'NBA 2K11' Review -- The Air Up There

NBA 2K11

As a Pacers fan, I'd much rather see Reggie Miller on the cover of "NBA 2K11." No offense to His Air-ness® of course, but I need to remember what it was like to be a fan of a winning team (that doesn't attack its own audience) more than I need help recalling all those great Bulls teams led by Jordan's miraculous buzzer beaters, crazy athleticism, grit, and offensive skills. These teams were cultural touchstones, while the great Pacers teams on the other hand, never quite got there. Why didn't you show more tongue, Miller?

The Basics

"NBA 2K11" is another iteration in the long-running franchise, but it features a bit more than the usual minor tweaks and fixes this year. As you can see by the cover art, "2K11" is all about Michael Jordan. What you'll get as a result of this focus are a bunch of classic Bulls rosters featuring most of the role players around him and a new mode of play called "The Jordan Challenge," which tasks you with pulling off Jordan's ridiculous feats ranging from a 63-point game against the Celtics to fending off the flu and dropping mad points during the NBA playoffs.

The Highs

This Smells Like Jordan

"2K11" is an open love letter to the player that changed the NBA. Jordan's likeness is plastered all over the game and Visual Concepts' reverence for his skills and intangibles is palpable. The Jordan-based challenges in particular add a nice, challenging wrinkle to the base game, giving you something to do other than hit "Quick Play" or jump into a season of "The Association."

It's Like I'm Watching An NBA Game Or Something

Visual Concepts always nails the presentation aspects of its NBA games and that legacy continues with "2K11." The arenas are beautiful, the half-time shows have substance, and the announcer and courtside conversation is meaningful, current, and rather dynamic. Just wait until you hear the duo break conversation to laud a fantastic dunk.

A Whole Team Of Rodmans

The AI has been greatly fiddled with this year, making it hard to put up 70 or 90 points a game. Also, it's obvious a greater degree of care was put into the protection of passing lanes. Your dudes will not magically receive the ball whenever you pass. No, the AI will often intercept the sphere if it goes into their orbit instead of staring blankly at your pretend prowress.


Fresher, slicker animations and a refined level of control are huge additions this year. No longer can you crossover, spin, and move like a man possessed all over the floor. Now, you need to pay attention to precise stick control before putting down a knee-shattering fake.

The Lows

How Do I Dunk?

There is a drawback to this and I think it's significant: "NBA 2K11" is not as accessible as other iterations in the franchise. Learning these new, more precise moves will take time and practice. And unfortunately, the "Practice" mode is severely lacking in tutorials.

Hi! I Would Like To Pass Or Shoot, Please.

There's a barrier of entry this year when dealing with the enhanced defensive AI. Because it's so sharp, you'll need to take the time to learn a team's flow, learn how to set up plays, and pay attention to strengths and skills. This attention to detail is giant hurdle for the casual player who may just want to pick up the game and drop 80 on the Golden State Warriors. Even "Rookie" mode is tough this year. I've had many a games where I've only been able to drop 40-50 on an opposing team with this setting on.

The Verdict

"NBA 2K11" is a tremendous basketball simulation game. The AI is sharp, the look, flow, and details of the game have been authentically captured, and the online functionality continues to deliver the kind of smart stuff you want. I wouldn't call the inclusion of the Jordan Challenges and teams an enhancement, but they don't get in the way of the actual sequel part of "2K11," and for the most part, they're fun to fiddle with. Great game all around.