Here we have stumbled across the major flaw of NBA 2K11; the difficulty. Now far be it for me to berate any game for having a high level of difficulty in fact a challenging gaming experience is always a welcome sight in the current generation of gaming but a line has to be drawn somewhere. Now I’m going to assume that you Mr. or Mrs. Reader are from Europe, maybe the UK, Ireland, France or somewhere in this general vicinity. I’m going to then assume that you are aware of basketball as a sport, you maybe even played an older game on the Sega Mega Drive, who knows?
Well rather unfortunately 2K don’t care, they don’t care that you might be unfamiliar with the rules of the sport, they don’t care you haven’t played a basketball game since 1994, and they don’t care that you aren’t happy with your romantic life! Whislt the last one is an exaggeration, the other two are not, 2K really don’t take lack of experience or interest into consideration.
There are no tutorials in plain sight, no explanation on how the sport’s finer rules work and despite his appearance on the cover no Michael Jordan addressing you on any of the modes, options or details of the game. You are quite simply left to your own devices. The question is should this be an issue for bringing the game down? I plainly don’t think so and I’ll explain why. I’m a football fan (soccer to Americans) and I would be more than a little frustrated if when I began to play the latest version of my favourite football title the game began to patronizingly hold my hand, pat me on the head and guide me through all the rules of the game and how to play like a big boy. It would be insulting and let’s face it unnecessary and this is exactly how basketball fans feel about their sporting games.
So learning how to play is more than a little tricky when you don’t know the rules or haven’t played a basketball game in a while. Luckily I had and I have some knowledge of the sport so started up the game without much trepidation. This was unbelievably misguided it turns out as the AI in the game are all channeling the spirit of the cover star. Every shot I threw was batted away by a burly giant of a player, most passes were expertly intercepted and every shot by an opponent player whizzed into my basket with ease. This was on a medium level of difficulty, changing it to the easiest setting did little difference. Simply put the game is very very hard even with a basic knowledge of rules and controls. Just having played a basketball game in the past couple of years is plainly not enough. I warn you dear reader, consider purchasing the game carefully before you do so as it may result in broken controllers.
By now you’ve realised that NBA 2K11 is a hardcore basketball title, it’s assumed if you love basketball and know the game inside out then you’ll love NBA 2K11 and boy are they right! The whole experience is a tender love letter to the sport as a whole and to one man specifically; Michael Jordan. A legend of the game and known even on this side of the Atlantic thanks mostly to Bugs Bunny and friends (that Space Jam reference wasn’t misplaced after all). It’s the inclusion of Jordan that gives the game it’s major selling point as you can take part in several new game modes. “Jordan Challenge” allows players to take part in 10 of Jordan’s career accomplishments, playing as the big man himself.
In “MJ: Creating a Legend”, players will guide Jordan to becoming a legend in any NBA team of their choice. It gives the game a nostalgic air and this is aided by the fact that Jordan will actually age as players progress him through his career. Other game modes include the normal exhibition modes where players can play random matches with any team of their choosing. Players can also take part in online games and whilst improvements have definitely been made to the multiplayer experience there is still some lag evident. On the whole however it’s a drastic improvement. There is so much to mention in this game and so little time, it’s the greatest basketball game ever made and one of the best sports titles too, if you can get around the perilously steep learning curve then you’re in for a real treat.
- Visually stunning and presents a richly detailed match environment to play in.
- Controls have been improved immeasurably and once grasped can lead to one of the most enjoyable sports experiences around.
- Michael Jordan provides a batch of brand new modes which as well as being a dream come true for Jordan fans are superbly entertaining too.
- Unrelentingly difficult and almost impossible for newcomers to pick up and play.
- For hardcore fans of basketball only.
- Lack of visual feedback for shooting can lead to a throw and hope culture.
As a gaming experience, taking it a part, category by category the game comes across very well indeed. Visually it’s stunningly detailed and coupled with the presentation values it creates a highly realistic and compelling environment to be a part of. The gameplay is tough but mirrors the realism of the visuals and is still fun to play. There are a slew of new game modes and plenty to keep you playing up until next year’s installment comes around. The dilemma over whether to purchase the game comes down to your willingness to knuckle down and learn how to play a basketball game. It will take work but you won’t find a better virtual outlet for your passion once you do.