This year's ball-'em-up is all about Michael Jordan, which is annoying because, as a Utah Jazz fan, the last thing I really want to do is relive the times MJ helped the Chicago Bulls beat the Jazz in the NBA Finals. He's everywhere this year, from the Jordan challenges, where you're given the opportunity to relive classic matches from his career, to the equipping of various Jordan Brand trainers (or sneakers, whatever) that increase player attributes. You can give these to real players or equip them on your My Player career mode character.
The whole Jordan thing is the major addition this year, with everything else being basically tweaked or updated. It's also a sign of how good the overall package is that its main rival, EA's NBA Elite, has been canned for at least the foreseeable future. Quite simply, this is the best basketball game ever made.
Last year's version was great, but had a few minor issues. In contrast to so many other developers, 2K Sports seem to have addressed nearly all of them, from the way your rating increases or decreases in My Player to making it harder to get the ball into the paint. Assists are now harder to come by, as the AI will tip passes away and generally force more turnovers off sloppy passes than before. Pleasingly, it's just not just happening to you, as the computer will throw its fair share of bad shots and passes to keep things realistic.
It's still very hard to win if you don't play proper basketball. If you want constant dunking and the ability to hit shots from your own half, go play NBA Jam or just adjust the sliders to make you invincible. Otherwise, you'll have to play proper, considered ball to achieve consistent victory. Just as it should be in a simulation, really.
One of the great things about the series has always been the commentary and this year's edition is no exception. Probably the best of any sports game, it really makes you feel like your playing a broadcast. The only problem is repetition, especially when you're in My Player mode and playing lots of games with the same team.
Another issue is when playing with multiple players on one team. The auto-selection of targets when passing is still a bug bear, both in single and multiplayer, but it's most annoying when you're trying to send it to your team-mate and instead the ball gets tossed to someone on the other side of the court. You could, of course, use manual pass selection, with icons appearing above the heads of the rest of the players, but it's just a little annoying to commit turnovers when the game's decided to chuck the ball to a different player than the one you intended.
There's not much else to criticise, really. It's as fine a basketball game as you could hope to find and 2K Sports seem to be intent on removing any and all issues they find, proven by the changes they've made for this year's version. The interface is still a little bit annoying, on all systems, but it doesn't really get in the way too much. Visually, it's still pretty good, especially on PC with all the bonuses the more powerful systems can provide.
Online multiplayer is still a bit rubbish and attempting to find games isn't the easiest thing in the world, with pick-up games for your career player not providing enough feedback when you're trying to connect. Perhaps it's just a case of waiting for more people to own the game, I don't know.
Also, speaking as a UK-based reviewer, it's hard to find people to play with, due to the sport's lack of popularity over here, at least in comparison to football. Also, the new dribbling system didn't seem to make too much of a difference in general play. One suspects only the truly dedicated will 'get' it. Still, these are all minor quibbles. It's easily the best basketball simulation ever made, with massive depth and an impressive array of life-sappingly addictive modes. Perhaps there aren't as many new additions as there should have been, but there's only so much you can cram into one game before it becomes irrelevant. If you're at all interested in playing proper basketball, you'd be utterly insane not to buy this.
- Excellent representation of basketball and some cracking visuals
- Brilliant match atmosphere and commentary
- My Player career mode is great fun
- Passing not always on target
- Can still be a hassle getting multiplayer games
- Matchmaking could be speedier
The Short Version: Simply the best basketball game out there, so much so that its competitors have been killed off. Not many people beat EA at their own game, but NBA 2K has done it with aplomb.