It's a funny time for the NBA. As the league sits amidst a dramatic lockout, there's not much for fans of basketball to get excited about. Globally recognised athletes stay at home, contemplating opportunities overseas, wasting their talents away. 2K's return couldn't be more welcome, even if it's just used for remembering what the ol' b-ball is all about. I jest, that would be doing this release a massive disservice, as the franchise returns in sparkling form.
Last year the onus was very much on the legacy of Michael Jordan. While the number 23 is undoubtedly the definitive icon in the sport's history, there's plenty of other superstars who deserve a shot at the lime light, especially if you're going to play key matches with them. Excellently, 2K have now included 15 all-time greats to test you skills with. These include Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, and of course, His Airness. Objectives are set out with each, replicating classic events that have happened in years gone by. Each match is presented authentically, with court designs, kits and style of broadcasts getting a slight make over each time. In the case of Bill Russell, you'll even play in black and white, matching the monochrome TV visuals of the time. The commentators chatter with present day opinions, providing interesting trivia snippets and remarks on how each one of these guys are viewed now their careers are over.
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube integration is included, meaning you can keep pestering friends with images and videos of your achievements
Aside from tackling scenarios with the greats, there's plenty of other modes to get stuck into. The Association returns as the bog-standard career mode, and it hasn't altered much from last year. You can create an association online and play through it with your friends; a feature that's already getting a lot of love. Plenty of players litter the multiplayer universe at any time of the day, a fact that'll no doubt push this title towards extended greatness.
Creating a baller in the My Player is by far the most interesting section of the game, as there's been a few significant tweaks to make the process of becoming a legend even more entertaining. Instead of playing through a number of games with no guarantee of ending up in a decent team, you'll now showcase your talents in a one-off match. Here, you'll be graded on every significant action you make. Whether you play a good pass or lose possession, everything is jotted up to leave you with a final mark. Once the first match is over, three potential suitors will conduct interviews, giving you the power to dictate where you end up. Want to play for the 76ers after having a conductive interview with them? Be sure to deter other scouts afterwards by bluntly telling them you don't want to play for their team.
Although your time on the court will be minimal at the start, it forces you to think about every second you have on the ball. There's no room for selfishness, as consistently failed shots will end up in a disappointing score. This notion filters throughout the entire game, as the intricacies of basketball show themselves more than ever. When heading for the basket, playing the ball around now feels more natural than ever. As defenders and forwards tussle, passes need to be thrown with split-second timing. On the other side of the line, defensive tactics are simple to install, yet difficult to carry out. It's always been tough to replicate fouling in video games, but 2K12 does an admirable job of making sure they don't ruin the flow of play too much. When you're trying to win the ball back, quite often an opening will appear for you to try and steal. You won't be massively successful at first, but at least it feels fair and just when you do manage to regain Sir Spalding.
A hip-hop based soundtrack fits in perfectly. Huge names such as Eminem, Busta Rhymes and even Kurtis Blow making the cut
Despite this titles superb range of game modes and replication of the sports, there's one aspect that's even more impressive. The presentation is absolutely sensational, providing a television feel that eclipses anything I've seen before. Animated starting line-ups appear before a game, fully-fledged trailers for upcoming matches during the intervals, and small adverts in the bottom left-hand corner when you're playing. At the end of each match, a highlights reel for the star player will even be edited alongside the music, as he feints and slams in time with the beat. Alongside this, the commentary is substantial and easy to listen to. Lines don't feel forced, and there's plenty of humorous anecdotes thrown up along the way. Dynamic, court-side reporting even takes place, making this a juggernaut in the world of effective presentation. Absolutely stunning.
If you're a basketball fan or not, NBA 2K12 is a glorious achievement. It'll undoubtedly have the pulling power to keep players interested until the next instalment, as it's wide variety of modes and excellence on court culminates into a winning formula. It's somewhat fitting that this game features some of the best players that have ever graced the sport, both old and new, as this is undoubtedly up there with any Hall of Fame contenders we've seen before.
TOP GAME MOMENT
My Player is a lot of fun, but then again, so is the entire game.