WOW… That is the first word that comes to mind having played this game. I will admit I was a bit sceptical picking the game up, even if I did get a staff discount on it, as I have always been a firm fan of the EA Sports franchise when it comes to sports games. To me they have always given the most authentic gaming experience to sports games, especially the FIFA and Madden games that come out once a year. I had always believed the same was true of their NBA series of games too, I have bought them loyally every year from 2003 onwards, firstly on my Playstation 2 and then later on the Xbox 360. They have always been very hard to track down and find too, Ireland is not the biggest market in the world for basketball games, I even had to resort to buying last year’s installment online but was not dissapointed. There has always been the general concensus too that the 2K franchise of basketball games was better, but I never bought into it and remained loyal to the EA brand. In truth it is only because this year’s EA game, NBA Elite 11 has been pushed back until January that I decided to give this game a go, to fill the void if anything else. Now though, I am unsure if I will part with my money at all when NBA Elite does finally come out next year, staff discount or not.
To begin with, the opening sequence of this game blew me away. Having Micheal Jordan as their poster boy this year (Shown above) is a massive coup for them, I’m sure nearly most people in the world would be aware of who he is and have some idea of what he has achieved in the sport. The game begins with you in the tunnel with Jordan and then running on court, and then you are expected to actually play a game their and then! The game in question, a 1991 finals against the Los Angeles Lakers with Jordan’s Chicago Bulls is a very famous one in it’s own right, it was Micheal Jordan’s first appearance at a finals and Magic Johnson, another of the all time greats, last. And to actually be able to play the game right their and then just took me by total surprise. No tutorials, no practising, just straight into the action before a menu has even been seen. Naturally I got hammered as it took me half of the game to get the hang of the new controls associated with the game, but just being able to run around the court as Micheal Jordan felt brilliant, it was a joy to lose as I played out a piece of basketball history, with the venue and commentary spot on and feeling the right kind of dated aswell.
Once you get stuck into the game modes it is even clearer to see that this game means business. Highlights include being able to play classic teams against current ones in one on one games (Kobe versus Jordan anybody?), a solid season mode in which you play the games, but also take part in press conferences and watch players enter the arenas in fancy suits before the games, really exceptionally detailed stuff. Then on top of that you have the Jordan Challenge, which could have almost been a stand alone game in itself. Here you get to play as Jordan, putting him on the team of your choice and reshaping his career, as well as taking ten of his most iconic moments and replaying them in your own living room. This gives the game the edge over any others that have come before it in my opinion, being able to recreate history with iconic fully licensed players and teams.
A quick note has to go to the gameplay itself. Although a little tricky to get used to, when you do finally get the hang of it it feels all the more satisfying pulling off that high flying dunk or that sweet behind the back pass. Half time match reports and analysis from reporters feel just like the real thing too, a really nice touch. Flaws are few and far between, but for casual gamers looking to pick up and play with friends this may not be for them because of the intricate controls. The pace is quite slow at times too, with replays and cut scenes to benches a plenty, breaking up the flow, but this is very like how real basketball is played out so serious basketball gamers should not be put off by this. Passes can sometimes go astray too but really that would be clutching at straws to try and find problems with this game.
This game is never going to win the game of the year award, that title will most probably go to a Halo or a Call of Duty. It probably won’t even win anything in it’s own sports catagory with the FIFA and Madden games being seriously strong and popular this year, but it really should win something. It has taken a game that essentially will be similar every single year and just turned it into something completely different, adding on so many new features that will keep the gamer coming back long after they grow tired of playing just the game. 2K have done a great job here and firmly left EA Sports with a lot of catching up to do. For them, their main concern will be trying to top this effort next year. A must buy.
(The trailer for the game NBA 2K11)