#5 of 2011: NBA 2K12

Posted December 28th, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Following the remarkable NBA 2K11 (which took home top game honors) was never going to be easy and the NBA lockout compounded on that by severely damaging the value of NBA 2K12. Now that the season is underway the product has surged in terms of relevance. Extreme online problems and removal of Crew, bugs afflicting modes like My Player, and poor communication did the damage that even the lockout couldn’t enact – but the primary area 2K12 really delivered on was still quite an accomplishment.

The ranking of games in the best of 2011 list is based on number of factors including the personal amount of enjoyment had with a particular title, whether advertised features were fully delivered, post-release support, community interaction and communication, overall gameplay experience, feature set, and online play performance. Again this is largely a personal take and one with the advantage of tracking the games beyond just the release frame and does not act as some sort of recap of those with the highest scores on Metacritic. The analysis is weighted heavily towards those high in fun factor while considering them as a whole and compared relatively to the field.

Related:  Hits and Misses ReviewOnline ImpressionsMy Player ImpressionsNBA’s Greatest ImpressionsOnline Association Impressions – Website partially launches after 6 weeksOnline issues persist – 2K addresses online troubles – 2K12’s 30 authentic broadcast cameras

NBA 2K12 is a game that struggled due to arguably unreachable expectations, outside factors, and internal design decisions. Like NCAA Football 12 it may be remembered more for its problems – and the circumstances that surrounded them – than what it excelled at.

Where NBA 2K12 showed some brilliance was with the NBA’s Greatest mode. That presents 15 different historical matchups to play through with presentation and rule sets authentic to their time. Not only is it a unique way to play but a great way to learn a lot about the league’s past. Even fans of the NBA will have probably noted different rules and restrictions back then that were unrealized until now. One unfortunate omission was the ability to take the time-period presentation and apply them to Quick Games or Online but other than that there would be few gripes about the mode which was a true achievement in concept and execution.

Past areas of strength in the NBA 2K series continued to be so – those primarily fall within the presentation and gameplay categories. The commentary benefited by the inclusion of Steve Kerr to the broadcast team, new broadcast camera angles and on-screen graphics were well done, and the atmosphere was enhanced by elements such as “Playoff crowds”. Gameplay remained stellar, with additions such as a new post-up mechanic, but the number of complaints about deficient areas (especially the passing game) and faults such as the CPU never double teaming and high 3pt percentages were increased this year.

However beyond those areas (at least for the first two months) there was little reason to exclaim that 2K12 was a better product than 2K11 – especially in relative terms to when they released. The lack of roster movement and rookies was probably the biggest factor in that and even features such as NBA Today were negated due to the lockout and played a part. Many could argue that the series had even taken a step back though with a number of popular online modes completely removed. Crew mode was gone and online leagues were stripped out in favor of Online Association which turned out to be a complete disaster.

Online was problematic from the start not just in the reduced number of modes but in performance and any semblance of consistency – and still to this day remains best described as unreliable. That 2K Sports was silent on the problems for nearly a month only stirred up consumer frustration. They were deceptive about the removal of popular online modes never even acknowledging them until that point and the explanations didn’t completely hold water.

Online Association, which was the big addition for the year outside of NBA’s Greatest, was designed in a manner that makes it practically useless to most people even if it worked properly. 2K never actually even explained the OA advancement process – it may very well be that they don’t even know how it works! Having removed the standard online leagues made things worse because there was no alternative for those who had enjoyed competing in seasons online. NBA 2K12’s website which was advertised to house features didn’t launch until six weeks after release and the Online Association section is still apparently “coming soon”. It’s practically January now so even if it does come about the delay has been unacceptable and embarrassing.

My Player mode was plagued by some of the worst trade logic in the history of sports gaming and winning the championship led to a freeze. For what was touted as having huge advancements that mode was definitely a trial of patience and ability to overlook a distinct lack of realism. Introducing paid DLC for the first time came with the worst possible timing as it was discovered and announced during the height of the lockout pessimism and with all sorts of other problems in the game still present. It rolled out though only days after the announcement of the CBA deal which was very lucky for 2K – though it didn’t end up selling well it certainly did better than it would have if no season had come about.

While an expanded legends and historic team presence was capitalized on well the novelty has just about worn off and 2K Sports will need to come up with a new hook for 2K13. Facing competition for the first time in two years from EA will mean the areas of weakness, particularly online, will come under even more scrutiny should performance falter and options continue to be limited. They’ll have plenty of motivation to try and put the dagger in EA right away though.

The problems with NBA 2K12 were amplified due to the lockout but also because it came under the microscope that other titles tend to when they are that high profile and especially when they don’t face a direct competitor. 2K stumbled with this iteration in the series but they shouldn’t be counted out from returning next year with an especially strong offering in the face of current doubts and oncoming challenges in the marketplace.

Earlier Year-in-Review Pieces
#5: NBA 2K12
#6: WWE All-Stars
#7: NCAA Football 12
•#8: NHL 12
•#9: Fight Night Champion
•#10: MLB Bobblehead Pros
•Vote for the Community Choice Awards