Basketball fans have never had it so good. In last yearâ€™s NBA Dallas took care of the LeBron James led Miami Heat. Kirk Penney and the NZ Breakers dominated the NBL, and the awesome NBA 2K11 was released.
This year Kirk Penney left for Europe, and the prospects for this yearâ€™s Breakers seemed not so good. Then the NBA team owners and playersâ€™ collective decided that their slice of the NBA pie wasnâ€™t big enough, and that it would be a good idea to not bother playing basketball.
All I can say is, thank god for NBA 2K12.
Or rather thank you Visual Concepts and 2K Sports. Because NBA 2K12 is every bit as good and last yearâ€™s title. Itâ€™s packed with NBA greats, challenging gameplay and a host of details that put most of the other sports sims to shame.
Once the gameâ€™s loaded, you can jump straight into a quick match between the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks. If it is your first time playing an NBA 2K game, or if itâ€™s been a while since your last time, you may be in for a bit of a wake-up call. Thereâ€™s no soft entry into NBA 2K12. No easy way to get cheap buckets. Game sliders aside, NBA 2K12 is a tough game where winning takes practice. So itâ€™s a good thing thereâ€™s an all new, comprehensive, and surprisingly playable training mode.
In Training Camp â€˜mentorsâ€™ like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Pete Maravich take current stars through their paces. You control Kobe Bryant while MJ shows you twenty jump shots, lay-ups, and dunks. After completing that Hakeem Olajuwon shows Dwight Howard the finer points of post play and Scottie Pippin gives Lebron James a lesson in defence.
There are 88 different moves to learn, from taking a charge to spin moves, step backs, crossovers, and cuts. Only after youâ€™ve completed them all can you go back to try them again. Believe me, to win consistently and master even a small selection of skills, youâ€™ll need to.
Once you have absorbed all that basketball knowledge, its time to use it. In NBAâ€™s Greatest mode there are fifteen NBA legends to choose from. You can play as Bill Russell, Dr. J or Magic Johnson in classic match-ups against un-lockable teams. Each game is presented in the time periodâ€™s unique style.
While there is not much difference between todayâ€™s games and the presentation of Karl Maloneâ€™s Jazz going up against the Robinson/Duncan era Spurs, Jerry Westâ€™s 1971 Lakers looks completely different. The washed out colours, old fashioned shot clock, long socks and missing three-point line really puts you in the shoes of players from forty years ago.
But it isnâ€™t just what NBA 2K12 does with the past. Everything looks and sounds amazing. Player animations, stadiums, and the â€˜televisionâ€™ coverage is all beautifully done. Even the announcers avoid repeating themselves too much while staying nicely up with the play. Add to that a soundtrack featuring everyone from Travis Barker, Chiddy Bang, and Shinobi Ninja, and you have a virtual slam dunk of a game.
But it isnâ€™t just all about history, music, and television. There are plenty of familiar gameplay modes that will keep you busy all season. With My Player you can create a player and take him from his pre-draft trial game to his entry into the Hall of Fame.
This year there is more then just performing on the court. Now you meet with scouts, answer questions in press conferences and even get called up on stage at the NBA draft. Little things, but done well and adding nicely to the experience.
If you donâ€™t want to wait for your rookie to earn that extended contract, magazine cover, and shot at the championship, you can jump straight into Create a Legend. Here you can choose any player from any NBA team, and just play as them. So instead of starting from scratch you can step into the shoes of Lebron James, Blake Griffin or Dirk Nowitzki.
Just like My Player, but without the press conferences, Create a Legend showcases just how detailed NBA 2K12 gets with itâ€™s player accuracy. Picking Nowitzki means youâ€™ll be okay in the paint, have a sweet 3 point shot, an unstoppable fall-away jumper, and a permanent spot booked in the play-offs. But, if you pick Blake Griffin, you might not win many games but youâ€™ll be flying over players and slamming down tomahawk jams for the next ten seasons.
If one player isnâ€™t enough for you, there are plenty of other options where you can take your favourite team through seasons or playoffs. As well as that NBA Blacktopâ€™s back for an umpire-less street version of the game.
Also, The Association returns to let you build a franchise with all the team owner and coaching decisions that go along with winning games and championships. As always you can customise it to make it as hands-on as you want and this year also lets you play the Association online.
As with all sports sims the online part of the game is always going to get a fair workout. Once again NBA 2K12 offers plenty. Along with single player and team quick matches you can make and share videos as well as upload game settings and data. Unfortunately, if the game is tough in one player, online - with relatively sluggish controls - itâ€™s brutal. And playing against idiots who continually pause the game to change their settings is bloody annoying. Even if it seems like itâ€™s just a tactic to get you frustrated and quit out of the match to give them an easy win.
Despite online idiots, NBA 2K12 is a very big win. The players, game modes, gameplay, and incredible attention to detail make sure of that. Itâ€™s complex and very tough to learn, but in a good way. Occasionally your player can go on cold streaks that seem to come out of nowhere. You can hit three threes in a row and then throw bricks the rest of the game. And it can be a bit annoying when youâ€™re playing as Dirk Nowitzki against the Clippers and the coach sits you down with a five point lead only to be let back into the game five minutes later down twenty. I mean Blake Griffinâ€™s good, but come on.
As with all franchise games NBA 2K12 is going to be compared with last yearâ€™s model, and it stacks up well. Is it a must buy if you have last yearâ€™s game? Maybe not. But itâ€™s certainly not the absolute â€˜donâ€™t get this if you have last yearâ€™s versionâ€™ answer that you usually get when you ask that question. So who knows, the Breakers might be better without Penney, the NBA may actually get going this year, and with NBA 2K12 this might be the best season of basketball ever.