NBA 2K11 Review

This franchise has been the model of sports games, and nothing changes this year with #23 making his grand return to the virtual hardwood. You get the updated features you would expect: current rosters, improved graphics, less hiccups, sleeker presentation, supposedly refined controls, and a few other minor additions that help suck you into the NBA experience. But the reason that non-fans or NBA fans who don't play the video games would play this game is for the Chosen One, Michael Jordan. His addition to the franchise helps elevate this game from the best basketball sim to the best basketball sim plus homage to the past.

Anything to do with this game starts and ends with His Airness. In a nice surprise, the game starts with a classic NBA matchup featuring Jordan – just throwing you right into the action and letting you know that the The #23 is available to play. From the intro game you can choose from a long list of possible scenarios to play. For offline, there are three main modes to play: The Association, My Player, and Jordan Challenges. The intro game is almost a misnomer in that you may be tempted to jump into the Jordan Challenges immediately, such as in the case of a progressive, story-driven game. But even old vets of this franchise should probably reel it back and ease into this game.

The Association is a beastly, fully-immersive experience as you assume the roles of GM, owner, coach, scout, and players - or maybe just the players if you so choose. Your league takes on it's own identity with headlines and news on what could be a daily basis. With three-team trades and a long list of options for your league you can have a casual experience of just playing games or control every detail. And those looking to add some spice to this mode can always start with a fantasy draft. In short, there is almost no stone left unturned in this mode, and you can even make leagues online.

My Player starts with a very deep customization session, and thanks to the graphics you can have almost exactly whatever look you are going for. Your height will decrease your skill points and you must decide what kind of player you want to be and even tendencies within your chosen role. All that sounds good if there was fun to be had, but you start out as a scrub - probably someone who shouldn't be drafted. It doesn't help that the game fails to help you understand the what and how you should go about building your stats. The biggest example is that the game doesn't tell you what the drills are until you're in them, and if you don't play to your strengths you could be wasting a drill. Ultimately, My Player requires either advanced knowledge or trial and error in order to get the most out of it. Otherwise you may be stuck with a poorly-built player who rarely sees the court. This mode lives and dies on whether it can hook you early, but it's the early part of this mode that is the most boring and most difficult to get excited about when you could just be playing a quick game as MJ.

To put a bow on the whole concept of playing as a scrub and taking him pro, this mode has been seen in Madden and other NBA games, but in practice it only fails to live up to expectations. One idea is that you are allowed to play out your fantasies of you yourself playing with the big boys. That's fine if you were a deadly 3-point shooting sniper on the wings, but as a part-time brick-layer who can't play defense and is costing his awful teammates the game as much as they are, it's hard to keep playing these modes. That is where the unlockable mode of using MJ in this way is a real joy…. if you can unlock it that is - you have to beat all 10 MJ Challenges first. Sure, Bosh, LeBron, Wade, and Jordan on one team doesn't make for many close games, but it's fun. Any time you have a mode of starting as an amateur, the best option would be to start out as a third or fourth tier kind of player, not as someone who should go undrafted.