NBA 2K11 Review

By Mike D'Alonzo - Posted Oct 05, 2010

NBA 2K11 is the gold standard for the genre. 2K might consider taking the year off in 2012, because they're going to have a really hard time topping this. Of course, perhaps they're counting on the Mayans being right and the world ending, which might be just fine, because it's going to take an event like that for basketball fans to stop playing this game.

The Pros
  • Quite simply, the best basketball game on the market
  • Amazingly deep content which will keep gamers playing for months
  • The Jordan Challenge adds a new, very entertaining wrinkle
The Cons
  • Very, very complex control scheme can be difficult to master
  • The Jordan Challenge is occasionally counter-intuitive

Michael Jordan graces the cover of NBA 2K11, and is the focus of a great deal of the marketing for the game. The appearance of the greatest to ever play the game for the first time in the next generation of gaming is apt, because NBA 2K11 is quite simply the best basketball videogame to date.

The people at 2K Sports have been relentless in their improvements to the NBA 2K franchise, and, this time around, they have nailed every aspect of the game with innovation and depth to spare.



At Guard...From the University Of North Carolina...

Since it is so out in front, the first thing to look at with NBA 2K11 is the integration of MJ into the game. The Jordan Challenge is a game mode that features 10 of Jordan's most prolific and legendary games and asks you to replicate his feats on the court. Think of a key moment, and it's likely here. The Flu Game? Check. The Shrug Game? Check. The gamewinner versus the Jazz to take home the 1998 NBA Championship? What do you think? Also, for afficianados, MJ's role players are here to help him along. Is that Dave Corazine? You bet your ass it is. Do you remember that "The Iceman" George Gervin once played with the Bulls? The people at 2K sure did, and he's here, too.

Let's not get too ahead of ourselves, here, though. You don't just become Michael Jordan by button mashing. These challenges are seriously hard, and they will often times make you question your basketball philosophy. How can you get the man to 63 points without having him hog the ball on every possession? The short answer is, you can't, and you might lose the game (and, ostensibly, team chemistry) in the process. However, this is a trifle compared to how fun and uniquely challenging these games are.

Rack up these comical statistics, and you will be rewarded with another mode, called MJ: Creating a Legend, which will allow you to start Jordan's career again as a rookie, but placed in the current NBA. Do you want to see him play with Kobe Bryant and see how they jell? You can. How about adding him to the new-look Heat? Not a problem.

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You could play NBA 2K11 using only aspects of Michael Jordan's career, and it would be a pretty awesome game, but that's only a fraction of what's here for you, in what is easily the deepest basketball game ever, and one of the deepest sports games I've ever seen, full stop. It will literally take you months to get through this game on the first play, if you devote yourself to trying out each part of it, and, given that every part is just as good as the last, you're going to want to make sure you do that.

The presentation of the game is so absolutely breathtaking that you will honestly think you're watching a basketball game on television. Add to that the stellar announce team of Kevin Harlan and Clark Kellogg, camera angles that make it feel real, and even promos for upcoming games that mirror what you'd see on television, and you can tell that the developers at Visual Concepts really know their stuff when it comes to roundball.

Association mode allows you to steer a franchise from draft day through the playoffs and, potentially, to an NBA Championship. Oh, and, if you're lucky enough to win that championship, you get to visit President Obama at the White House. How cool is that? My Career lets you create a player, run him through the NBA Draft Combine, get drafted, have press conferences, earn endorsements, get on magazine covers, and live a very complete online baller lifestyle.



From Downtown...YES!

All of the presentation would fall flat on its face if the game mechanics weren't just as good. Don't worry, they are. Now, you're going to have to work at getting good at the new Dynamic Shot Control and IsoMotion Dribbling controls, mostly using the analog sticks, as there are nearly 50 moves to learn and incorporate into a game situation. Seriously, you could play the tutorial on NBA 2K11 for hours trying to master these moves. Stepthroughs, reverse layups, hop-step layups, crossovers, Euro layups, fadeaways...if you think of a move you can make playing the game of basketball, odds are real, real good it's here for you to master. It's going to require patience, but getting it right is mighty satisfying.

Free throws have become more intuitive, as well. As opposed to old basketball games, where you lineup a reticule or a meter or some such, you only need to know your shooter's motion to make it work. Again, it can be tricky, but it's intuitive once you get the hang of it.

Now, you can play the game old school, by pressing buttons to accomplish your goals, if you're not into getting super deep with the control system, but you'd be doing yourself a disservice.

The PS3 version of NBA 2K11 has PlayStation Move support. I played this game with the Move, and, while it is hardly the worst use of the new peripheral, it definitely feels like something that was tacked on midway (or later) through the development process. What is subtle and artistic about the game with a dual-stick controller becomes a frustrating hack-with-a-big-lollipop adventure here. I have no doubt that given a year with the Move technology, 2K will be able to come up with something just as good, but this isn't it.



He SLAMS It Home!

If you think that's all there is to NBA 2K11, you're sorely mistaken. The Blacktop mode gives you a slam dunk contest, a 3 point shooting contest, one-on-one, and a game of 21, using all kinds of players, including, once again, Michael Jordan. Watching a dunk-off between Jordan, and, say, LeBron James, is a thing of beauty. Again, dunking is hard to get a hang of, but it's very sweet once you do.

The soundtrack is amazing, vacillating from Alan Parsons Project's 'Sirius,' also known as the classic intro for the Chicago Bulls, to new music recorded exclusively for the game from Snoop Dogg. You can earn Air Jordans from every era for accomplishments you make in the game, download rosters, upload highlights, mix beats, and more. These things, alone, are things you can play with for hours on end.


NBA 2K11 is the gold standard for the genre. 2K might consider taking the year off in 2012, because they're going to have a really hard time topping this. Of course, perhaps they're counting on the Mayans being right and the world ending, which might be just fine, because it's going to take an event like that for basketball fans to stop playing this game.

2K11 is not only the best basketball game I've ever played, it's one of the best sports games I've ever played, and a serious contender for Game of the Year.