Exclusive: NBA 2K12 Hands-On Preview

evolveteam September 2, 2011 1

After pushing 5 millions copies and winning every major Best Sports Game award last year, the NBA 2K series has become the premier basketball gaming series. The 2K11 entry raised the bar as far as improved gameplay and refined graphics, and with the exclusive agreement to have Michael Jordan grace the cover and serve as a playable character, it launched 2K Sports into a different stratosphere. Matter of fact, it was such a huge game that even before it launched, the developer put its biggest threat, EA, on the b-ball sideline: indefinitely. But now comes a new year, which means a new title and new features. So what has 2K Sports been working over the past couple of months? An endless amount of precision and detailing.

New Gameplay Features and Play-Call Options

The newly introduced Post Play System lets gamers execute post-up moves with a one-button press. In our test session it was the Y Button (Xbox 360). Executing the command allows a player to back down the opposition into the paint, as we experienced with the Dallas Mavs own Dirk Nowitzki, who demonstrated his signature leg-out, fade away jumper with finesse. Just like last year’s title, free throws are shot using the right analog, except this time 2K is pushing percentage feedback to improve a player’s free throw release. In layman’s terms—the higher your percentage is—the better chance of your shot going down.

The playbook calling system has undergone a minor facelift as well. It’s been simplified again to make for quick-play calls, plus gamers are given four instant options from the tip-off: post-up, isolation, getting open, and a pre-determined best play call. Advanced options are still intact for the avid shot-calling junkie, too. There’s also the ability to switch out playbooks with other teams, in game, and customize specific plays for each player (up to four).

The Legends Live

Seeing how the Michael Jordan experiment worked incredibly well last year, 2K decided to include 15 new legends such as cover stars Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, plus Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Patrick Ewing, and many more. There’s also a number of legendary teams to play as and against in the NBA’s Greatest Mode: letting you relive infamous on-court rivalries of the past.

Off the bat, you’ll notice the different presentation options, which are dependent on the teams you choose. Playing as the ’65 Celtics brings up a black and white display, while picking the ’70 Bucks introduces the grainy, discolored look of that TV era. You’re probably asking why would anyone want to play with that type of presentation value? Simple. The detailing on the graphics is so amazing and niche notables like the muffed-up microphone commentary do an incredible job of placing you back in that respective b-ball era. Speaking of commentary, the same modern broadcast team is used here, but the approach is different in that the announcers call the game from a historical perspective.

Going through each decade, you’ll notice the ballers’ style of play evolve, from the fossilized, hunched-back dribble to the modern crossover sway (which you can execute as the ’91 Warriors ala Tim Hardaway). We were looking to get Wilt Chamberlin on the foul line to see if the developers emulated his underhand shooting stance, but no such luck. On the other hand, we managed to put Jerry West’s shooting skills to the test, and judging by his never-miss shot accuracy and pinpoint follow-through, we went into a nostalgic coma for a sec thinking this was Live ’96 on the Sega Genesis. And that’s an incredible feeling.

Enhanced AI and Real-Time Updates

The game’s AI adapts much quicker to reckless passes and routine plays. Switching up the playbook becomes a necessity, so step up your passing accuracy or else you’ll constantly get jacked for the rock. Also, the basketball mechanics are more authentic, so when a player receives a pass you’ll notice there isn’t a suction-like motion to each catch. The ball stays in motion all the time, even to the point where players will fight for it during loose ball incidents.

If you’re big on crowd interaction, 2K went all out this year by making it even more realistic than ever. How so? You can pull crazy stunts like jump on top of the scorer’s table and hype/taunt the crowd. Push a player into the crowd row or take a leap into the front row. And if you’re playing as the away team, the front-row fans will push you around and back onto the court.

Aside from the expected roster amends that take place as the NBA season progresses, the developer is tackling on more meticulous, on-court updates. If any of the Jordan brand athletes such as Ray Allen or Chris Paul are sporting the latest or limited edition Jordan’s: you’ll see it in the game. When the crowd is given special-occasion t-shirts to sport for a big game (ex. Oklahoma City Thunder), expect to see the entire stadium filled with dark blue tees. Court logo and team jersey changes also fall under the new update criteria.

Final Impression

Minor gameplay improvements, along with the robust real-time system and Greatest Mode have NBA 2K12 at the top of every 2011 Sports Game of the Year list. Will it actually walk away with several awards like last year’s 2K11? C’mon. That’s more guaranteed than a Kobe buzzer beater.

Check out the latest NBA 2K12 Momentous Trailer while you’re here.