A comment that popped up during our review of NBA 2K11 went thus: “I want to be able to play like Michael Jordan. I don’t want to actually have to learn to play like him.” That absolutely sums up our experience with 2K Sports latest entry to the jumping tall men sport.
Be under no illusions, though – this is clearly a good game. Oozing with polish and fantastic presentation, it looks and sounds the part. As for control – if there’s something you can do in the real life sport, you can do it in the game. Just don’t expect to be able to do it with any great ease. In fact, don’t expect to be able to do anything at all for your first few games.
It’s not just that the control scheme is bewildering in its complexity, it’s that the AI – even on the lowest difficulty setting – has no qualms with simply walking all over you. Constantly being beaten to the net and with little feedback as to why does not lend itself to a fun experience, and there are unquestionably times where the computer uses its power over the game for nefarious ends. Interceptions, we’re looking at you.
But the main problems – and frustrations – stem from the defensive side of the game. When it comes to attack, 2K11 really does shine quite bright. It’s a steep learning curve and a lot of newcomers and more casual players might not actually understand what in the name of zombie jebus they’re trying to do, but soon enough the Isomotion system becomes second nature. Jinking, switching the ball behind the back, hesitations, other things we don’t quite understand the names of – it’s all there, and more importantly it’s all useful.
Then of course there’s the addition of Michael Jordan – this isn’t mere window-dressing. Space Jam’s finest is accompanied by the classic Chicago Bulls teams of his era, meaning Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant are also faithfully recreated. The main mode with Jordan involves recreating some of his greatest feats on the court, and while it’s a good idea it just highlights how unfair the game can be at times. Still, it’s welcome and certainly not something that’s been crowbarred in.
We’re making a judgement call here: we won’t punish 2K11 for being so bloody hard, but consider yourselves warned. It isn’t a welcoming experience.