NBA 2K is built on a foundation of gameplay and presentation elements that become more refined with each new title. The new additions in NBA 2K12 are sure to be welcomed by the basketball purists. But with a special attention being made to star-player mannerisms and animations, signature style may be stronger than ever.
The first improvement NBA 2K players will notice is the overall polish. Menu colors are vibrant, and the main menu highlights NBA players with in-action still photos. These photos blend realism with the fictional NBA 2K world. Beautifully sculpted in-game player models come to life in pregame introductions. Wade and LeBron might be casually holding a Spalding ball, or Dirk and company might be standing in front of the camera with their mean muggin’ game faces on.
The graphical elements during introductions highlight superstar player models with a sponsored backdrop; the overall feel strikes me as a pay-per-view heavyweight bout, showcasing the world’s best in a tale of the tape. It’s a nice platform to show off the improved player faces and also the considerable detail made to the tattoos. Shading and lighting of the tattoos, coupled with the improved skin tones, were things that caught my attention from the start.
NBA 2K12's gameplay feels more refined. I felt more in control than in the past, partly due to less clunkiness in the animations. Moves were tighter and more crisply executed; this makes it easier to branch from one animation to the next. The dribbling attacks happen in a smaller radius on the court, resulting in more control of your athletes in a given space. This will allow moves in the lane or post to be executed in a more precise fashion without unintentionally dribbling into crowded areas on the floor.
The post-up button has been moved to Y/Triangle, which I am not a fan of so far. It just does not feel practical to use your "shot stick" thumb to press the post-up button before returning back to the right stick. The dual-trigger post-up was inherently natural in my opinion because it allowed for a gamer to hold both triggers to initiate the post-up maneuver. From there, you could continue to hold down one of the triggers and initiate into a variety of moves. On the bright side, drop steps were harder to execute with the improved defensive mechanics that allow gamers to cut off certain angles. I was only able to pull off one drop step in my time with the game.
Beyond that, I was also unable to determine what button the "signature gather" was mapped to now, which tends to be one of my favorite mid-range moves. I was not able to confirm different control schemes, but I’m optimistic last year’s scheme will be an option.
Some other random things I noticed include subtle nuances that have been added for casual dribbles and mannerisms. The game also allows users to add up to 16 plays in a playbook to any particular player on the floor. If Kobe is your guy, he can truly be the focal point now. Another addition I loved was the tweaked in-game coaching strategy mapped to the directional pad. Players can instruct a basic offense to set screens for shooters or to space the floor rather than run specific plays. This allows the game to flow while running a core offensive system on the fly.
Dr. J steps on the court laced in optical white Star Player high-tops with the bravado of a world-class baller. His history was made, and it is now in the hands of everyone to remake and remix it.
NBA 2K12's Greatest mode is a digital basketball hall of fame featuring playable basketball tales from the greats around every corner. This mode has me beyond excited to play through these classic challenges.
Each era of the NBA is represented dating back to Mr. Logo himself, Jerry West. Animation sets change between eras, shifting from fundamentals of the '60s to the flash and uptempo hoops of the '70s. In my brief time with Ewing and the Knicks, I was able to witness some hard fouls and the ruggedness of the NBA in this era. However, I do not know yet if it was just this game I was playing, or if it was a purposely installed theme in the game. (One can only hope eras will be presented in the game in such a way.)
The legends are true representations, each with his own personal style. (This game mode is most likely where we will see a ton of new animations.) Julius Erving’s body frame appeared and felt unique to his game. His larger than life wingspan, and his maneuverability in the air allowed him to attack the rim at ease.
Bill Russell’s thin frame provided a skill set to rebound and defend over anybody on the court, with considerable touch around the rim. A player from a more Cousy-era has a fundamentally sound dribble game and fundamental shot while rocking uncomfortably tight shorts.
In the old-school Celtics/Lakers game, the Celtics play on old school woodgrain courts with no advertisements in the arena -- just folding tables in place of a scorer’s tables. The commentary had a filter over the voices, authentic to the sounds of the generation.
In my short time with NBA 2K12, my excitement level has increased. There seems to have been a focus on distinguishing each player and his skill set, which is a welcomed addition. I hope this focus will lead to more exciting matchups on each end of the floor because it would only enhance the strategies that could be built and executed.