(Previously… Dead Rising 2)

Sports games are a commitment unlike other games, one where time spent and progress is much more amorphous. Because goals are immediate or stretched out over insanely long amounts of time the time to gratification equation isn’t the same. Some folks are able to coast on the love of their support, the ability to play as their favorite players, or having their own effigy in the sport they love. In God of War you can’t simply enjoy the game simply because Greek Mythology is your favorite Mythology and coast on seeing Kratos frolic in the ruins. It needs to have a story that grabs you, gameplay mechanics that further the genre, or some gimmick that justifies the expense. Sports games don’t.

Sport games are also a weird bag because some of the franchises are allowed to simply tweak a little each year and somehow have a reason for being. There’s no such thing as leaps and bounds. It’s fine tuning and keeping up with the market, and though a lot of the publishers do a lot of ancillary additions I personally haven’t understood the value of a lot of it. I pull my hair out each year at the features the publishers aren’t pursuing that enhance and customize the experience, especially in baseball games but also in basketball. The limitations and rigid measurements of the playing surface doesn’t allow for a massive amount of customization but because the licenses are so expensive and prohibitive creativity is the farthest thing from a developer’s mind. With that said, I’ve put some extensive time into all the major franchises on all the major sports over the past few years and have always been on the fence on the overall value of many of the bigger sports titles in this corporate approach to game making. There seems to be more emphasis on the cover athlete and how realtime scores syndicate onscreen than in new facets to the gameplay.

NBA 2K11 is apparently the best basketball game ever made so I had to belly up considering that I gave up on the franchise after 2K9. What does two hours with the game give you? Read on…


NBA 2K11 has gone back to 1991 with its approach, embracing the history of the game and its greatest player rather than pull the expected and showcase the newly supercharged Miami Heat and its trio of terror. Michael Jordan as we’ve never seen him in a video game before: photorealistic. In his heyday His Airness was all over the video game market but there’s only so much you can accomplish on the SNES or even Sega Dreamcast. When you start the game you’re thrust into the first game of the 1991 Championship Series between the Lakers and Bulls as you try and guide Michael, Scottie Pippin, and the babyfaced B.J. Armstrong against Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and their coach Phil Jackson (who looks Tron Legacy-like in this youthful incarnation).

It’s a good start for a game. Especially now when the NBA is seemingly struggling to find a balance when its big stars either have proven mercenary (Lebron), unsavory (Kobe), or downright boring (Duncan). 1991 was the tail end of possibly the best era in the sports’ lifetime and jumping into the jerseys of these characters really helps set the mood. The controls feel more finely tuned and the shot stick mechanism seems more forgiving and responsive than before. It’s still awkward at times but is a step in the right direction. Passing is easy with the A button and you can call up individual buttons should you want to thread the needle and have really focused passing options. I found myself passing, scoring, and making a lot of fast breaks out of the gate, only soon realizing that I was working one of the best teams of all time. Of course the three pointers got drained. Of course the paint was Michael Jordan’s bitch. I beat the Lakers handily in Game One before trying the other features in the game. The clock was ticking, after all.

The Association is 2K Sports’ franchise mode and it is truly in-depth. I was able to quickly acclimate and put a Hawks team together and get a feel for it. Having seen the gameplay I checked out the myriad menus and options and they are plentiful. If one wanted a nice complete facsimile of what it’s like to own an NBA team, this is your Huckleberry. It’s not head and shoulders above the previous versions but there is a sense of finesse and completion that wasn’t there before. In 2K9 the usage of the right thumbstick to call up menu options was clunky and here it makes sense and everything feels organic.

I was already an hour into the test run by then so I figured I’d create a player. That’s the real gold for a guy like me and I wasn’t disappointed. While you can’t create a human atrocity like you can in the Tiger Woods games (I have made some distended, mottled abominations in my day in that game) you can make a rather hideous beast. In my case, I unearthed a white-haired albino with African American features who was tall for a point guard but has enough touch on his three-point shit and ball handling skills that he was serviceable. When you create a player in this game they put you into the combine (as opposed to Columbine, which would require different skills) and you have to earn your draft slot.

Remember how easily I accomplished stuff with Michael Jordan and his buddies? This wasn’t like that. I got manhandled.

I played two games with my created character Milky Wheelchair (#13 in your program) and found it to be fun, frustrating, and conclusive evidence that this game is so deep I expected to find Ed Harris shakily typing as I made my way through the menu system.

Steve’s two hour jaunt with Dead Rising left him amused but somewhat indifferent. My two hours with this left me wanting more and realizing I’d just only scratched the surface.

GOOD

  • The graphics and physical modeling is incredible. It’s as real as video game basketball has ever looked and moved.
  • The presentation is also amazing, with little nuances aplenty as the experience of basketball is recreated.
  • The only way to be more closely connected to the sport is to be in it.
  • The mascots are always bustin’ ass on the sidelines!
  • They almost pull off the emotion and intensity of the sport at its finest.

BAD

  • The controls are a little weird at
    first, and some may find them a little sluggish and unresponsive at times.
  • The music is lowest common denominator nonsense that is exactly the kind of dreck that makes games like this annoying until you’re able to insert your own music or mute them.
  • Massive time suck if you want to be competitive.
  • The quarter length it defaults to leads to 60 point games, which typically don’t exist in basketball. The only way to hope for realistic stats is to aim for 10+ minute quarter lengths.

If you love basketball games, there’s none better.