Dime’s Definitive NBA 2K12 Preview

When I had a chance to preview NBA 2K12 this week, I honestly came in ready for a let down. NBA 2K11 was out of this world, plain and simple. Without question the best sports game of the year, and arguably the best video game of the year. But even though the hype for 2012 was there, I wasn’t quite buying into it. Oh, how I was wrong.

After playing 2K12 for a few minutes, it was obvious that there were some widespread changes once again. Although last year’s game physics were pretty awesome, posting up was a little too difficult, speed dribbling was a little too effective, and crossovers were a little too devastating against other users. Not anymore.

The post-up button has been switched to “Y” on the Xbox controller, so you don’t have to worry about randomly jump-stopping or speed bursting by accident. Crossovers are a little less herky-jerky and one-on-one moves are even more varied, allowing for smooth transitions and changes of player direction. Even cooler is the speed dribble, which, when employed, makes the player push the ball out in front of him. Just as in real life, a guy dribbling at full speed has very little change of direction abilities. Even more, you can chase a ball out of bounds and dive into the crowd or over the scorer’s table.

Smoother player movement isn’t the only in-game upgrade – your teammates actually move without the ball. Even if you don’t run a play, expect more screens, players demanding the ball in the post, etc. I’ve never been a guy to use organized plays, but sometimes I had to simply because going one-on-one on the higher difficulties is, well, difficult. Now you can have that true, innovative NBA feel where player creation and imagination fuels the action.

While all these improvements are great, ultimately they’re small. Is it really worth it to fork over more money for essentially the same game? The “NBA’s Greatest” mode is the reason why you should. As we already know, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson grace the cover of this year’s game. But don’t worry, the legends don’t stop there. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Scottie Pippen, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, and Jerry West all make appearances as well. If you choose to play on the team of one of these stars (you’d play as the 60s Celtics with Russell or the Bad Boys Pistons with Isiah) you can relive the action from their eras.

When I jumped in a game with Russell, the screen was grainy, the picture was black and white and the computer monitors were gone – everything was straight out of 60s basketball. As you move up to the Magic years, you start to get huge computer monitors and slightly better picture (in color). Even the jerseys and court design still mimic the old Lakers’ style. Even better, player faces, attributes and tendencies are spot-on with the starting five, and still pretty accurate as you move down the bench.

But don’t worry, it gets better than simply being able to matchup the 80s Celtics with the ’08 Boston squad to determine which Boston team was the best. You have the ability to unlock even more squads as well. Each legend and legendary team you play with allows you to unlock the opponent you play for exhibition use. For instance, Ewing takes on the Shaq and Penny‘s Magic. Take them down and you’ve got ’em.

For the detail-orientated, you’ll get your money’s worth this year. As I mentioned, player faces are even better, tattoos are even more accurate and signature playing styles are eerily similar. And I’m not just talking about the main guys – it’s head coaches, 12th men, everyone. Want to put up Dirk‘s classic one-legged fadeaway. You can in 2K12. Want to barrel down the lane with LeBron like no other player in the NBA? Go for it. Attention to detail makes this game stand out over any other sports game franchise.

So what does this all mean? It means I’m running to the store when NBA 2K12 drops on October 4th.

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