Release day for NBA 2K12 is an insufferable 62 hours away. Fortunately, lockoutschmockout happens to know a man-who-knows-how-to-get-things and for three packs of cigarettes, our dessert for two weeks, a red snapper and “other things” we were able to secure a copy. After binging on it nonstop for the past 36 hours we can definitively say that it wasn’t what we expected.
NBA 2K11 was famous for introducing the world to the Michael Jordan Mode, aka the absolute pinnacle of basketball gaming/existence. Honestly, that mode was so awesome, we didn’t really play anything else. Apparently there was also some kind of online connectivity feature and a franchise mode or something. We briefly tried out the My Player mode, but you couldn’t give your player rec-specs and he couldn’t be Michael Jordan – so we quickly lost interest.
Traditionally, the 2K franchise has included neat enhancements each year that make for a more expansive and richer experience. There’s better gameplay physics, more realistic-looking players, new modes of play, freakin’ awesome progression and tendency screens, etc. From the previews we’d watched we supposed NBA 2K12 would be much the same but with an added plethora of playable past all-stars and memorable teams.
But we’ve been hoodwinked friends! The NBA 2K12 we played has been developed in the opposite direction! Instead of the fantastical scenario of controlling Jumpin Joe Fulks as he drives on Bernard King, we are given the gritty reality of hoops in 2011. There are no associations, seasons, practices and playoffs. Gone is the NBA. We are left to shift through the rubble in two modes…
- MY PLAYER -
The My Player mode has been a part of NBA 2K games for the past couple years and highlights the importance of setting lots of off-ball screens to show your teammates how much you care about them. To start, you are a somewhat constrained God creating a player out of a generic form; controlling his height, weight, position, facial hair, bad tattoos, hopes, dreams, personality and sock length. This newest edition adds the weighty responsibility of choosing his course in life. There are five lockout roles to pick from:
Negotiator: You get to enlist in the most worthy and righteous cause of the National Basketball’s Player’s Association (NBPA) in their struggle against the evil (or at least greedy) empire of team owners. Starting out young and inexperienced you quickly become an integral part of labor negotiations and a key figure in the fight to ensure that there’s a 2011-2012 NBA season. You begin to unravel the web of lies surrounding the lockout…
… or at least that’s what the player’s manual said (Yeah, we read the player’s manual before we start a game, so what?!?). This role seemed too time consuming and not that much fun, so we didn’t play it long. Our first assignment was to help Billy King read and understand the owner’s proposal, but that was slow going. So, while Billy was napping, we tweeted that discussions were taking place for the Harlem Globetrotters and the Washington Generals to become the 31st and 32nd teams in the NBA… and then we direct messaged pictures of Greg Oden’s penis to owners. Afterward we claimed someone hacked our account. Anyway, we’ll let someone else worry about the future of the NBA.
Barnstormer: If playing basketball is more your style then you can take part in exhibition tournaments such as the Drew League in Los Angeles or the Goodman League in Washington, DC, and represent your home city (or if your home city sucks, then someone else’s home city). I started in Alaska with Carlos Boozer, Mario Chalmers and Trajan Langdon, but we couldn’t find a fifth; so I moved to Oklahoma and became the sixth man on a team starting: 47-year-old Mark Price, Xavier Henry, Kelenna Azubuike, Blake Griffin and Bryant “In a Big Country” Reeves.
Bonus points if you can name all the players pictured! Photo by flickr user GAMEFACE-PHOTOS
Playing these exhibition games and touring Middle America felt like basketball finally going back to its roots. It reminded me of going to see the Hong Wah Kues play against Olson’s Terrible Swedes at the town community center during the Dust Bowl.
The games are exciting to play and the crowd is intense (they wave their arms almost the entire game). The tempo, play style and lack of defense feels like playing an all-star game until you realize you are guarding Craig Smith or Pooh Jeter. The controls work well. I noticed they added some new ball handling moves and dunk animations, but sometimes the pass button refuses to work. Also, the on-court announcer tends to get in the way and will yell the same thing over and over, which can get pretty annoying. Hopefully, they’ll get this bug worked out.
Immigrant: Do you like cash more than the United States of America? If so, you can take your talents overseas to any of more than 40 countries. You’ll be able to train and hone your skills against the best players that a country has to offer (as well as some rather mediocre players that the U.S. didn’t want). But more importantly, you’ll Get Money – Get Paid.
With your superstar contract and
BeatleBiebermania popularity level you are treated like a king in the country of your choosing. You can buy local luxury items and swag like walrus tusks, giant panda pelts, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the nation of Greece. Also, you upgrade your posse with dudes sporting funny-looking mustaches who you can’t understand. Soon you’ll forget about the NBA and the fabricated life you used to have in the states.
… then a month into the season you’ll wake up to find that the U.S. dollar isn’t as strong as you had thought, and you’ve run out of money to pay for your poached goods, national landmarks and city-states. Luckily, you are given the opportunity to raise your profile and funds by appearing on posters, billboards and embarrassing commercials that you pray will never find their way on to YouTube.
The games took some getting used to. I could swear that the three-point line was closer than I remember it being in previous games. The language barrier could also be an obstacle because I never got the 44 minutes a game I was asking for from the coach. The referees also had it out for me. I got thrown out of a game once after I got my fifth foul! Another time I kept trying to call a time-out, but the ref wouldn’t acknowledge me, even though I was standing right in front of him! After games you are interviewed by the foreign press and can coin some malapropisms or create international incidents with the likes of J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin.
Slacker: If you’re not that in to actually playing basketball but labor negotiations seem like a lot of work – no worries – you can just chill instead and celebrate your newfound freedom (remember, no CBA means no drug policy!).
Kobe Bryant driving Samaki Walker to drug addiction.
Much of this mode is scenario based and your experience will change depending on what friends you make. Here are a couple we played through: Convince Michael Beasley that it’s way too late for cops to be out so he can drive as fast as he wants and not worry about the drugs in his car. Try to work out a fair and just arrangement for some pot with a dealer at Zach Randolph’s house using a pool cue. Help Samaki Walker eat eight grams of weed before the cop reaches his car window. Play Chinese checkers, watch the Shawshank Redemption and eat ice cream at Cold Stone with Jimmer Fredette.
Do-Right: There’s also a mode where you can take the time you have not playing basketball and invest it in the good of society. You can go back to school and finish your education, you can do work to improve your community or you can go abroad and give aid to those less blessed than you. Obviously, we didn’t play this one. It seemed lame.
- MY OWNER -
If being a young, super-athletic, very well-paid professional basketball player isn’t privileged enough for you. Then why not be a rich white businessman? You can take control of any of the 30… err… 29 majority NBA owners and guide their decision-making through the lockout. I chose the venerable Robert Sarver.
This mode has less of a variety of activities than My Player. The majority of your time will be spent counting and recounting your money. At first I was going to criticize 2K’s designers for their lack of originality and vision, but soon found myself totally engaged in calculating each nickel and dime. During this time you can let your mind wander and fantasize about what you could be using the money on if not for this pesky lockout… Kenyon Martin 3 yrs/$26 million or J.J. Barea 4 yrs/$40 million or Greg Oden 5 yrs/$70 million or Dominic McGuire 3 yrs/$10 million or Alexis Ajinca 1 yr/a bag of peanuts and copy of Alan Wake… hmmm… sorry, I seem to have slobbered all over my piles of cash.
While you are avoiding meetings with the player’s union you can devise ways to accentuate how much your NBA franchise is losing – through no fault of your own, of course – or ways of getting the public on your side. I scheduled a tour of boardrooms and conference halls across America, giving stirring speeches on how I was fed up with making these guys rich and being exploited!
Unfortunately, sometimes you are pulled from your money-grubbing and must attend meetings with the David Stern and the NBPA. You can join one of two sides of owners. I wasn’t totally clear on what differentiated the two sides, but one side had Donald Sterling on it, so I chose the other one. The discussions aren’t very free-form. You will be asked for your opinion on a range of topics, but your only available response will be “institute a hard cap.”
Any proposed settlements are automatically rejected by both sides of owners without further discussion, which is fine with me since my money won’t count itself. We haven’t been close to reaching an agreement to end the lockout yet, but we’ve only played into November so far.