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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.
Stephen Totilo: Yes, though I gotta say I haven't played the game. I played last year's NBA 2K11 and, not even caring about sports games, was blown away. So if had to get a new basketball game for $60, I'd get this. You know, it's not like there are any other sim basketball games to choose from and this series has been much-loved by sports-gaming experts.
Evan Narcisse: I've played NBA 2K12 at press events and demos and have been impressed with it each time. After the blockbuster success of last year's game, 2K12 certainly could've rested on its laurels and coasted this time out. Instead, they've blown out the Jordan-centric concept of the last installment to really nice effect. There's a demonstrable difference in handling different players, the archival viewing mode is great and broken-hearted Knicks fans like me can finally see to it that Patrick Ewing gets a ring. I say get it.
Owen Good: Yes, no hesitation. Having put about 10 hours into this game, NBA 2K12 is one of the most fundamentally enjoyable sports video games I have played. For those curious about the genre, or basketball, or looking to return after some time off, this is offers a very accessible entry. The moments I've had in "NBA's Greatest" have sparked some really fascinating, even touching conversations with my father and those of his generation. NBA 2K12 may also be the only pro basketball appearing on your TV set for the foreseeable future. You could do much worse; namely, an actual NBA game in November.
We'll revisit NBA 2K12 with a full review next week. These gut checks were based on console versions of the game.
It is 2 a.m. and I'm going to score 60 points with Dell Curry. Having unlocked the 1992-1993 Charlotte Hornets—you had better believe it was the first thing I did in NBA 2K12—I've started Dell in place of Kendall Gill and he is, well, he's beating his son. Stephen Curry's Golden State Warriors have no answer for Mister Hornet. A graphic pops up: DELL CURRY: 24 points. REST OF TEAM: 2. It's the second quarter.
What I'm doing feels like a betrayal of the qualities that make NBA 2K12 a truly admirable game. NBA 2K has been one of sports video gaming's most admired series for about a decade; complimenting its realism still matters, but it's a quality that's been built with years of hard work. NBA 2K12 distinguishes itself for its smooth accessibility; I have, admittedly, very little exposure to the fundamentals of the sport. But NBA 2K12's improved playcalling and streamlined post-up moves do more than offer realism. They help me take ownership of it and write it for myself.
When I want to. Right now it's 2 a.m., and it's Dell Curry Appreciation Night.
Having dived into the game only this weekend, much of my time in NBA 2K12 so far has been spent with its "NBA's Greatest" mode, which is an absolute delight. Last year, in NBA 2K11 the "Jordan Challenge" had players driving themselves crazy trying to emulate the single-game stats of the NBA's greatest player ever. This year, the Visual Concepts development team wanted to introduce players to a broad swath of basketball's history, rather than dictating their participation in a narrow band of it.
The games you play with the 1985-1986 Boston Celtics or 1971-1972 Los Angeles Lakers don't have any historical antecedent, they're ones you create. The Visual Concepts development team wanted to give you the feeling of popping in a tape of a great game from some alternate reality, and they succeeded.
Commentary is something 2K Sports already does the best of any sports publisher, and here the audio team really answered the challenge of providing an engaging, believable call that discussed the era without pretending like it was coming from it. Kevin Harlan, Clark Kellogg and new addition Steve Kerr don't offer any hammy lines about top 40 songs or the price of gasoline. They are watching the game from the present, while offering context on the past, without being longwinded about it.
Here's the other success of NBA 2K12's commentary: the announcers can interrupt themselves when the on-floor action requires it, and then return to what they were discussing before. It's a neat trick that works so well you really have to pay attention to notice it. But a hellacious Michael Jordan slam will not go unnoticed just because they're talking about the baggy shorts he wore over his UNC trunks.
Now, it may be that after I play the 1992-93 Bulls versus the Hornets again, it won't sound so fresh the second time I hear Kellogg discuss Bill Cartwright's throat injury, and the lengths to which the Bulls went to help him rehabilitate it. That shouldn't deflect the praise NBA 2K12 deserves for including it. The game went to obvious lengths to provide unique commentary worth turning up the sound (and you should; the default sliders had the crowd too loud, on my set anyway.)
While all of the teams are available in every standard mode save online multiplayer, you only get the retro presentation if you play in NBA's Greatest, which restricts you to playing only one side of the 15 matchups. That's a bit of a disappointment. I've not yet completed all 15 games, but once I do, I'm not sure I'll be that fired up to go back and beat the 1985 Bucks with Dr. J just to see the washed out screen and 1980s chyron. It would have been nice to give players the option of playing any game either in the modern broadcast package or the one authentic to the oldest team on the floor.
But period broadcast graphics, big afros and high striped socks are only part of the authenticity. Get ready to jump center before every quarter in your 1960s and 1970s games. You'll also see three-to-make-two free throws, which come as a pleasant suprise when your guy clangs his second attempt. As the 1971-1972 Lakers against the Knicks from the same year, I trailed by two and kicked the ball to Jerry West in the corner for a buzzer-beater that had me leaping out of my seat. I realized, mid-air, that there's no three-point line, and so it was on to overtime.
Elgin Baylor's slam dunk looked a little too modern for me, especially on a goal that, unfortunately, could not be retrofitted for the era. But the teams do run set plays that are consistent with the times. This is another subtle encouragement for players to explore the streamlined playcalling windows and quick D-pad commands. It seems like Visual Concepts tinkers with this every year, but this year, it feels like they've really gotten it right. Calling specific plays for specific players takes only a few arrow or button presses more than running one from the quick menu of five bread-and-butter plays, which now includes a "run best play" if you're really pressed for time.
Improved floor graphics show you how the play will run, without you having to try it 100 times in the practice mode just to get your timing down. I got a very smug, high-five-myself sense of satisfaction when I pulled off a simple ball reversal back to Curry and he bottomed it out. It's not a play that I could put together with the passing commands because I have no exposure to running it in real life.
The other streamlining is in the game's post-up commands, a very welcome development given the hall-of-fame big men, like Patrick Ewing and Bill Russell, at your disposal. I've mentioned this before, but now that's only on one button, Y or Triangle, to get in or out of post play. Lots of novices ignored this realm of the game in the past because of the extra command set. Now, especially if you call a post play from the menu (getting your big man to back down automatically), going to the basket is a simple process of working the stick in the intended direction.
Like the rest of the game, there's still a dizzying list of moves, fakes, counters, and counters to counters that you'll just have to learn by exploration. It's a game that can get staggeringly granular in how you command your players, and those with a long history in the series have a leg up. But by focusing on the big picture, which the playcalling and post game commands accommodate as much as they do detailed tactics, a novice is still able to create basketball that looks realistic and, more importantly, is fun.
Defense has never been anything I've played too intelligently but again, NBA 2K12 helps me out with stronger AI and the means of quickly switching between different sets, like a zone or a halfcourt trap. At first I thought the trap was too effective. I sent two guys after the ball and played a third off the ball to deny a pass. Naturally, the double-team meant someone was free, and that guy ran to an open spot and the AI found him. In the past, the CPU's tendencies were a lot more predictable; I would have seen the obvious pass I was shading against. Here the game takes advantage of the situation as it develops and keeps you on your toes.
While it's less predictable, that doesn't mean it has the same kind of ESP that past games had, especially as it comes in perimeter defense and defending your passes. The result is that I feel like my failures in the game—missed shots, bad passes—are wholly my responsibility and not the game's. Also, I can run the play back in my mind and know what I did wrong. That's something every sports developer should strive for, a game where your failures are as authentic and understandable as your successes.
I've yet to get too deep into "My Player," NBA 2K12's career mode, or "Association," the game's franchise mode. That will be covered in greater detail in subsequent impressions and the full review a week from today. My Player has revamped the preamble to your career, making it more reflective of a stud rookie's career path and focusing more on getting you to the league, which is awesome. Association doesn't seem to have much done to it, probably because so much was packed into NBA's Greatest and My Player. You get to use NBA's Greatest teams in Association though, which I absolutely will be doing with Dell and Muggsy and Grandmama and my beloved bees.
There's been a lot of armchair speculation about the damage the NBA lockout could do to this title. Indeed, there are no rookies from the 2011 draft on the roster, and it will remain static until the lockout ends. That cuts down on a lot of the variety you get playing the game online, or in the NBA Today mode.
That's not something 2K Sports can control. What they can control, they have done extremely well. The effort put into this game is as obvious as it is admirable. Top to bottom, it is a better-playing game than its predecessor, which wasn't too bad either. I worry that NBA 2K12's strong appeal might plateau after unlocking all of the classic teams and maybe going two seasons into My Player. But that is a long way from now.
Right now, it is 2 a.m., and it is Dell Curry Appreciation Night. It's Darryl Dawkins, and Dominique Wilkins Appreciation Night, too. It's basketball appreciation night.