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Posted on September 16, 2011 AT 05:57pm

Will 2K’s latest hoop dream dish a dime?

They may be out of the football and hockey markets, but thanks to an untimely exit from EA’s entry into the basketball market, Visual Concepts’ NBA 2K series is currently enjoying their second year as the only game in town, but unlike some other franchises that will remain nameless, it doesn’t mean they’re phoning this one in.

Quite the contrary, the folks at 2K Sports aren’t slowing down one bit, and after a recent play-through, we’re getting a strong sense that NBA 2K12 is on the fast track to delivering the best entry in the series to date.

The game itself is undergoing quite a few significant changes, most notably in the post game, where 2K is focusing on a realistic re-creation of the tenacious tug of war that occurs nightly in the paint, with a full 360 degree movement system that includes drives, step-back and more aggressive backdowns, as well as a full suite of defensive counters that promises to bring the post game to life like never before.

What’s more, a lot of attention has been paid to the action after a missed shot, as the ball itself is now “live” on each rebound, and you must leap to the air to snatch the ball or tip it out of their opponent’s reach to keep things going. It may not sound like much, but as a hoops fanatic, few features in the last decade of basketball development have had a larger impact on a game’s sense of realism, making the quest for every board a mini-game in and of itself.

VC is also introducing “Total Shot Stick Control,” which allows you to use the R-Stick to shoot, which brings an added layer of touch for the gunners out there, though we never really found our sweet spot with the feature. The same could be said of the game’s passing mechanics at this point, which often left us disappointed at the apparent lack of logic in choosing a target, but luckily, 2K is also including a new “Training Camp” feature that will feature nine distinct lessons on the game’s core mechanics to help you get the swing of things. Considering the amount of depth added to the product, we’re hoping these pointers will help us step our game up in time for the season.

Beyond dialing up the realism on the court, 2K12 also features some enhancements to the RPG-esque elements in the game, including a ton of improvements to the career-crafting “My Player” mode where you’ll go from draft night to the Rookie Showcase to squabbling with sponsors of top endorsement dollars on your path to NBA stardom, or you’ll be able to choose any existing NBA player and plot their course towards certain stardom in “Create a Legend” mode.

Speaking of legends, we got to spend some quality time with 2K12’s hottest ticket, the all-new  “NBA’s Greatest” mode, which puts you in the shoes of 15 top teams from seasons past as they go up against some of the toughest ballers to ever slap on sneakers. What’s more, each challenge features a custom suite of presentation elements, including color commentary that serves as a virtual history lesson for each contest, special black-and-white video effects for old-school games and a host of classic rosters featuring a who’s-who of the NBA’s all-time greats. We played several of the 15 challenges available, and each had a very distinct look and feel that has us more than ready to go in and unlock the whole lot, even though we’ll have to carry the 88-89 Pistons and 97-98 Jazz to victory to do it. Dominance not without its cost, eh?

All told, it’s a hefty list of improvements and additions. If our limited time with the game is any indication, there’s a good chance that 2K12 will end up being one of the most playable, realistic sports simulations on the market when it drops this fall.

PARTING SHOT: While Jordan and Co. took last year’s game to 11, NBA 2K12 looks like one hell of a leap for the franchise in its own right. Tipoff can’t come soon enough, people.

Brandon Justice, Executive Editor
Brandon Justice spent the last 17 years in the game industry wearing hats as an annoying retail weasel, an overly opinionated journalist, and game-development ninja—until he got tired of the all the caviar and groupies, returning to the ring as a rowdy, rambling writer in 2010 for EGM Media. Follow him on Twitter @jokeontheworldMeet the rest of the crew.

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