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NBA 2K12 Review (X360)

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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NBA 2K12 Review (X360)
2K Sports
NBA 2K11 was a gushy love letter to Michael Jordan. NBA 2K12 is an NBA history lesson taking you through many of the dominant players and teams that have played in the NBA over the years. And it is also, of course, a modern basketball simulation. Which is a good thing, because NBA 2K12 might be the only pro basketball fans get to watch this year if the NBA lockout doesn't get sorted soon. Considering that NBA 2K12 is just about perfect, though, the wait won't be so bad. This is the best basketball game on Xbox 360 by a pretty fair margin.
Game Details

  • Publisher: 2K Sports
  • Developer: Visual Concepts
  • ESRB Rating: “E" for Everyone
  • Genre: Basketball
  • Pros: Great presentation; commentary; My Player mode; solid gameplay; sliders; soundtrack
  • Cons: Inconsistent player models; occasionally odd animation

Features

NBA 2K12 has all the features we've come to expect from the series - The Association dynasty mode, quick play, etc. are all back and similar to last year. Which is a good thing since last year's entry fixed a lot of issues, particularly with The Association. Because of the current NBA lockout, however, some of the series' best features - the NBA Today and Living Rosters which continuously updated teams and players to reflect their real life counterparts - are MIA and you have to pretty much re-live the '10/'11 season instead. Just like the bad old days of sports games before everything could be updated on a daily basis. Oh noes!

The presentation of the game makes it feel like a real NBA season anyway, though. Big upcoming, purely virtual, matchups are advertised between quarters of games you're currently playing. Because of the graphics and announcers and the way everything is presented, it almost feels like you're just watching games on TNT instead of playing a videogame. That sounds like hyperbole, but you really do get sort of hyped up for the next big matchup, even if it is just virtual. A nice feature is that you can let the CPU play and just sit back and watch, and thanks to the presentation, it feels pretty close to a real game anyway.

NBA's Greatest and My Player

2K Sports
To fill that gaping hole left by not having a real NBA season, NBA 2K12 offers a couple of interesting additional modes. First is the NBA's Greatest mode, which lets you choose from one of 15 of the greatest players in NBA history (Jordan, Magic, Bird, Kareem, Ewing, Malone, etc.) and play through some of the biggest games of their careers. The games are absolutely period accurate, which means all of the players from both of the teams in each game, the TV graphics and presentation of the era, even the length of the shorts. And all of the commentary is period accurate as well, and it is interesting to experience some players hitting their career peaks, while younger players haven't quite made themselves into stars quite yet.

The other main mode is My Player Mode. My Player is NBA 2K's "Be a Pro"-type mode where you play as just one player on the court and are responsible for making good passes, playing smart defense, and generally not getting in the way. We struggled with My Player a bit last year, as it started out so slowly with your player pretty much sucking for the first few hours, but that has been remedied in 2K12 with your player being able to make more of an impact and play well early on. Now you go from an opening game to determine your draft worthiness, to the draft, and right into the NBA rather than spending any time in the d-league. It is a lot more fun this way. As you play, you earn XP that lets you upgrade stats so you can play even better next time. You work your way up from a sub to starter to All-Star to MVP and beyond, and it is a very satisfying trip.

Gameplay

The gameplay isn't dramatically different from last year, but has little touches of refinement and balancing that makes it better overall. The A.I. has seen some improvements, with much better defensive A.I. this time around. Without a doubt, it is still the best simulation of professional basketball on the market.

Or if you don't want a sim, 2K's fantastic gameplay sliders let you adjust the game to play however you like. I say it every year, but I love sliders. Not everyone wants a true, hardcore sim. Some folks just like to score and see their favorite players do what they do. NBA 2K12 lets you do both.

Graphics

The presentation is a huge part of the overall experience. It really is just crazy good and absolutely nails TV-style graphics, camera shots and cuts, and all of the little details you'd want. Right down to the Suns Gorilla shooting t-shirts into the crowd or harassing the referees during timeouts. The players look good for the most part with some players looking identical to their real life counterparts. Some players look hideously ugly, though, and just plain wrong, and it is those moments where the camera cuts to a close up to say, a creepily dead-eyed Steve Nash, that absolutely breaks any illusion that you might be watching a real game instead of playing a videogame. Also, while the animation is smooth and realistic for the most part, some aspects of the game are strangely fast and too jumpy and look strange where the rest of the game is so realistic.

2K Sports
Sound

The sound is also pretty spectacular. The commentary is really something special as they don't just talk about the action in the game you're playing, but talk about every aspect of the teams and players involved. That means I have to hear a lot about how the Suns are rebuilding and pretty much suck now, which is just how a real game would be too. The music in the menus also really clicked for me this year. It is all rap and hip-hop, not my typical favorite genres, but the song selection this year just works remarkably well.

Bottom Line

The best NBA game on Xbox 360 just got better. The gameplay is mostly familiar, but improved with 360-degree post play, unprecedented controls over your shots with the right stick, and better A.I.. The real changes here come in the form of the NBA's Greatest mode, which lets all of the people who say basketball was better 20 years ago prove it by letting you unlock and use all of the great classic teams featured in the mode and pit them against current teams. And the My Player mode is greatly improved with a much brisker pace and more satisfying progression overall. And the presentation bar has been raised about 5 notches with some of the absolute best commentary and visual presentation in any sports game yet. NBA 2K11 was already great, but NBA 2K12 is a step even beyond that and is highly recommended.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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