Friday, November 19, 2010
Game Review: NBA2K11
I received a review copy of NBA2K11 around the start of the current season. There are two reasons I'm only getting around to reviewing it now:
1) The time demands necessary to provide quality coverage of the Atlanta Hawks.
and, more seriously,
2) Turns out, video games have passed me by.
It's been almost 10 years since I played video games regularly and, in some ways, I'm nostalgic for both the time and place in which those games were played. My life is very different and, in most ways, better now but each time I'd sit down to give NBA2K11 a twirl, I'd find myself, within 30 minutes, represented as a lone digital player in an empty digital gym learning how to execute a crossover, a drop-step, or improving the timing of my dunks. It was as melancholy as it sounds.
To the game's great credit, the practice setting (and the tutorials) are effective in improving one's skills and now, in mid-November, I can complete a game (playing five-minute quarters) without crippling frustration consuming me. It's probably also to the game's credit that I couldn't sit down and dominate the CPU from the jump. I suspect the game will not bore the vast population of more accomplished gamers than myself.
That suspicion is inspired by the breadth and depth* of the game. I'm already quite taken with "The Association" game mode which combines both game play and team management. At my current skill level, my struggles with the former combine nicely with the AI limitations of the latter to produce a pleasurably realistic simulation. The ease with which one can both make and receive trade offers aids the fundamental appeal of such a mode: making lots and lots of trades. It might be a bit too easy to turn benchwarmers into future draft picks but it's not easy to crush the AI at the trading table.
No, it's not realistic to put Joe Johnson on the trading block in October 2010 and receive 27 offers but most of those offers are unappealing. The player receives a similar experience in trying to trade Mike Bibby or Marvin Williams. If nothing else, Atlanta Hawks fans playing the game in this mode will gain a passable understanding of how hard it is to turn this roster into a championship contender.
Beyond the transactional opportunities, "The Association" boasts scouting, drafting, and (if you're not playing the games yourself) coaching options which, given the amount of time I expect to have available to play the game are essentially inexhaustible in their depth.
I'm not going to master this game but I can't imagine I'll ever stop returning to it, either. Which is a valuable balance and why I recommend the game for the entire spectrum of video game players.
*I write that without even having explored the "Jordan Challenge" mode of the game which inspires the cover art.