NBA 2K12 Impressions: Online Play

Posted October 11th, 2011 at 1:30 pm

It has now been a full week since NBA 2K12 arrived – plenty of time to iron out standard online play issues the accompany the typical release frame.

It is especially worrisome then that online play has yet to see marked improvement. Server issues, lag/disconnects, and removed features all add up to arguably the worst online experience for a major sports title in recent memory. 

It’s difficult to give the usual full assessment of online play given that much of NBA 2K12’s online hasn’t worked or done so only intermittently. Disconnects happen so frequently, and the server is down so often, that getting in the necessary number of games before coming to a conclusion has been challenging. Just getting started on some occasions has proven difficult as 2K12 searches for minutes or indefinitely without pulling an opponent to connect to.

One of the first things noticed is the removal of lobby rooms. These were hidden last year in NBA 2K11, which may have been a precursor to removing them all together. That makes it more difficult to actually get a game in as it was a resource used by many. Jerseys can’t even be changed – another new development. Sadly there still isn’t the ability to take saved playbooks or settings and have them reflected online. Users still have to wait around without the ability to do anything while an opponent makes changes in the pause menu. Names now display below players on the court rather than the opposition’s gamertag thankfully.

Lag can be overwhelming and disconnects are prevalent. The majority of games get disconnected early – within a minute or two but can at any point during a game (and your record takes a loss for those). Those that do stick are often plagued by heavy lag. The delay in responsiveness is stark and difficult to adjust to. That 2K removed the ability to turn on shot feedback makes it even harder to get the hang of. At least with that feature users could see whether they were releasing shots early or late. Free throws get especially tough to figure out as well.

Quite possibly the biggest disappointment, as it held so much potential, comes with Online Association (find the comprehensive impressions here). Admin control is nearly non-existent and head-to-head games have had trouble connecting (and even if they do they’re plagued by the same problems found elsewhere online). If the server drops, which happens frequently, it’ll result in a sim of the game whether head-to-head or playing the CPU at the time with no option to reset results. The locked advancement periods are not only prohibitive to how users may want to progress but so confusing that no one has a clear picture of how it all actually works. Having removed the traditional online leagues has only created more complaints given that the structure of Online Association and lack of commish options simply won’t work for many.

It’s flat out embarrassing that, which has been promoted as housing advertised features expected for the game’s release, still hasn’t even launched. Online leaderboards, My Player progress, Online Association management, uploads of highlight clips and screenshots, and more are all supposed to be available through the site. Accomplishments are now being spammed to Twitter and Facebook (if the user chooses to attach those accounts) but ironically the links lead to a website that isn’t up and running.

2K Sports also removed popular features from online – most prominently Crew and My Player pickup. They attempted to hide this fact pre-release and still haven’t even acknowledged that they are gone. That may have something to do with the coming paid downloadable content package which supposedly allows for My Players to be used online. In what capacity is unknown though – I would caution not to expect a full fledged mode along the lines of Crew.

2K will need to have online in a much better state before they introduce online-based DLC that much is for certain – or they’ll need to offer it for free to appease the fans who have stuck with the game through this mess. It would be a complete insult for them to roll it out under the current circumstances.

Basic Team-Up mode remains but with the state of the servers good luck getting into one let alone it reaching completion. Those who have gotten that far are to no surprise reporting a number of issues – both during games (like players who just stand around even if controlled by the CPU) and with stats not recording to profiles.

2K Share has also been affected by the server issues. Currently the feature, which provides the ability to upload/download rosters, draft classes, and slider sets displays no available files.

Gameplay online seems to be set on a very low difficulty level/casual game style as three pointers are all the rage. There are so many guys that can hit threes consistently this year on each team and even having defenders in their face to contest doesn’t seem to matter much in online games. The way to win right now is by launching a barrage of threes – and to spam attempts at steals given there isn’t enough risk-reward there. Needless to say those two aspects will need to be addressed going forward. Otherwise the potential is absolutely there for fun games if only the performance would hold up.

Online play as a whole has somehow managed to get worse despite having fewer features and lighter load on the server. At best the online play for NBA 2K12 has been deemed terrible and unacceptable – but it could legitimately be described as broken too. That a major portion of a game’s value is shattered by brutal performance and poor design decisions is incredibly concerning. This is especially the case given the series’ track record for having poor online play but never producing notable improvement despite the pleas to do so.

Consumers have a right to be frustrated at not just the current situation but how such a huge aspect of the product has been continually neglected. The pressure has to be put on 2K Sports now or change will not come about in the future.

NBA’s Greatest Impressions
Regarding the Uproar
My Player Impressions
Online Problems Persist
Online Association Impressions
Upcoming Coverage: Hits and Misses Review (Wednesday or Friday)