Who could have ever imagined that Michael Jordan would be the weak link on the basketball court? The six-time NBA champion makes his surprising return to the virtual court in NBA 2K11, but his presence is overshadowed by improvements in just about every other facet of this great round-ball simulator. Impressive artificial intelligence makes you work for every scoring opportunity and punishes you for every blown defensive assignment, and nuanced controls give you an unprecedented level of say in how your player shoots and dribbles. Upon first and even second glance, it's easy to confuse NBA 2K11's stunningly lifelike presentation with the real thing, but not every shot can be a swish. There are still troubling issues with online play and players often exhibit the court awareness of a disinterested J.R. Smith, but not even His Airness could be great all the time. NBA 2K11 is the most realistic and in-depth basketball simulator around.
6280887Joe Johnson still can't believe he signed a $119 million contract.None
Even though Michael Jordan is no better than a benchwarmer in NBA 2K11, it's impossible to ignore his presence. Upon starting up the game for the first time, you're introduced to #23 as he walks onto the court for the player introductions to the 1991 NBA Finals. It's odd that the first time you take control of Jordan in NBA 2K11 is in a game he lost in real life, but there's a nostalgic tingle to see these classic Lakers and Bulls teams re-created. This blast from the past extends much further than the opening tip. There's an entire mode devoted to replaying Jordan's most memorable games, and seeing those hallowed Knicks, Hawks, and Celtics teams in 2010 is a welcome reminder of the NBA's glorious past. Unfortunately, The Jordan Challenge mode isn't much fun. To come out victorious in each of the 10 games, you have to reach a certain statistical milestones. For instance, against the Jazz in The Flu Game, you have to put up at least 38 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists and win the game. If you come up short in any area, you have to restart from the first quarter. By forcing players to conform to specific statistical goals instead of greatness that extends beyond the box score, it devalues Jordan's achievements and forces you to play like a selfish ball hog.
Stumbling down memory lane may lead you to believe that NBA 2K11 falters in other key areas as well, but the on-court action is a realistic and satisfying representation of the real thing. Defense has been drastically overhauled from last year's edition. In NBA 2K10, guards could penetrate to the basket with such stunning ease that it stripped away any semblance of strategy. But this game steps up its defensive presence to such a high degree that newcomers will suffer through Dikembe Mutombo-like rejections until they finally adjust their style. You have to run your offense intelligently to score. Pick-and-rolls are a breeze to pull off, but you have to utilize your entire playbook if you're going to keep your opponents on their toes and take high-percentage shots. The lock-down defense can be frustrating at first, and the computer does occasionally cheat to thwart your success. For instance, long passes are frequently intercepted even when defenders aren't looking. But, by and large, the improved AI works great and forces you to approach every possession with the strategic care of a real player.
Poor Byron Russell has no idea what will happen to him at the end of this game.