Review: NBA 2K11, You Can Be “Like Mike”

NBA 2K11 Jordan

His Airness is back.  The legendary Michael Jordan graces the cover of NBA 2K 11 this year and the message is clear.  “Why not put the best Basketball player of all time on the Best selling Basketball game”.  And for that reason alone, I applaud you 2K Sports.  For those asking why should I buy this year’s iteration on NBA 2K, two words; “Nostalgia” and “Michael Jordan”.  Joining Jordan, are Larry Bird and his Celtics, Magic Johnson and his Lakers even Dominique Wilkins and his Atlanta Hawk team.  But don’t be mistaken, if you love Jordan you’ll get plenty of opportunities to play as him.

First Impression. Graphically NBA 2K11 is stunning.  Capturing most of the characteristics you’ll encounter watching a game on TV would exhibit are there.  The dynamic crowds cheering and the detail put into each Arena are well noticeable.  Once you pop in the game you’re instantly taken to Game 1 of the 1991 playoffs, Jordan Vs. Magic.  Some reminders pop up letting you know how to “jump” for the opening jump ball but I found myself pressing other buttons “figuring” them out along the way.  With the default controller settings, shooting can be performed with the right analog stick or pressing the square button.  The addition of the right analog stick allows you to customize your shot which can be high risk high reward and will make the highlight reel.

Jordan Challenge Mode. 2K has introduced a new game mode that allows you to play as “Air Jordan”.  You’ll be asked to recreate 10 of Jordan’s historic performances matching or exceeding those totals in that game and/or series.  From his 1991 Playoff performance where he scored 63 against Larry Bird to his matchup against ‘Nique and the Atlanta Hawks in 1990.  Since I’m a bit rusty playing NBA 2K games, I found the mechanics were easy to pick up.  The basics of course.  Shoot, pass and steal.  And playing as Jordan was a blast when I wasn’t forcing shots up.  For example, during the 1992 playoffs against the Portland Trailblazers one of Jordan’s goals is to make six 3-pointers before the half.  Once you make the sixth, Jordan will look over to Marv Albert at the scoring table and “Shrug” to say, I’m not sure how I’m doing it either.  My favorite Jordan challenge is the “Double Nickel”.  That performance includes Michael scoring 55 against the NY Knicks in MSG all while wearing his newly found #45 Bulls jersey.

Jordan Challenge Mode list.

1. The Arrival: Jordan made his mark with this 63 point playoff game against a heavily favored Celtics team; April 20, 1986, versus the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs. There are two goals for the player(s) to complete: score 63 or more points and shoot higher than 50% from the field.

2. 69 Points: This time Jordan gets the win by dropping 69 points and putting a dent in the Cavaliers’ playoff plans; March 28, 1990, versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. This challenge consists of 3 goals: score 69 or more points, shoot more than 50% from the field, and win the game.

3. Shootout: Jordan and Dominique Wilkins face off in some of the all-time greatest scoring performances of the era; 1990 NBA season, versus the Atlanta Hawks. This challenge will require you to score more than the Hawks’ Human Highlight Film, Dominique Wilkins, while holding him to less than 25 points. Oh, and you have to win the game.

4. Bad Boys: Jordan showed the Pistons and the world that no defensive strategy could stop him for long; May 26, 1990, versus the Detroit Pistons in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. To complete this challenge, you will need to score 47 points or more and win the game.

5. 1991 NBA Finals: Jordan silenced the doubters by coming back from a game one embarrassment to thrash the Lakers in these Finals; June, 1991 in a Finals series against the Los Angeles Lakers. This challenge requires you to play a best of 7 series against the Los Angeles Lakers and average 31 or more points, shoot more than 55% from the field, and win the series.

6. The Shrug: Just to prove a point, Jordan sets the tone for the series by dominating the first half of this first Finals game; June 3, 1992, game 1 of the NBA finals versus the Portland Trailblazers. This challenge involves quite a few requirements. First off, players must score 35 or more points in the first half of the game while making 6 or more three point shots. You will also be required to hold Clyde “The Glide” Drexler to less than 20 points and win the game.

7. Double Nickel: After a stint with the bat, Jordan returns to New York to tear up the Knicks for 55 points and an unforgettable pass; March 18, 1995, versus the New York Knicks. Players will need to score 55 or more points, shoot more than 55% from the field, and win the game.

8. Father’s Day Victory: Michael ran the table over the entire league but this fourth title would prove to be just as special as his first; June 16, 1996, Game 6 of the NBA Finals versus the Seattle Supersonics. Players will need to score 22 or more points, grab 9 or more rebounds, and win the game.

9. The Flu Game: A very ill Jordan still manages to both dominate the game and hit the winning shot in the last few seconds; June 11, 1997, Game 6 of the NBA Finals versus the Utah Jazz. Gamers will need to score 38 or more points, grab 7 or more rebounds, and win the game.

10. Michael’s Last Dance: With one final resounding shot, Jordan seals both his legacy and the fate of the Jazz’s championship hopes; June 14, 1998, Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz. Players must score 45 or more points, accumulate 4 or more steals, and win the game.

Create your “My Player”. No longer are the days of the combine separate.  In “My Player” you’ll build a player from the ground up and customize what position and what kind of player you want to be.  A scrappy Point Guard to a Blocking Center, it’s up to you.  But for the new players you’ll find some frustration in this new low skilled player.  For starters all your skills are on the low side and building them up can be strenuous.  Players with patience or experience will overcome this hurdle.  Just remember, NBA 2K11 is based on your performance on a team.  Pass first, shoot second will enhance your team rating and raise your projected draft number to hopefully the first round.  But once you do make the NBA, you’ll be expected to make after game press conferences.  This will allow your player to groom himself into a cocky outspoken player or answer questions conservatively.

Some left over quirks. NBA 2K 11 has improved in many aspects.  For starters ball handling with the left analog stick feels more fluid.  But learning all the moves will take some time.  Passing has become more troublesome than I ever remembered.  Expect to see plenty of turnovers on even the most basic passes with the improved.. or overly tough defense.  So don’t expect to drill into the lane that easily either.  You’ll see more double teams and forcing those types of shots are pretty much unmakeable… even for Jordan.  One last improvement are Free Throws.  Instead of lining up the ball over the rim or some other timed set of buttons, flicking the right analog stick down and releasing it at the height of the shot is all you need to make a free throw.  Very simple and effective.

Final Thought: I can confidently say, NBA 2K11 is by far the best NBA game made to date.  Usually sports games are considered updated rosters year after year but NBA 2K 11 is different.  They’ve included old time players that fans of some of the greatest players in our time will appreciate.  The new Jordan challenges are tough but are so energetic, you’ll enjoy playing them over until completed.  And finally any game that puts you in control of Michael Jordan, the best of All-time, deserves the title best NBA Game.  NBA fans should pick this one up.


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