The big hoops franchise returns to Wii for another championship run.
It is worth noting that this review takes place completely out of context with both previous versions of NBA 2K on Wii, and also versions of NBA 2K12 on competing consoles. This is the first NBA basketball game I've sunk any real time into since NBA 2K3 on Nintendo GameCube, and so I am coming into this review without any real preconceptions on what features the game should or shouldn't contain.
Despite a labor conflict that threatens to end the 2011-2012 NBA season before it even begins, NBA 2K returns to Wii yet again with NBA 2K12. The series, now in it's 13th year, has taken video game basketball and shined it to an amazing polish. The series is so successful and prolific that rival EA Sports had to take a two-year hiatus from the sport just to rethink their strategy. The real question with this review, however, is how the game translates onto Wii, a platform that is clearly not the lead platform for the development of the game.
Although the game is playable by Wii Remote and Nunchuk, I played the game largely with the Classic Controller Pro. The first thing to note as you reach the main menu is that when it comes to depth of content, NBA 2K12 is not messing around. On top of the Quick Play mode, which the game drops you into when you first start up, the game has no fewer than four other deep experiences.
First up is The Association, an incredibly deep franchise mode that puts you in complete control of an NBA team with all of the budgetary, contractual, and scheduling obligations therein. For NBA mega-fans, this mode is a dream come true as you can build your ideal roster, monitor the news feeds for trade information, and still play a game of basketball every few in-game days. The level of customization is bewildering, and as a newbie to the NBA 2K experience, I found myself completely overwhelmed with the amount of options that were available to me. The menus are a bit confusing, as the game seems to assume that you have some basic familiarity with the mode. There is no built-in tutorial.
In addition to The Association are standard modes such as Season, Playoffs, and Situation Play, the latter of which allows you to preset the score, time remaining, and any other minor detail you could think of, creating the exact situation you want to play through. Also included is a Blacktop mode that contains three-point contest, slam dunk competition, 21, and pick-up street games with actual NBA players. The slam dunk competition in particular was quite hard to grasp; only after playing around with it for a good half hour and reading the instructions a dozen times was I able to complete a single dunk. After I got the hang of it, though, I had fun with it. Like much of NBA 2K12, the learning curve is steep.
The biggest draw for NBA 2K12, however, is the lineup of legendary matchups – 15 in total. These games represent some of the most memorable games in NBA history, and put you right into the middle of the action. Each of these allows you to unlock legendary NBA players and teams. The rosters and players have been recreated faithfully, and playing in these modes is a blast for NBA historians.
Finally there is the My Player mode, which allows you to create a new player, hire an agent, and guide them through their career in the NBA.
When evaluating the visuals in the game, it is a question of macro vs. micro. If you take into account the entire presentation, including the camera angles, and infographics, the game looks very good. The entire thing has the distinct feel of a television program, even to the point where between quarters, a commercial will show up for a game taking place later on the calendar. The audio plays into this as well, as the announcers really do a fantastic job of creating a realistic game-atmosphere. They bring up statistics from prior games, discuss how the current game fits into the grand scheme of things as the season unfolds, and generally sell you on the idea that they care about what's happening in the basketball game. It's truly amazing to see the presentation that NBA 2K12 has to offer.
Unfortunately, at a micro level, there are problems that break the realism of the overall package. The individual character models are very blocky, especially the one that aren't NBA players (cheerleaders, coaches, referees). While you can definitely see that some effort was put into making the players look like their real-life counterparts, during close-ups, the effect is ruined. When the game is zoomed out, (as in, when you are actually PLAYING the game) it looks fluid, the animations are top notch, and the framerate stays consistent. When you take into account the amount of effort that went into making sure that the whole package looks good, it's easy to forgive the ugly character models.
The game supports up to four players locally, but unfortunately no online play is included. This is disappointing, considering that competitor EA Sports has generally been very good about including online play on their Wii sports titles. The modern sports gamer is accustomed to being able to play in the same league as their friends, or at least being able to play them in an exhibition mode.
All in all, NBA 2K12 is an incredible package deal, but one with a potentially overwhelming amount of content. The difficulty curve is steep, but if you've been playing NBA 2K titles in recent years, you should be able to pick it up fairly quickly, as by all accounts the control scheme is not particularly different from last year's game. If you are an NBA fan, and the Wii is your console of choice, you can't go wrong by picking up this game.