are going down, and in Create a Player mode you will be able to play your way from College basketball all the way into the NBA. The only thing missing due to the NBA lockout are the 2011-2012 season NBA rookies. But fans need not worry: the game is as complete as ever with the official teams and players of the NBA.
Our favourite stand-out feature is the presence of NBA greats in what is, funnily enough, coined NBA’s Greatest Mode. Traditionally, sports titles have allowed you to play as great players from history, but generally this has been limited to a player model and some high level player stats. In NBA 2k12 the classic teams and players come alive with camera effects, old school basketball shorts and headbands, and commentators who marvel at the player stats of the NBA all-stars. This really allows you to feel immersed in the basketball atmosphere of yesteryear – we were even told that the playing style of the teams is adjusted to reflect the NBA era in which they play. This is great for anyone who remembers collecting basketball cards and fantasising about the Michael Jordan's and John Stockton’s of this world.
2k Sports have also reworked the training mode by having included a tick box style training session with Michael Jordan. You will run through a range of shots and techniques, with Michael providing feedback on each one and the game showing you via a number of steps how to achieve your shot, with visual feedback on which step in the process you’ve messed up. We loved this, because it feels like this might be a training mode that will actually bring us up to speed with the pros after not too long.
Ultimately it is apparent from our stint with NBA 2k12 that 2k Sports have really delivered something great. We think that fans of the series and new players alike will find something to love in the title - its power lies in delivering the court side experience to your living room in a very authentic and believable way. Aside from the odd shocked facial animation, and Dirk Nowitsky’s rather matted-looking hair, the title is built on a solid engine that looks and plays great. Though we couldn’t sample it, we were also told that the full title would include a full multiplayer experience, though to see how this plays you will need to wait for our review.
The only question you’ll need to be asking yourself is which platform you’ll be wanting this on when it releases on PS3, Xbox 360, PS2, PSP, PC and Wii.
The Good: Solid game engine with a stellar court-side feel.
The Bad: Occasional clipping issues and some odd facial expressions.
The Ugly: Dirk Nowitsky’s hair.