Monday, October 4, 2010

Be like Mike in NBA 2K11

NBA 2K11
Developed by: Visual Concepts
Published by: 2K Sports
Available: October 5th
Available on: PSP, PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii and PC
Price: From $19.99 (PSP) to $59.99 (Xbox 360, PS3)

There are several 'what-if' questions we face during our lives.

'What if' I had attended the Air Force Academy instead of turning down my appointment and attending Alcorn State?

'What if' Sony would have bought Bungie and had Halo on their PlayStations instead of Microsoft locking the Halo franchise?

'What if' our hometown Houston Rockets - or even the Portland Trail Blazers - would have passed on Akeem 'The Dream' Olajuwon or Wildcat Sam Bowie for the lanky shooting guard from UNC?

We can ponder all we want and ask ourselves what would have been. There is no clear answer to what His Airness - in his prime - would have done if he landed here instead of the Windy City.

Now, thanks to Visual Concepts and 2K Sports, the masses can stop wondering.

NBA 2K11 lets gamers lace up the Air Jordans of arguably the greatest basketball player of all-time, Michael Jeffrey Jordan, and play through 10 challenges that he faced during his career. From lighting Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics for 63 points in the double-overtime playoff game in 1986 to playing the Utah Jazz with the flu, gamers will have the task of playing as Jump 23, and hitting specific goals (certain number of points, assists or your team has to win the game) in order to advance to the next challenge.

After you complete the challenges, players will unlock the real reason to buy this game - the Creating a Legend Mode. This mode is where you take control of a newly drafted rookie Michael Jordan and create your own version of his career.

Imagine the possibilities - from dishing no-look passes to Magic Johnson and James Worthy, to breaking ankles on the parquet hardwood with Larry Bird, McHale and Chief in Boston Garden. Or, like me, you'd love to see vintage Jordan play alongside future teammate Dennis Rodman, Zeke, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer and the rest of the Detroit Bad Boys.

Control wise, I opted for the PS3 version, which includes Move support. You can use the Sixaxis controller or the Navigation Controller with the Move to move your player around. You use the Move to shoot, dunk, rebound and steal. Using the Move really was a sweet touch to shooting the rock. After playing with the Move, my arm felt like I had been shooting in a pick-up in real life.

There are some parts of NBA 2K11 where using the Move was a bit confusing. In the Blacktop mode, there's a slam dunk competition. I didn't know how to dribble or even pick up a basketball. I think I scored the last tally on record for Jordan dunking. He dunked once, while fellow Tar Heel Vince Carter yoked about eight dunks.

The graphics - and the arena animations are stunning. The player mannerisms are superb. The presentation of the games will make a casual viewer think an actual game is being broadcast on network television.

The game is packed with tons of modes (Blacktop mode features the Slam dunk competition, the 3-point shoot-out and a game of 21), online leagues and multiplayer, as well as local multiplayer. There are more options and customizations than you can shake a stick at. And the 2K Beats are back, though some of the music selection really made me shake my head. I love all genres of music, but when I think about music that fits with basketball, all you have to do is roll to a real basketball court and hear what's thumping. I can tell you - it's not alternative, and the folks there aren't very emo.

However, the real reason to buy this game is the chance to play as Jordan. The team behind NBA 2K11 went to painstaking measures to make sure 95 percent of Jordan's tendencies, mannerisms and the like were recreated. Just one minor gripe, Visual Concepts. Watch Space Jam sometime. Any fan of Jordan knows he wears his Carolina Blue practice shorts under his shorts. Yes, he rocks the black spandex shorts under there too, but he never plays without the Tar Heel Blue practice shorts. Ever.

The only problem I have with NBA 2K11 is - it reminds me of how far the NBA has tumbled. The personalities and egos were bigger than life - how the game sparked excitement - and how teams created *rules* for star players. I miss that, and I know I am not alone.

Thanks, Visual Concepts, and 2K Sports, for reminding me of how awesome the NBA - and Jordan - truly was.

The verdict? 3.5 (out of 4 stars). I am not a huge fan of sports video games. From year to year, there are not enough real changes to warrant dropping $60 a year unless you are a diehard fan. The average gamer can get by buying sports games every other year - or buying them used. NBA 2K11 is different and worthy of a purchase. Playing as Jordan - and his modes - are easily worth the price of admission. And honestly, the rest of the game is sweet, but Jordan is the main reason to pick this game up.

And ... I can't end this review without saying this - Go Tar Heels! Carolina, baby!

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