Review: NBA 2K11 (PS3)

Title: NBA 2K11
Format: Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: October 5, 2010
Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: Visual Concepts and 2K Sports
Price: $59.99
Extras: PlayStation Move Compatible

The long running 2K series by Visual Concepts returns for another season.  What started as a crowd favorite on the Sega Dreamcast has evolved over the years and with each generation of platforms.  The quality of game hasn’t always been as tight as the early Dreamcast titles but the latest iteration looks to change that.  Well, to be fair, NBA 2K11 isn’t drastically different than 2K10 but that’s not a bad thing since the series has grown and developed into the best basketball title currently available at least to those looking for more of a simulation (realistic) style game.  NBA 2K11 offers the most refined 2K formula and in doing so may be the best NBA videogame to date.

Simply put, NBA 2K11 plays a great game of basketball.  It’s fun to play and feels fluid and natural.

The game is loaded with modes including a Season with varying lengths, the Association mode which is a rich experience with the ability to micromanage almost every aspect of the club, online multiplayer, create a player and introduces a new suite of Michael Jordan inspired modes.  Not only does Jordan grace the cover of the game he also serves as a main component to the experience.  Immediately upon firing up the disc you’re treated to a classic NBA moment from the 1991 playoffs.  Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls face off against against Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers in game one of the series.  All retro rosters are represented and each player is modeled accurately.  A welcome treat, and this is simple but important, each player has their actual name; far too many sports games in the past have retro rosters but no player names (just jersey numbers).  Even cooler is the fact that each classic player and team play as they did back in their glory days.  Magic makes some no-look passes and Bird swishes three pointers like they’re going out of style.  Almost like the short shorts the old timers wear.

The Jordan challenge lets players relive ten legendary games from Michael Jordan’s career.  For example score X number of points against Y team while also shooting Z% for the game.  You can also use these teams and players in other game modes.  Can the 2010 Milwaukee Bucks match up against the ’94-95 Bulls?  Not well but it’s fun to play it out.

2K is known for street ball modes and 2K11 doesn’t disappoint as it includes “NBA Blacktop” mode.  Play a game 21 with Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Lebron James.  Or pick any other player combination you can think of combining current rosters with the classic ones.  Let’s see that big mouth of yours now Lebron.  Or maybe Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant should do a little one on one and settle the old argument.

But I digress, NBA 2K11 is a solid basketball game and isn’t that what’s most important?  The game is represented accurately including all aspects like passing, shooting, driving the lane, setting up screens, dunking, advanced dribble controls, alley oops, etc.  Some small annoyances exist but do little to detract from the overall experience.  Auto subs sometimes don’t put the starters back on the floor immediately following half time as one example.  If you’re looking for a realistic representation of basketball in a videogame, 2K11 is as close as they come and even the most critical basketball purists will find this game to be “nothing but net”.

Controls are never over complicated nor too simplistic.  Basically if it’s in the game of basketball you can probably pull it off in 2K11.  The game even includes Move controls and believe it or not they actually work quite well.  You have endless choices of control options so you won’t be fighting with a control scheme and can therefore focus on a fun game of hoops.

Animations are superb and NBA player models look amazingly accurate.  Well, most of them do; a couple look scary and almost like aliens.  Hardwood courts shine and reflect arena lights, the crowd moves and acts appropriately, and NBA players animate so well that friends and family may mistake the videogame for the real thing upon first entering the room.  All NBA players look like their real life counterparts but more importantly they also move like the real deal.  Dwayne Wade can slash to the hoop and Brandon Jennings can cut to the outside in the blink of an eye and both look like they should in the process.  There isn’t just a small guy, a tall guy and a fat guy each with their own animation style.  Instead every player is modeled to size and weight and each move and shoot just as they do in the real game.  And for once they almost all look right or in other words the developers went to great lengths in modeling every single player.

Great graphics aside, the visual presentation is impressive and worth mentioning.  More than just simple half time highlights, which the game also has, there are signature highlights available for each player at the conclusion of every game.  Yes it contains the best moments for that particular player but it’s presented with a high quality production value.  Colors shift, replays of sweet dunks freeze at the point of impact, camera spins around a player while zooming in on a steal, and so on.  I enjoyed the highlights so much I found myself watching almost every player.

Running down the court in your high top sneakers while the crowd cheers all around you immerses you into the experience.  Toss on top of that a TV style presentation which includes commentators Kevin Harlan, Clark Kellog, and Cheryl Miller creates an audio experience that compliments the game effectively.  Commentary isn’t just limited to play by play.  Like a real broadcast it also includes backstory and historical reference throughout the game.  Adds a nice touch and makes the experience that much more lifelike.  Arena announcers call each players name and the crowd correctly reacts to gameplay with cheers or jeers and does so in full surround sound utilizing the back speakers rather well.  Physical dunks rattle not only the rim but also the subwoofer.

An important standard, updated rosters via download, are included as is something a little more sophisticated; NBA Today 2.0.  Real world matchups, news, stats and a half time show recapping not only your in-game highlights but also real NBA scores and player stats from around the league.  Of course there’s also some online multiplayer game modes including an online league.  I was so engrossed in my single player season that I didn’t try out the online league aspect of the game.

2K has been making basketball games since the Sega Dreamcast days and each year brings more refined controls, better visuals and improved gameplay.  NBA 2K11 is easily the best simulation style basketball video game currently available on the PS3 but may also be the best basketball game ever.  If you’re a fan of the sport, even a casual one, NBA 2K11 is a blast to play and a must own.  You may never need another basketball video game but then again buying each yearly iteration is all a part of the “sickness”.  Consider NBA 2K11 the cure.


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