E3 2011: NBA 2K12 – the true chosen one is already training for next season

NBA 2K12 represents just about the last sports game still made by 2K sports, which at one point was producing up to seven different games a year. And while its baseball and football titles might be long gone, 2K is making an impressive stand with its blockbuster basketball franchise. Even though NBA 2K11 was an innovative and sweeping change from past basketball games, 2K Sports is still committed to making 2K12 just as large of a jump. But is that possible?

Last year’s NBA 2K11 was considered one of the best basketball games ever made and even won PC Gamer’s action game of the year for 2011. Regardless, “sports games kinda get lost,” as director Rob Jones told us in a one-on-one interview. Jones says that 2K is always trying to reach a larger crowd and not only compete with other basketball games, but all sports games, including the juggernaut FIFA. “At 2k we don’t sit,” Jones says, “we’re hungry because we fight people that are bigger than us.”

One cool new aspect is the idea of building presentation over the course of the season. Jones says 2K wants each game to feel appropriately important, from exhibitions to the finals; “We wanted to give increasing quality and attention to what TV gives to finals and the playoffs.” The game we saw was a Mavs/Heat finals matchup in Dallas. Because it was the finals, all the seats were full and fans were fully decked out in Maverick blue.

The animations have also been retuned and gameplay has been tightened. Facial expressions look much better during gameplay, not just during replays. Players’ movements are less jerky and stiff and feel more natural. 2K has also upgraded the canned shooting animations from NBA 2K11, which often felt like they were on rails. Now when the player takes a shot there are a far greater number of animations for each situation. This still isn’t enough for Jones though, who with only four months left before launch says, “the visuals have a good ways to improve.”

The AI has also been ramped up to be more competitive. The computer now adapts to player mistakes and habits quicker in order to capitalize on weak points. Further, the new AI will notice the player’s anticipation and use this against them. As Jones says, it abuses you the way humans abuse one another online.

Jones was cagey on what new additions may be added to either My Player mode, or what teams may be added to the classic teams (’67 Celtics anyone?), but we can be sure to expect at least a few new features. 2K Sports may have an ace up its sleeve this year, but nobody is spilling the beans just yet. But we haven’t given up. After all, Jones tells us that 2K is greedy and constantly wants more of the sports market; “we are not happy enough to not do anything to improve.”

Jun 15, 2011

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