NBA 2K is one of my favorite sports gaming franchises and last year with NBA 2K11, 2K Sports set a standard by which all other sports game would have to be measured. NBA 2K11 was not only a great game, but an excellent blend of authentic gameplay and presentation that we hadn’t seen before. This gave me very high hopes for what NBA 2K12 would deliver, and while it does do some really good things, as a whole I don’t feel it could be called a superior game to NBA 2K11. That in itself is a huge disappointment and a wasted opportunity.
Gameplay & Controls
NBA 2K12 has a lot of nice improvements to gameplay that were sorely needed. One of the biggest things that has been improved is passing. Anyone who played NBA 2K11 knows how much of a mess passing was last year. In NBA 2K12, passing has been drastically improved to the point where you can actually throw a decent lead pass. Passing still has a lot of room for improvement, but this was a really good start.
One of the most amazing things about NBA 2K12 is the sheer number of moves that you can perform. This is no doubt the deepest set of moves that I have ever seen in a NBA video game. These moves allow you to perform a majority of the same moves you see your favorite NBA star perform on the court. There is a problem though, there are way too many of them and the controls are too complicated. The net result of this is that most people will find a few moves that they can do, remember and master those few, and finally use only those few. I like what 2K Sports tried to do by adding all the moves, but it has to be simplified somehow to allow the moves to be performed without having to remember all these complicated button combinations. In terms of alternate control configurations, its definitely meant to be played with the default. I’m old school, I prefer to crossover with the rightstick like in the old days but if you change you control configuration be prepared to have even less functionality and to have a harder time trying to remember things. All the tutorials are based on the default configuration. When it comes to shooting, it is also more difficult. Even when you get a perfect release, you will miss much more often than in 2K11 and the CPU will miss much less.
NBA’s Greatest Mode
This mode fills the void that the dedicated “MJ” mode left from last year and it works amazingly well. In fact, I think it’s better. While a lot of folks enjoyed the Jordan Challenge from last year some people found it difficult to complete and got frustrated with it. None of the games in “Greatest” mode are that difficult. You just have to master the playstyle of each team you are playing with. I think it presents enough variety and challenge to keep people entertained, without frustrating them the way that the Jordan Challenge did last year.
My Player Mode
My Player mode is quickly becoming the signature of the NBA 2K franchise and this year it is deeper than ever. The mode has seen some significant changes this year and for the most part they all work to perfection (with a few major issues). Instead of a Draft Combine, after creating your character you get to show what you’ve got in the Rookie Showcase, which is essentially a college All-Star Game. After this game, you will be interviewed by 3 interested teams. They will ask you questions and your answers will determine whether or not they think you are a good fit. This is a really slick feature to let the player somewhat control where they will play since if you answer negatively to a team they probably won’t draft you. Once you do get signed, you get your picture taken with the commissioner and then it is off to sign your rookie deal. A new feature to NBA 2K12 My Player is the ability to negotiate your contract, but unfortunately that doesn’t apply to your 2 year rookie contract, so you just have to take the salary they have slotted based on where you were taken. Your rookie deal won’t make you a big baller, but it will get you on your way. From that point on, it will be important to play well because you are essentially playing to make sure your next contract is as big as it can be. The better you play, the more leverage you will have in contract negotiations when they come. You are probably wondering, “Why does it matter how much money I make?” New to My Player mode this year is the ability to use your career earnings to do a plethora of different things to improve your player. At the most basic levels, you can use your money to actually buy skill points if you think it is taking too long to actually earn them. Another nice feature is the ability to pay to boost the cap on certain attributes. In NBA 2K11, based on your style of player and position, there were caps on how much you could improve some attributes. For instance, a center could only be so good at passing. In NBA 2K12, you can spend your money to up the cap on your guys passing, so that your 7’0, 300 lb center could dish it with the best of them if you wanted.
You can also use your money to put on activities that will have varying affects on how both the public and your teammates perceive you. You can do things like Host a Youth Basketball Clinic to increase your popularity with the local fans, or take your teammates out to dinner to help improve team chemistry. Last but not least, you can use your funds to purchase Signature Moves. If you are going to be a high-flying shooting guard, you gotta have MJ’s dunk package right? Or how about Ray Allen’s free throw routine? The concept of using your earnings in all these different ways adds quite a bit of depth to the mode. All the old goodies like getting endorsements and billboards are back, but this year you can even get featured in commercials.
For everything that NBA 2K12 does well with My Player mode, there is one glaring issue with it in my opinion. The propensity of your player to miss wide open shots and layups is ridiculous. When I first started playing the mode I thought it was me. I played with several different playstyles and positions and the results were the same. I understand that your guy is a rookie and that means he has a lot to learn, but anybody good enough to get drafted can make a layup with consistency. Unfortunately, more times than not in NBA 2K12 My Player, you will find your player blowing layups that a kid could make. The worst part is that it can cost you games because you can’t be trusted to make even wide open “give me” shots. Literally, the ball just seems to magically roll away from the center of the rim. I don’t get upset when I play games most of the time, but the amount of open shots my guy was missing almost made me throw my controller. I don’t know why the shooting is so bad. Even when you have a perfect feedback on your release, the odds are that you will miss, which is frustrating. It’s so bad that I had dedicate a whole article to discussing NBA 2K12 My Player shooting issues. And then there are the freezing issues in NBA 2K12 My Player mode that have some folks ready to take the game back and never play it again.
It’s almost impossible for me to talk about this because it has been so horrendous for most of the time since the game came out with all the random disconnections happening. A patch was recently released for the mode that is supposed to address some of these issues, but at this point I haven’t honestly been able to get enough actual online gameplay to have any opinion on it.
NBA 2K12 is a very good game, I just don’t know that it is great in the way that NBA 2K11 was. With no competition from another NBA title this year, it seems like 2K Sports psyched themselves out a bit. They tried to add some drastic improvements to the game when I think a lot of players would have been happy with further refinement on the issues from NBA 2K11. In some cases they did just that – especially with putting a larger focus on the postgame and passing. In other areas like the trade logic in My Player mode, they failed miserably. Last year player’s complained that there was really no movement in terms of teams making trades. This year your team will make all kinds of ridiculous trades that make absolutely no sense. NBA 2K12 is a very good game, but something is missing and I can’t quite put my finger on what that is. To tell you the truth, it may indeed be “better” than NBA 2K11. However, it’s just not as enjoyable for some reason. With inconsistent shooting logic, several My Player issues and atrocious online issues, I reluctantly and sadly give NBA 2K12 by 2K Sports 8.5 out of 10.