NBA 2K6 Review
|Release Date:||April 28, 2006 (UK)|
|Buy now at Amazon.co.uk|
The sporting genre is veritably packed with successful basketball titles that have proven to be massive videogame hits over the years and, as with most sharply defined brands, there's always seemingly two companies brawling for the spoils of retail victory. As publishers of mega-franchises, EA has a vice-like grip on the videogame market, and the basketball court is no exception to that financially lucrative fact thanks to NBA Street and, most notably, their long-serving NBA Live series. As with most sporting videogames, basketball falls into one of two gameplay categories: Simulation and Arcade, and NBA Live leans toward simulation while also having vast injections of the sportingly improbable blended into the gameplay. By comparison, Take Two Interactive's NBA 2K games are a stalwart series well known for high-quality and realistic simulation placed alongside fabulous gameplay and convincing visual performance. So, with NBA Live 06 ranking highly amongst the critical elite, how does NBA 2K6 compare when the two leap up for the tip off?
NBA 2K6 offers up two central single-player modes in The Association and 24/7: Road to EBC. The Association is a dauntingly in-depth but rewarding franchise mode that opens team management to the player, including assigning practice, shuffling rosters, hiring, firing, scouting, trading, and forming useable on-court strategies. All in all, it's certainly the game's justified focal point for the term 'simulation'. Whereas, conversely, 24/7 mode offers up an unusual slice of arcade action where players can be created and customised and then placed in competition over a series of one vs. one and street-ball games. Interestingly, players can also hit the court against a parade of hip-hop celebrities such as Redman, Method Man, and Flavor Flav.
As with ice hockey favourite NHL 2K6, there's no snazzy presentation care of ESPN in NBA 2K6 after ESPN departure from the series. It's odd considering ESPN's obviously advantageous impact on both sporting franchises that NBA and NHL 2K6 fail completely to replicate their own achievements and suffer noticeably with dull and confusing navigation and menus. Where once a towering pillar of ESPN quality once stood, now only a pile of indecipherable rubble remains. Thankfully, though, the shamefully lax presentation doesn't directly affect the exceptional gameplay.
This particular NBA 2K6 update includes two interesting gameplay facets to complement the already established qualities of the series. Firstly there's the Shot Stick (basically the right analogue stick), which the player uses to select one of four directions at the very top of a jump. Each direction instantly produces a different shot selection or, when the Shot Stick is utilised while assaulting the basket directly, it will provoke an array of impressive lay-up or dunk moves. It's great in principle, and works well once mastered, but the Shot Stick takes considerable time and effort to perfect-especially as the 360's controller also has perfectly decent assigned shot buttons that exist beyond the Shot Stick's rather fiddly usage. Oddly, the stick can be used on defence as well as offence and it allows players to intercept, strip, and steal the ball from opponents by leaning the stick in the desired direction(s). As with the attacking Shot Stick, using this method defensively takes some time to grow accustomed to, but it emerges as much more effective than its attacking flipside and proves extremely handy when trying to win back ball possession.
Then there's the Dual Player Control system, where players use the controller's D-Pad to instantly position other teammates for showy alley-oops moves and other glitzy two-man showpieces. Again, the principle is sound, and so is the practice, if it weren't for instances of flawed representative A.I., meaning that a player's teammates are not always as 'on the ball' as they should be and can be prone to frustrating lapses-though some gamers may conveniently argue toward advanced realism rather than a gamplay hiccup. Both of the new control methods are certainly intuitive in design, but neither is especially necessary in order to pile up the points, and perhaps only the more dedicated basketball fan will possess the patience to fully integrate them into their arsenal.
Aesthetically, the 360 version of NBA 2K6 ramps up the visual standard against that already seen in the current-gen offerings on PS2 and Xbox; player animations and facial captures are all typically realistic and well produced (as is the norm these days), and picking out international stars in full flow, such as Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, and Kobe Bryant always seems to prompt one of those appreciative 'point and laugh' moments-though the laugh is purely involuntary, you understand. Specific team arenas are re-created to a pleasingly high standard, though the crowds packed within them perhaps somewhat less so. Commentary is also a little deficient after the departure of ESPN's fabulously flowing presentation-though it's not bad per say-yet those gamers already familiar with previous 2K iterations will perhaps frown at the rather stark contrast.
NBA 2K6 is an excellent basketball simulation and its basics are fairly easy to grasp, which bodes well for the uninitiated. It's also a definite visual improvement over the PS2 and Xbox versions, yet it must be noted that, in terms of content, it's virtually identical but with a higher price tag. However, more importantly, for the sake of providing consumers with a 'forewarned is forearmed' attitude, NBA 2K6's yearly developmental evolution (it first appeared on the Dreamcast in 1999) means that it feels advance-engineered for those hardcore basketball aficionados willing to explore and hone every subtle gameplay nuance. Those gamers pondering NBA 2K6 as a casual first-time foray into the world of the hoop (as this reviewer did) should be advised that, regardless of its attractions in an immediate sense and that it's possibly the strongest sporting title presently available on the Xbox 360, NBA 2K6 is a serious game for serious gamers.
- Association and 24/7 modes are in-depth elements that will suck your life away
- Graphics are improved over the PS2 and Xbox versions
- It's clearly the genre leader for those looking for the complete basketball package
- 2K's gameplay is rock solid and rewarding
Not so good stuff
- Lack of ESPN presentation knocks some polish off the product
- Content is identical to the PS2 and Xbox versions so don't touch this if you have either of those.
- Casual gamers may struggle with the game's evolved complexities