NBA 2K11 turned more than a few heads with its surprising inclusion of former great Michael Jordan in a series that previously focused on the best and brightest in the current crop of NBA stars. NBA 2K12 picks up where its predecessor left off, this time highlighting the legendary players from multiple teams and eras. Players will pound the hardwood as Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, and other greats, with the game even altering its presentation to reflect the broadcast styles of the time period.
There are some notable omissions, however. Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller, and others are nowhere to be found, presumably due to licensing issues. And a key component of what made the Michael Jordan mode great -- trying to recreate His Airness' achievements -- is no longer part of the game. Instead of trying to complete specific challenges, the "NBA's Greatest" mode simply involves winning each of the 15 included games.
This mode could have clearly been better, particularly if it followed the vantage points of select legends and had players trying to fulfill certain goals in their pursuit of victory.
Yet at the same time, older audiences will find it difficult to hide their excitement over getting the chance to control the players they grew up with. And the developers did a fantastic job with capturing each athlete’s signature style in the animations.
Another nice touch is how the commentary team approached each classic team and its players. Kevin Harlan, Clark Kellogg, and newly added analyst Steve Kerr will reflect on each player's career and how much of an impact he had on the game. You'll also listen to plenty of stories that will bring a smile to your face, though expect to hear several repeated lines when revisiting the teams in this mode.
In addition to the "NBA's Greatest" mode, one of the top reasons to own NBA 2K12 is the retooled "My Player" mode, where you'll be able to create a custom athlete and follow him throughout the course of his career. The mode begins with a rookie showcase game, where your performance will dictate how high you'll place in the NBA draft. Once in the NBA, you'll have to fight for playing time and produce at a high level in order to earn a starting role.
The goal in this mode is to make the Hall of Fame, which means working on completing specific milestones as you spend your contract money on ways to improve your character. Delayed due to the NBA lockout, the "NBA Today" mode is another important part of NBA 2K12, since it complements each "real" game on the schedule so well. This is because the game uses your online connection to update content to reflect the day's events. You'll hear new commentary, receive updated player models, and more.
NBA 2K12's gameplay is excellent, with improved physics and computer AI that will result in more realistic and competitive games. Of course, if the computer opponents prove too challenging or too easy, you can adjust individual sliders on a number of different settings and rules to make the on-court action play how you want it to play.
If there is but one complaint, it's that online matches are wildly inconsistent. One day you'll find it's difficult to connect to other players, while the next day everything seems to work fine. Games themselves can be hitch-free or mired in lag, so if you purchase NBA 2K12 solely for the online component, expect some disappointment when playing games.
Apart from the online issues, NBA 2K12 is a fantastic playing sports title with enough diversity in play modes and options to make it well worth owning, particularly if you have a special fondness for any of the legends featured in the game.