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At first blush it doesn't seem to stand out: NBA 2K11 cracked the top 20 of most played titles on the Xbox 360 for the week of Jan. 16. But when you peel it back, that's actually quite astonishing, to see an old version of a sports video game resurface more than 15 months after its release.
This is not unprecedented. EA Sports' FIFA series routinely places its two most current editions in the Xbox Live top 20, especially around the time the new version is releasing. (FIFA 11 and FIFA 12 were top 20 from 12's Sept. 27 release to the end of the year.) FIFA's global popularity certainly explains its longevity here. Madden, EA Sports' long-running powerhouse, also does a double-dip in its release window, though it drops off more quickly.
But a look back suggests that when the old version leaves the top 20, it usually doesn't come back. Certainly not after a three-month layoff.
What's going on? I put this to some folks inside 2K Sports, who were just as surprised (albeit pleasantly) as I was. It doesn't track to the tip off of the new NBA season—that was Dec. 25. While 2K Sports announced it would extend online support for NBA 2K11, in light of problems with NBA 2K12's multiplayer features, that happened back in November, a month after release. And it's especially irrelevant as this figure concerns the unique users playing the game who are connected to Xbox Live, which has nothing to do with playing online multiplayer or connecting to the 2K servers.
It could be that NBA 2K11, whose "Jordan Challenge" series celebrates the career highlights of the NBA's greatest player, really is heirloom quality, as I called it in my review at the time. The Jordan Challenge is exclusive to NBA 2K11, not 2K12, and no doubt drives back catalog sales of that game—an absolute rarity in modern console sports gaming. I've suggested that 2K Sports, if it can, should cut this out and offer it for DLC, playable in the current game. But these numbers would put off that kind of action, probably until sometime next year.
It seems a little too easy to explain it that way. A sale, maybe? NBA 2K11 has a lower price tag by definition. The cover is similar to the Jordan cover (one of three) of NBA 2K12, too. The numbering may be confusing to those who don't normally buy the game, but wouldn't we have seen that influence before?
Who knows. NBA 2K11 was an unbelievable phenomenon for a sports title of predominantly North American interest. It was an NPD Top 20 seller, across all platforms, for all 12 months post-release. Maybe its staying power is just now becoming known.
According to Rich Funk, "My legal name is Richard Funk. As I usually do with sports games, the day I got NBA 2K12, I created myself as a player in the game. Again, I used my legal name."
Above is how NBA 2K12 apparently reacted to "Rich Funk". It did not like Rich Funk.
"I've emailed 2K Sports about this, but haven't heard anything back. Have you heard of anyone else getting punished like this? It's not my fault I'm German!"
It's also not Rich Funk's fault he has a super cool name.
Today's launch day for 2K Sports' premium DLC add-on for their pro hoops title. As previously mentioned, Legends Showcase lets you play in a cel-shaded Times Square with 40 new Legends hoopsters in a variety of modes. Also on display is how you're My Player looks when imported into the Legends modes. You know all of that already. But the real reason to watch this video is to enjoy the way that the on-screen action syncs up with the lyrics of "Basketball" by rap legend Kurtis Blow. If you've got some gray hairs in your goatee like me, then you'll totally remember when this song was on the radio. And when shorts looked like they hurt.
We've already talked about how 2K Sports' hit basketball title will be unloading a major update when its Legends Showcase DLC debuts next week. Today, the publisher's divulged more details about what'll be in the $10 add-on.
Total dominance in the 2v2 Teammate Challenge, unlocks all of the players in the NBA's Greatest mode for use in the NBA: Creating a Legend mode. So, if you've wanted to bring someone like Boston Celtics great Bill Russell into competition against today's NBA athletes in NBA 2K12, that's how you'll do that. Similarly, when you beat the 3v3 Era Challenge, you can use current players in the Legends Showcase modes.
Speaking of those legends, a few more show up in these screens, like Pistol Pete Maravich, George Mikan and Rick Barry. You'll also see just how crazy the HORSE match-ups get, too, with George "The Iceman" Gervin taking aim from the support beam behind the basket.
As a total blackout of the 2011/2012 NBA looms, it's looking more and more like the only way to see Kobe, Dwight Howard and other modern-day greats play hoops will be on your gaming console of choice.
Announced earlier today, NBA 2K12's Legends Showcase will drop 45 new stories players into 2K Sports' hit b-ball title. You can take a look at how the new graphical style looks in the trailer and screens posted above. Legends Showcase will also include several new modes and mini-games like H-O-R-S-E and 21. You'll also be able to play match types like 2-on-2 Teammate Challenge and 3-on-3 Era Challenge, highlighting specific tandems. 2K Sports also says you'll be able to mix and match current players and old-school Legends and you'll be able to use your My Player created athlete in these modes as well. Finally, the Legends Showcase will introduce up Classic Quick Match, a new mode that lets you use the NBA's Greatest teams in regular simulation face-offs in the main game's online portion. When it, y'know, starts working.
Listen, I've been a New York Knick fan all my long-suffering life, but I never thought onetime dunk champ Kenny "Sky" Walker would ever be deemed a video game legend. But there he is, sitting on the new list of incoming all-stars that 2K Sports will be adding to their hit basketball game. For 9.99 or 800 Microsoft points, NBA 2K12 will be offering up more than 40 players from the last 50 years of hoops history in the Legends Showcase DLC, and the athletes will be wearing period-accurate uniforms and sporting ratings that reflect their best on-court performances. Legends showcase also adds a tweak to the game's aesthetic, rendering the Times Square locale in a cel-shaded art style.
The full list of Legends is below. You might not see your favorite player, but it's a good representation of classic ballers. Me, I'm waiting for Anthony Mason.
Complete List of New Legends
George Mikan (1951 Lakers)
Bob Cousy (1957 Celtics)
Bob Pettit (1959 Hawks)
Nate Thurmond (1967 Warriors)
Lenny Wilkens (1968 Hawks)
Dave Bing (1968 Pistons)
Wes Unseld (1969 Bullets)
Connie Hawkins (1970 Suns)
Dave Cowens (1973 Celtics)
Tiny Archibald (1973 Kings)
Spencer Haywood (1973 Sonics)
Bob McAdoo (1975 Braves)
Elvin Hayes (1975 Bullets)
Rick Barry (1975 Warriors)
Bob Lanier (1977 Pistons)
David Thompson (1978 Nuggets)
Jamaal Wilkes (1981 Lakers)
Jack Sikma (1982 Sonics)
Alex English (1983 Nuggets)
Adrian Dantley (1984 Jazz)
Bernard King (1984 Knicks)
Rolando Blackman (1984 Mavericks)
Kiki Vandeweghe (1984 Nuggets)
Mark Eaton (1985 Jazz)
Sleepy Floyd (1987 Warriors)
Fat Lever (1988 Nuggets)
Mark Jackson (1989 Knicks)
Kenny Walker (1989 Knicks)
Dale Ellis (1989 Sonics)
Artis Gilmore (1978 Bulls)
Derek Harper (1990 Mavericks)
Tom Chambers (1990 Suns)
Kevin Johnson (1990 Suns)
Reggie Lewis (1993 Celtics)
Dan Majerle (1993 Suns)
Kenny Anderson (1994 Nets)
Cedric Ceballos (1994 Suns)
Dee Brown (1995 Celtics)
Gheorge Muresan (1996 Bullets)
Glen Rice (1997 Hornets)
Shawn Bradley (1997 Mavericks)
Steve Smith (1998 Hawks)
Jalen Rose (2001 Pacers)
Jamal Mashburn (2003 Hornets)
There is no release date yet, but the content will be available for download on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, costing you 800 MS Points and $9.99, respectively.
The content will feature a new, cell-shaded art style and will take place in New York City's Times Square.
Some of the big names mentioned by 2K Sports are the ones you might expect: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Dr. J.
You'll be able to play pick-up games, from 1-on-1 to 5-on-5, as well as games that stray from the usual basketball experience, such as H-O-R-S-E.
If you want to use that NBA My Player I know you've been working on making into the next Jordan, you can pit him against the legends as well!
2K also states that you can unlock current players to use with or against the legends in the mode, so you can mix and match your favorite past and present stars.
Keep your eyes peeled for the official release date of this downloadable content, it sounds pretty interesting!
Hooray for PC versions of sports games! Some enterprising hackers have picked apart the code for NBA 2K12 and found the secret alternate jerseys that should be revealed this year if, you know, the NBA and its players get their act together and solve this lockout mess.
That right there (at right in the above image) is the alternate getup for the Memphis Grizzlies, which pays homage to the old Memphis Tams of the American Basketball Association. To me, it looks like Joe Rudi and the '73 Oakland A's are guest starring on The White Shadow.
The game also throws some ABA love to the Carolina Cougars—who played in Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh, and were paying deferred player contracts into the 1990s. Unfortunately the screengrab snapped only shows the backs of the uniforms.
Novelty uniforms for Miami, Sacramento, Philadelphia and others, including a butt ugly woodland camouflage clown suit for the Toronto Raptors, are also revealed. This would be extremely scandalous—ask Madden NFL 12, which leaked out the Buffalo Bills' new threads—if the league had any guarantee of playing this year.
Midway through an early season Hornets-Heat contest the screen cuts to a promotion telling me Friday night, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers take on the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center. Sounds like a good game, I think to myself. What time is that on? 7:30 p.m., the screen tells me.
Two days ago in real life, NBA commissioner David Stern canceled the first two weeks of the NBA season—including this Lakers-Nuggets matchup. Yet here I'm following basketball in NBA 2K12, a video game that is doing its damndest to be a surrogate for a league that appears likely not to play at all this year, and possibly deep into next.
Some sports bar should put a computer-vs.-computer game, from within an Association season, on its house TV and speakers one night during this lockout and see how many people in fact notice. NBA 2K12's player movement and behavior, long a strength, is still the best you'll ever find in a sports video game. Abetted by a new collision system and shown off with a best-in-class broadcast package, the on-court action is good enough to make that kind of Folger's switch worth trying in a noisy bar.
Yet its four main modes of play, from the time-capsule "NBA's Greatest" to online multiplayer, range from achievement to marginal improvement to inexcusable disappointment. That NBA 2K12 pulls—and deserves—rave reviews despite that mixed-bag performance speaks of the critical importance of gameplay, physics and presentation in the sports genre.
My day-one impressions covered NBA's Greatest in-depth; I'll revisit it here just to say that it is one of the most delightful concepts I've ever seen in sports video gaming. It touches a fan's deep sentiment for the history of the league and, with the lockout now officially canceling regular season games, arrives just in time. For many, NBA's Greatest by itself makes this worth the purchase. For some, a single team offered in NBA's Greatest will be worth it.
Likewise, my original impressions covered the core gameplay of NBA 2K12 and a week later they still hold up. It is an extremely polished and smooth-playing game whose upgrades paid the most attention to areas that needed it: play-calling and battles in the post. The main singleplayer game modes take great steps in making simulation basketball accessible to fans with only a follow-the-ball exposure to the real-life game.
This review will, then, largely address the game's My Player career mode, its Association franchise mode, and its multiplayer offerings.
My Player, now in its third year, remade the beginning of its narrative to put your created player in the role of a stud college prospect likely to go in the first round of the draft. Previous modes had you as less of a Patrick Ewing and more of a John Starks, coming up through the NBA Developmental League.
That's not an experience common to most of the NBA's top players, which you are trying to become. The payoff here is that your rookie begins his career with stronger ratings, which also is very welcome. Simply getting the first part of the story right is a strong improvement for My Player.
In terms of your advancement, grinders who complete every drill and play all 82 games of the regular season should see one hell of a reward by the end of their rookie year, as such things accrue experience points that you use to improve your attributes or purchase specific abilities like dunk packages. For the rest of us, My Player now adds a "play next key game" that takes some of the guesswork out of which games to simulate and which ones to play live. If you're on a better team, especially one making a run at the playoffs, the game does a good job of identifying interdivisional and interconference matchups that need your contribution. If you're on a rebuilding squad, especially early in the year, key games are usually your divisional rivals.
The off-the-court interactions are beefed up with things like endorsements, magazine covers, billboard appearances and league and team promotions, giving a nice shine to the story of your rise to fame. Professional basketball has probably the most conspicuous lifestyle component of the major North American pro sports and 2K Sports does a great job of servicing it here. What undermines the immersion of My Player, though, is in a bizarre trading logic that often remakes the league by mid-season. It infects the game's Association mode, too, and it sees players like Amare Stoudemire and even LeBron James changing teams.
We should get at least a rookie season in an NBA that is largely familiar start-to-finish, limited to obvious contract-year superstars changing hands. The other problem is how your draft classmates were handled. The ongoing lockout prevents NBA 2K12 from using the likenesses of the actual draft selections. But the game does not replace them with role players anywhere near as talented. It gives you a huge head start on Rookie of the Year honors and all but seals monthly top rookie honors in your favor.
Finally, in gameplay, I encourage novices to go into the options and set "Run Plays" to On, PlayVision to "All Plays" and the display of those plays to Full. They need to know these options are there. It really opens up the game, makes you more of a team player, and teaches you something. I have little exposure to basketball on an organized level, and with these assists enabled I feel more like I'm participating in a team sport, rather than jacking up threes when I get the least bit of separation.
It should be noted that the game adds "Creating a Legend," which allows you to take control of any current player and steer him through a My Player career just as you would a created rookie. However, some of the My Player payoff, specifically the Hall of Fame cinematic at the end of your career, is not in this mode. So you can't use it as a cheap way to see what happens when you have a Top 50-type career. You'll have to earn that.
Association has not had much done to it; we knew this going in. The presentation will still catch your attention, as I mentioned at the beginning. 2K Sports does this not only with overlays, wipes and a robust halftime show that picks up results from around the league, but also with specific pre-game cutscenes, such as the Dallas Mavericks receiving their championship rings before the season opener. You will get the story of a league this year, even if the real one is in exile.
The CPU's trading and general manager logic in Association is just as inscrutable as it is in My Player. The Heat twice offered to trade me LeBron James, who has three years left on his contract, and I refused out of obligation to realism. The Nuggets signed Danilo Gallinari to a four-year, $22.75 million contract and then shipped him out 40 days later. That, I could not control.
Association's big addition comes more through the Online Association mode, which does not do a good job of explaining itself. This allows you to form or participate in leagues with as many as 31 players online. Unlike other online league modes, I was surprised to find that once I created one, I had to wait 12 hours before I could begin play in it. Presumably, this is to give others time to join up. If you're looking to play immediately, use the game's search tool and pick one that is in progress.
Even then, if your next game is against a human-controlled team, you're going to have to propose a time to play it and wait for the other guy to accept. Conveniently, you can do this from within the game itself, and you can schedule up to six games to be played in a single day, rather than waiting to do each one in sequence. The drawback is, if you're in a league where your next six games are all human opponents, you're going to be waiting on that instead of clearing out some of the CPU-controlled teams further down the line.
All the praise that NBA 2K12 has won sounds tone-deaf to the multiplayer gamer, and understandably so. NBA 2K11 removed one online mode, "My Crew," where one could take a created My Player online. The rest of the multiplayer offerings have been plagued by launch week problems that have become all too common for 2K Sports.
In no way am I as dedicated a multiplayer gamer as NBA 2K12's hard core. I get my ass kicked whenever I venture into a quick match. So a couple of things peeved even me. The first is the removal of lobbies altogether. last year they were accessible from the Quick Match ready screen by clicking X/square to see who was online. This year, you don't have that option. You're either getting thrown in the shark pool of quick match, or you better know friends with the game and invite them to play. There's a menu option for Virgin Mobile sponsored tournaments but so far there's nothing in there. I have no idea if these will be segregated by ability or not.
The second peeve is the fact that nearly every game begins with a long wait in-menu while my opponent, obviously more sophisticated about this than I am, sets up everything from his playbook and even his camera settings, which as near as I can tell, are not portable online.
In off-peak times, and I'm coming in from the west coast, the connection issues are not as apparent. Otherwise, gamers have been battling dropped connections and lag that make finishing games an extreme challenge of one's patience. Simply connecting to a quick match game could send the game spinning, searching endlessly for an opponent despite the fact the main screen says something like 20,000 people are connected at the time.
There are rumored plans for paid downloadable content that add a "Legends Showcase" online mode; 2K Sports officially will not comment. They probably know they need to get their act together before they start talking about this kind of an extension. They may even need to give it away for free to quell the anger in their community, which has complained nearly as much about connection problems as it has about 2K's communication, or lack thereof, regarding them.
While I'm hearing that a fix is coming soon, that sounds no different than previous releases of MLB 2K or NBA 2K in which a patch is rolled and something is still wrong, requiring contorted workarounds implemented by the gamer himself. Multiplayer gamers would have every reason to hold off on this game, or consider trading it back in even, as an act of protest. It is upsetting that 2K Sports continues to undermine such a strong game overall with bad multiplayer support, and even more upsetting that it has become so predictable.
Despite what it doesn't do, or does poorly (in the case of multiplayer), NBA 2K12 is still one of the most fundamentally enjoyable sports video games I've ever gotten my hands on. I racked my brain for a reason why NBA 2K12's online problems rate it a benefit of the doubt that titles like Call of Duty would never get. The difference is in the singleplayer experience.
That's cold comfort for those who want this to take their game online. Despite the multiplayer woes and the justified anger 2K Sports is facing for them, this still is the best playing NBA simulation ever made, and can be tremendously engrossing when you approach it as a means to create your own reality—whether that's an alternate past between great teams or a present-day season that may not happen in real life.
NBA 2K12 is a desert island game, in that this, a console, TV and a fridge full of beer (and, yes, a generator) could get me through a long period of isolation. Or cause one back here in civilization.
This glitch is priceless.
Youtube user mikeyjur123 was going about his business, playing a match in NBA 2K12 as normal.
He makes a steal, and takes it down the court for a satisfying windmill dunk.
So far so good, right?
Don't feel too bad, I didn't notice what happened the first time either.
The AI on the bench apparently had just about enough of this game, simply getting up from his seat and walking across the court in the middle of the play.
He gave a polite wave goodbye, though, so how much should he really be criticized?
Warning about the rather liberal use of some unsavory language.