Preview: NBA 2K12 Hands-On With The "Greatest" Mode

MJ Vs. Lebron. It’s the never ending arguement. Ask 100 people and they’ll be split with 100 different explanations as to why. Comparisons are constantly being made by analysts, players, and fans on a daily basis. Unfortunately, these two heroes of the hardwood would never get a chance to settle it in real life simply because when Michael was busy icing the Utah Jazz in the 1998 NBA finals, Lebron was only graduating from the 8th grade and making plans to attend St. Vincent – St. Mary’s High School. But what if you could finally put this argument to rest? That’s exactly what 2K Sports is going for in NBA 2K12, and from the looks of it, they’re going to pull it off.

Recently, I had the chance to sit down and take in an in depth preview of one of this year’s biggest additions to the series, the “Greatest” mode. Last season 2K sports turned to his airness, Michael Jordan, to not just set the tone for the title, but also base the experience around some of his greatest moments. Now the experience is based around not just great moments, but the greatest athletes and teams that helped create them.

My demo opened up with a glimpse of what is being cooked up with the new mode. The game I played featured two power houses from the 60’s: Jerry West’s Lakers against Bill Russell and the Celtics. From the outside looking in, one would assume that it’s just adjusted rosters and likenesses, but it’s so much more than that.

To recreate the feeling of watching a basketball game in that era, or any other time periods in the game, the mood is cleverly set with the use of visual filters. In the case of my 60’s match up, the game was in black and white, with the game’s opening segment even using overlay graphics from that time period. The broadcasters, although unchanged, are even given an audio filter of sorts to give them a more authentic sound.

The changes aren’t only visual. No, that would be too easy. The game also recreates the arena’s to what they looked like at the time. The commentary is even adjusted to provide information about the storied franchises on the floor. The game play mechanics, and even dribbling, is dumbed down to match the style of play of the age. Attention to detail in 2K12 is an understatement. Short shorts and high socks? Check.

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Don’t think for a second that because you’re playing with one of the “greatest” players on your team that you’re just going to run all over the competition. 2K picked certain great players while also keeping in mind the quality teammates that these exceptional athletes were surrounded by.

That couldn’t have been more evident than during my play time with my 90’s Knicks (don’t make fun) against a young Shaq and the 90’s Orlando Magic. As I tried to make every play with Patrick Ewing, I started to realize that I had to use other play makers if I was going to have any chance of avoiding a total blow out. And that’s when I began to make it rain from the 3 point line with my childhood favorite, John Starks.

For a series that is known for really nailing it when it comes to presentation and authenticity, 2K12 takes that reputation and cranks it to the max. The present day stuff looks as great as you’d expect it, with players likenesses receiving an added boost. Now the stars look even better; but your guys coming off the bench also get visual upgrades, making your 8, 9, and 10 guys look just as good as your starting five.

I’m not sure what kind of motion capture techniques are used to put together these titles but the level of detail is really in a league all its own. During my demo we even took the time to analyze unique jumpshots and quickly noticed that Dirk Nowitski’s looked so good it was scary. The first row of every arena is also interactive now so when players dive for a loose ball you’ll actually see spectators move out of the way. If the action spills over the shock clock table at center court, you’ll even see player vault over that.

If you were a fan of NBA Today in last year’s game, then 2K12 will make you count the days until its release. Among the updates (which are all cloud based) are: shoe updates, on-court elements, and even playoff crowds. So when Miami is in the NBA playoffs and every one’s wearing white at their home games, in 2K12 you can expect to see just that. If a team’s crowd starts using towels during the playoffs, you get the same result.

After spending a little over an hour with 2K12, I can say with ease that like last year’s title this will be among the favorites for sports simulation title of the year. We’re still over a month away from review time but if this is just a taste of what’s to come then consider me a believer. Now, I’ll finally get to recreate the 1994 NBA finals, because, as a Knick fan, Hakeem Olajuwon has haunted me for almost 2 decades now and thanks to 2K Sports, this October I’ll finally get my revenge.

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Joel Taveras

Joel Taveras is one of the founding members of DualShockers. He hails from New York City where he lives with his wife and two sons. During his tenure with the site, he's held every position from news writer to community manager to editor in chief. Currently he manages the behind the scenes and day-to-day operations at the publication.

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