After reviewing two of the biggest football games on iOS recently, it’s only fitting that I should now give my opinion on football’s slightly less popular cousin. Or Uncle. Or something.
Well it’s another game with a ball anyway. If you don’t know the difference between football and basketball, stop reading now and flog yourself.
If you were one of the (un)lucky few to have downloaded NBA 2K 12 near the time of it’s release, you’ll be well aware that Apple’s behemoth iOS 5 software update managed to completely eviscerate the game’s innards; messing up the commentary, warping the crowd, and making the player’s faces look like they’d taken up shaving with a chainsaw. Thankfully 2K have managed to tune things up and sort things out; a recently released update renders the game playable once again.
Visuals have been fixed, sort of. Instead of the previously mentioned Texas Massacre, they now look as if they frequent the local barber who trims hair with a meat cleaver. So it’s kind of a progression. Players only minimally resemble their real life counterparts, and their faces are stretched across their heads, giving the impression someone is pulling their cheeks from either side. This ain’t the prettiest looking game on the iPad.
But it’s easy to forgive once you see the game in motion. Animation is super smooth. In fact, where player movement is concerned it’s actually hard to tell the difference between this and the main console versions. Each game flows nearly identically to its bigger cousin/Uncle/whatever, and while some of the smaller nuances are obviously missing, the rhythm of real life basketball is pretty much there. Each player even has their individual shooting style, so you’re not dealing with a generic canned animation, but an authentic motion capture of every single stroke.
If you don’t know your Kevin Durants from your Derrick Roses however, such an intricate feature will likely go unnoticed. Well, it probably won’t now that I’ve highlighted the fact, so consider your self enlightened. Now you can marvel at how Dirk Nowitzki’s in-game jumpshot is just like it is in real life. Don’t know who Dirk Nowitzki is? Let’s move on.
You’ve got two control styles to choose from ‘one finger’ and ‘standard’. One finger allows you to control the game with… er… one finger… Surprising, I know! A single digit rules the day here; swipe up to shoot, swipe towards a team mate to pass to him. Player movement is handled by the CPU.
Unfortunately, while it may make the game more accessible, it pretty much takes it out of your hands. Yes, pun indeed intended. Because where your player dribbles is decided by the computer, you end up feeling like the game is playing itself. Stick to the classic controls which give you the standard left side D-Pad/ right side button set up and it’ll be much more fun to play. The one finger scheme gives you as much involvement as watching a game from your couch.
There are five difficulty levels: Rookie, Pro, All Star, Superstar and Hall of Fame. Some advice: Don’t bother playing on anything past Pro unless you’re part of the game’s development team. Even at All-Star level, the CPU will hit a ridiculous percentage of their shots and almost never miss around the rim. Superstar and Hall of Fame levels are legitimate alternatives to suicide.
Gameplay commits three major sins that anyone familiar with videogame b-ball will notice straight away. One is the lack of any in-game strategy, every game is played on the fly. Number two is a no crossover button. Three is that there’s no way to manually post up. Don’t know what that means? Lets move on.
The game handles these two essential manoeuvres automatically, which kinda takes away from the feeling of having total control over your players actions. To be fair though, separate buttons for each would no doubt crowd the screen and have your hands developing some form of basketball game related RSI. It’s an understandable compromise.
One definite sore point is that there’s no instant replay mode. Instead, the game randomly selects which highlight it wants to big up, and seems not to do it that often. So don’t be surprised if you hit a game winning shot from half-court, but instead see one of your players on the bench scratching his derrière in super slo-mo.
Commentary is a lot better than it has any right to be, with authentic sounding analysis and less repetition than you’d expect from a scaled down version of the game. But it can be inaccurate at times – witness Kobe Bryant launching one from behind the arc and the commentator marvelling at how he’s shooting from six feet, and you’ll realise something doesn’t quite add up. The arena announcer is also a bit of an oddball. It’s fine getting pumped up when a player on the home team throws down a monster dunk, but letting the arena know that a member of the away team has just scored in the same tone of voice is plainly unrealistic.
The main draw mode-wise is going to be Season, where you can take one team through 82 games and playoffs to the title. To be honest, it’s a little soulless. You’ve got a range of season stats for each player and options to control exactly now long you want your season to last (no way are you going to sit through 82 games of 12 minute quarters), but it plays out as a mere string of successive games (yes, I know that’s technically what a season is, wise guy.) There are no injuries, no consecutive seasons and no trades, although each players contract and value is available to view. Perhaps they just want to let us know how much money they make. Show offs.
Rounding off the modes are quick game, playoffs and practice. You’ve also got The Jordan Challenges; a welcome addition from the console versions which sees you take the role of Michael Jordan in his prime as a Chicago Bull, attempting to complete challenges based on a variety of his most famous games such as ‘The Arrival’, ‘The Flu Game’ and ’69 Points’. Don’t know what any of that means? Lets…oh, forget it.
The final game mode is Situation. Create your own game situation and play it out on the court. Although quite why you’d want to make up your own scenario as opposed to the game creating a challenging or real life one for you is anybody’s guess. Perhaps you’d like to set up a situation where you’re in the 4th quarter with a 50 point lead because you’ve been playing on Hall of Fame level and can’t win. I told you not to!
So, if you’re after the full NBA five-on-five experience, you could either pay a couple of grand, hop on a plane to the US and catch a game live, or you could throw down a couple of quid on the AppStore and roll with 2K. Let’s be frank though, with the real life NBA going through an excruciating lockout at the moment, NBA 2K 12 is a much better deal. It’s certainly a lot more fun than shaving with a chainsaw.