If you were trapped on a desert island with just one video game…
NBA2K11 is a deep game, with play modes that will take you days just to try out. You have the stuff you expect: the season, franchise modes, playoffs and online games, but all are done so well that they should set the bar for basketball games to come. The AI again shines, especially when you play through a season or two and begin to work the draft and free agent market. There is always a sense of purpose to trades and an intelligence behind it, and each team is looking for specific trades to help their franchise, rather than just trying to nab every great player.
The create-a-player mode also returns, and 2K missed the mark on this a bit. It takes forever to get your player up to the NBA. It takes so long, that most people probably just won’t have the patience, unless they are utterly determined to see their own name in the game, and even when they do land their player in the NBA, it will still take a long time to build them up. Once you create your character, you will need to take him through an NBA combine and pull off a handful of requested plays. It is more of a chore than a treat, and it is not something you look forward to. There are a few cool reasons to do it, including press conferences where your answers determine how others play around you, and how the crowds treat you, but only the most determined will have the dedication to find out.
The NBA Blacktop, which adds a dunk contest, a three-point shootout, and a few other mini-games is alright, but more of a mini-game than anything worth getting excited over. It is a good addition though, just not an important one.
The online play was solid, but there were only a handful of people online when we tested the game. All the options you expect are to be found, including the ability to form or join a crew, and the option to be part of an online season. What we were able to play ran smoothly, and everything worked as you might hope. Once tens of thousands of get connected, the online play alone could make it worth the purchase.
If you are a basketball fan that enjoys video games, this game is an easy 10 out of 10, and nothing else comes close. For the more casual fan, the learning curve is going to be fairly steep, but if you give it a chance, the more you play, the more you will enjoy it.
A few minor problems mar the game, including seemingly preternatural defenses that have total awareness no matter where they are or what they are doing, and the graphics, in regards to the characters, border between weird and “meh.” The awareness is a deliberate attempt to make you play like differently, and the character animations are top notch, so it is easy to overlook the minor flaws.
The highest praise I can give this game is that even if you hate sports games in general, NBA2K11 is worth at least trying. It is definitely the best basketball game out, and it might even be the best sports game period, but that will come down to individual tastes. Everything in the game is there for a reason, and once you understand that reasoning, it all makes perfect sense. The game is already deep and the gameplay is stellar, but adding Jordan is almost unfair to all other basketball games. For NBA fans, this game is a must have.
9 out of 10
(This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 on a copy provided by 2K Sports)