NBA 2K11 was in my console for most of the sports gaming season. I’ve probably logged more hours with it than all other sports games combined. While it had its share of issues, the game was fun and for the most part, played a realistic game of basketball. I had high hopes, as I took flight to Novato, Calif., to take a look at NBA 2K12. Did I come away impressed? Read on and find out.
After hopping off the plane and catching a ride with a taxi cab driver, who seemed more lost than I was, I finally arrived at 2K Sports. As I came into the game room, I noticed Dustin getting smoked by the AI, down 30 in the first half. Obviously, he was trying out the new moves in the game (*snicker, snicker*) I noticed him branching digital Dirk into some eye popping animations. For a brief second, I actually thought everyone was watching the Finals from last year; it looked that good. Before I had a chance to sit down and give it a whirl, we headed out to the real basketball court, to play some 5-on-5 with the 2K crew.
The Hulk, Rob Jones was stroking the 3s and had some nice passes; he was also seen banging down low on occasion. Mike Wang was hitting some treys as well, with some good looks driving into the lane. We ran quite a few games and the competition was pretty good, but I can’t talk about the games we had, without mentioning Mike’s instant classic move. I called it the euro, hop-stepping-five-step-runner, which was without a doubt, the highlight of the day. Fortunately for all of us, we won't see that move captured or implemented in NBA 2K12.
After we cleaned up, it was time to hit the sticks. Right off the top, I notice the new quick dribbling animations and nice looking post moves. I try my best to figure out the new finger Olympic controls. It’s not going too well, in fact you could say I sucked at it. Fortunately, there is a new training camp mode this year, where you can practice all the moves. There are 88 of them in total to master, from what I saw. It will take some time to get used to, but once you understand how it works, it feels much better than last year.
There were times last year, where it felt like NBA 2K11 was taking over the game thanks to frustrating animations. Movement is much smoother this year, branching into other moves show no sign of breaks in animation; it’s smooth, all the way through.
I did notice some lead pass speed boosting, but the team said they worked on it. Cheesers will have a hard time lead passing in the paint, as it will be picked off more often than not. While lead passing was a cheesy tactic, the hopstep seemed to be the king of cheese. In 2K12, there is a longer window of opportunity to strip the ball; you can also move a defender into position for a collision, which will alter the offensive players shot or make him lose possession of the ball. I noticed the same with the eurostep, if there are players in the way, collision takes over.
Aggressive defenders that like to go after the big block will have to think twice this year. Players will not be able to quickly get back into position to try for another, because the player has to recover first.
The fans interact with the basketball if it bounces into the first couple of rows. I didn’t see any players jumping over the score table, so thankfully that is something that happens on occasion, instead of multiple times a game, which some were worried about.
Fast breaks are looking really good. Fixing the transition was looked at extensively. You can run traditional breaks and leak outs. Wing players cut to the rim, while some spot up for the 3 ball. A nice animation shows a player pushing the ball forward and taking a few running steps before dribbling again. (See Rondo in the Momentous trailer).
You have to be careful when attempting this in traffic though, as it leads to a turnover. I tried to split a double team and the AI wouldn’t have any of it. The AI will get their fair share of fast break points, so you need to make sure you get back on defense. Alley-oops seem to play the same, but they did add standing alley-oops, which should please a lot of people.
There are no manual bounce passes. The AI utilizes the bounce passes fairly well, but it would be nice to see bounce passing into the paint. Lobbing a pass over a defender, who is fronting in the post, is possible this year. While it’s not an easy pass to make, it can be done. I didn’t have any luck with it, but Rob Jones stated it is successful based on the ratings of the passer, the teammate you are passing to, how far away the player is from the basket and how much space the offensive player can make, before the ball comes in over the top. Players will throw higher lob passes down court instead of bullet passes that are easily picked off. If you recall last year, after a pump fake pass, there was a delay in being able to pass to another teammate, the other way. There is no delay at all this year.
When playing against the CPU this year, you will see more pump fakes, and mid air shot adjustments. Many times, I timed a shot block perfectly, only to see the AI player hang in the air, adjusting to my defense and scooping in a beauty. Other times, while playing in the post, I was abused with pump fakes, up and unders, spins and a plethora of other moves. It’s great to see so many new moves being utilized by the AI.
New this year, is the ability to put your hands up on defense and move at the same time. This helps in altering a shot from the offensive player, without fouling. With new screen and hedge defenses, you should be able to defend the pick and roll a lot better this year, as well.
Drawing a foul using a pump fake was toned down and there are no loose ball fouls. Off the ball fouls, illegal screens and over the back fouls are still in the game. I did see some occasional sliding, but collisions are done so well you don’t see much of it.
The playcall system is pretty damn sexy. Every player has at least five plays, designed for them to run. Some, mainly the superstars, have more than five plays and you can cycle through more of them with the right trigger. The system functions exactly like last year. Setting up inbounds plays is a snap. New this year, during timeouts, you can choose the player you want to inbound the ball, the shooter and the play type (quick 2, 3 pointer, alley-oop, post or best ft shooter). There are also quick strategies for offense and defense. On offense you can space the floor to get that 1 on 1, screen for shooters, leak out on the break or crash the offensive boards. On the defensive side of the ball, there are different ways to put pressure on the shooters, double down in the post, focus on star players or force constant pressure on given situations.
The post game is a chess match. Offensively you have hop shots, stepbacks, dropsteps, up and unders, hooks or fades in the post. You can also quickly spin and take it to the rim. While there are plenty of offensive weapons for the post game, the defense hasn’t been forgotten. The defense can anticipate your moves, counter it with different things like “pull the chair” or attempt to steal the rock. Hitting the Y button gets you into a backdown position; you can hit Y again to face up. There are so many different options you can take while in the post, it’s almost a game within a game, for both the offensive and defensive players.
Presentation is ridiculously good. You’ve seen some of it in our exclusive gameplay video.
There was a very big focus on dynamic broadcast views. It reflects how the camera is on a real television broadcast. Every arena has a broadcast view just like you see when watching it on TV in your hometown. Every broadcast cam will be different, some will be zoomed in, others zoomed out, some higher and while others show a lower look.
Steve Kerr sounds incredible and the commentary team doesn’t skip a beat. He is definitely a sleeper addition to the game and the commentary actually seems even more fluid now, if that is even possible.
On the downside, the crowd seems to be lost at times. I noticed on a few occasions, I’d hit a big 3 or just a big shot in general and the crowd didn’t react like you would think they would. Even “And 1” calls didn’t cause much of a stir from the fans. I did notice, late in close games, the crowd would go bananas. I didn’t get to sim into the playoffs, so I’m not sure how the audio is there. The team did mention they added some things to the playoffs, but wouldn’t divulge any specifics.
Quick hit bullet points.
- In instant replay mode, the orange circle is still there. (It’s called the Momentous feature)
- The team worked on off-the-ball details, fighting in the post, bumping guys, etc. Many players focus on playing the ball, so they won’t notice the off the ball movement.
- On free throw attempts, there is a percentage that shows on the screen. This tells the user how accurate they were on the shot.
- Blacktop mode was cleaned up, but they emphasized fine tuning of the 5-on-5 experience.
- Added anti-aliasing for Non HD TV’s. 480i televisions will look incredibly better and at 60fps.
- No self alley-oops this year.
- AI will kill you on mismatches.
- Animations are so lifelike. Collisions and jump shots are amazing, so fluid with everything. I’d like to see more variety on close range shots though.
- The user can walk the ball up the court and doesn’t have the slouched over look. However, in none of my games, did I see the AI walk the ball up.
- Obviously, I didn’t see all the player faces, but the ones I did see were very good.
- Fatigue and stamina has been fine tuned, as well as the 2-3 and 3-2 zones.
- Pick and roll defense has been improved. Hedging much stronger, defensive help and recover rotation is quicker.
- Not seeing psychic steals. (AKA players stealing passes, when they are not looking)
Dustin touched on Legend and My Player modes in his NBA 2K12 preview, but here are a few other notes.
There are 34 classic teams and 30 current NBA teams. Lots of work went into the game this year.
The audio team spent a lot of time in Legends mode. Clark Kellogg and the team were very excited about the addition and you can tell in all of the additional commentary. Specific commentary details add to authenticity and teach fans about the NBA. Play the game, listen to commentary, you will learn something.
There are back stories of all the players, not just the NBA Legends.
The plays that these Legendary teams run are the actual plays they ran in that era. Size ups, post moves and other things, are from that era as well.
The “Dream Shake” animation was spot on. Performing it sounded easy enough, Y to get to the post, quick tap right stick both ways, then full fake, with a little longer of a tap of the right stick, then go ahead and shoot it. Rob Jones showed it in slow-mo replay a few times. Amazing.
The NBA logos can go all around the headband, including the back (no upside down logos, NBA doesn't allow it)
Can’t talk about shoes, there will be a Developer Insight covering it. Rob Jones is a big shoe head, so it should be filled with information.
Things like shooting a full court shot will not count against you. Lots of things cleaned up for teammate ratings. Lots of scratch your head plays that lowered your rating last year, were cleaned up.
Commentators talk about how your game was in school, how there are scouts looking at all the players at the game. Other players want to be that lotto pick, so you will see players want to get noticed by the scouts.
Some people don't understand what a small foward should do. This year, there is an option that can be turned on or off called, run plays. Players can view dotted lines on the court, instead of running around trying to get open, etc. They can now see where to set the pick, where to shoot and learn the strategy of the game, instead of just running around trying to get open.
Last year, you started at a 38 - 40 player rating and couldn’t hit the broadside of the barn. This year you start in the low 60’s, so players can feel a little more confident with their skill level. Skill points will cost more.
Halftime recap shows things you did good and things you can improve on.
Pre-draft interviews are tailored to your position. The Wizards asked me a John Wall question. One of my answers mentioned that I would do the Dougie if the Wizards drafted me.
Fans will remember what you say in pre-draft interviews and from the sounds of it, will boo you when you travel to their arenas, if you are not drafted by them.
You can buy signature animations, even the Jordan dunk package.
There are nine drills. The only returning drill is the shooting drill, everything else is new. I didn’t get to see what the other eight drills were.
Over 500 press conference events, specific to what is going on. For example, why didn’t you take the last second shot? Why did u pass it off? This will affect your team chemistry, fan support, etc.
The team decided to take out a few things, including the D-League, to get your player to the NBA quicker. They also give you an option, instead of playing all 82 games, players can play roughly 10 to 15 key matchups. This will keep things moving, for those that don’t have the time or patience to play all the games.
You can retire at any point in your career. I retired before I ever stepped foot on an NBA court, and Gerald Wallace showed up for my retirement. Photos will show during your retirement that plays back your entire career.
I’ve posted some of what I liked about the game and I’ve posted some of the gripes. The biggest disappointment will not be the fault of 2K Sports. The NBA lockout will affect the game, because rookies will not be included and we will not see them until the lockout is finished. 2K says the audio for all rookies is in the game. The NBA lockout not only removes the rookies, but the dynamic updates throughout the season will also take a hit.
Playing Legends online would have been huge for gamers; unfortunately we won’t be able to do so. Erick Boenisch told us to stay tuned on that, so I’m guessing a Developer Insight is coming to discuss that situation.
The team worked on many areas this year, most I didn’t even touch on. Most of us will appreciate the gameplay enhancements, others will enjoy the Legends, and we can’t forget about the My Player fans. As a complete package, NBA 2K12 does not disappoint. I look forward to playing the game on Oct. 4 and the demo, which arrives this Tuesday.