Review: NBA 2K11 on Xbox 360

Monday, November 15th, 2010

NBA 2K11 is one of the most innovative sports games ever made.

The greatest is back, not that he was ever present in video games to begin with. Making his first appearance in video game format since 2004, Michael Jordan’s appearance is just one of the many reasons to get excited about 2K Sports’ NBA 2K11.

Intelligent controls

The increased focus on the right stick and right trigger makes scoring seem much more realistic. Players are forced to go for high-percentage shots but at the same time have many more ways to put up a shot than typically found in Basketball games. It’s just a more natural approach. Rather than button bashing you’re thinking while you play as you shoot, thinking about the players around you and mixing up approaches to the rim. Passing and dribbling equally feel smarter, with players having more lifelike controls of the ball.

None of this however makes the game any more laborious than lesser sports games. If anything the more dynamic approach finds a way to make it easier for players to learn how to manage their play better than supposedly simplistic button bashing games. The movement is fluid, the shots that go in make sense as do those that don’t. This is really quite rewarding as players feel much more in control of what’s going on in the game.

Variety of styles

These controls are aided by 2K Sports doing something that seems obvious but is a rarity in sports games, they mix up the ways in which opponents try to beat players. The Celtics are a solid passing team, Chicago tries to beat you with power. This still is far too general, it’s the subtleties that appeal most. The easy to learn gameplay makes users notice the way match-ups are going in game, effectively encouraging players to think about ways to change the way they try to win.

The more I played NBA 2K11, the more I wanted to learn ways to get better, to outwit even non-human opponents. It helps of course that the AI is excellent, showing the intuition to adapt to patterns in play and forcing players to mix it up. Most importantly this means users don’t really play the same game twice as the flow of each match is its own.

Yes, yes MJ

From the start you know that Michael Jordan’s presence is central to this game.

The first time a user plays NBA 2K11, they are greeted by the game’s version of number 23, asking them if they are ready before launching straight into a classic match-up between the Bulls and Lakers (including the mandatory player introductions to Eye in the Sky by Alan Parsons Project). This is a sign of things to come.

NBA 2K11 has all the usual forms of play, including street, career, season, and playoff modes. That’s standard fare at this stage albeit standard fare enhanced by wonderful gameplay. The additional Jordan Mode changes things up and gives players something else to think about.

The Jordan Challenge gives players an opportunities to relive old classic games featuring Jordan with the added element that players need to recreate or better the original performances of MJ. This is also a handy excuse for the developers to include a few other legendary teams from the 80s and 90s in the process. Completing these 10 challenges opens up the MJ: Creating a Legend mode where you take over Jordan as a rookie in the NBA. As a neat little touch, his hair and appearance changes over the course of this career mode to mirror how his look changed over his real NBA career. The final element of Jordan’s presence in the game is the My Jordans feature where various achievements in the game unlock different pairs of Air Jordans which can be used to gain attribute bonuses.

The Verdict

The most remarkable thing about NBA 2K11 is that it’s good in so many ways. It would easy to have been sold as just a vehicle with Jordan on the cover but instead they were creative about the presence of Number 23. Then there’s the truly enjoyable AI and the intelligent yet rewarding controls. This is just a joy to play.

Score: 9/10

NBA 2K11 is available at Gamestop from €44.99

One Response to “Review: NBA 2K11 on Xbox 360”

  1. [...] finally…Some of you no doubt recall our recent review of the excellent NBA 2K11. Normally 2K Sports are forced to compete with EA Sports in the sports games market but the [...]

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