NBA 2K6 Review

Developer: Visual Concepts Publisher: 2K Sports
Release Date: November 16, 2005 Also On: none

Visual Concepts has provided an annual basketball game since the Dreamcast in 1999, and since then, they haven’t missed a beat. With this long string of success, it’s no wonder that they wanted to work hard to optimize their basketball experience on Microsoft’s new Xbox 360, and they’ve done a fantastic job. NBA 2K6 for the Xbox 360 isn’t completely new or different from its Xbox and Playstation 2 counterparts, but it’s an enhanced version with features that you’ve got to see on the new console.

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The developers spent a large amount of time making the visuals and using them to bring forth the most authentic, realistic NBA experience ever. They hit the nail on the head, and the first time that I saw my starters for the Indiana Pacers run out onto the court, my jaw just dropped. There’s Jermaine O’Neal, and you wouldn’t mistake him for the next 6″10 hulk. I couldn’t miss Ron Artest, and alongside every other player on the team, there’s just no mistaking him. It is absolutely unreal what Visual Concepts has done to the NBA 2K6 graphics engine, and the player models are just the first step. The courts are detailed with lights, cheerleaders, mascots, and cheering fans. I’ve never felt a basketball atmosphere in a video game like this before. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone observing a game in NBA 2K6 had it mistaken for a real-life game, especially if they catch a glimpse at the in-game replays.

Of course, graphics are the last thing that make a basketball game worth playing. Visual Concepts ported every last feature from the current-generation version of the game to the Xbox 360 version. The streetball-influenced 24/7 Mode, a mode through which you create a baller and make him into a better player, is back. The Association returns as well, and is your basic Franchise mode. Xbox Live-related features include the new Achievements, Leaderboards, and online mulitplayer. Out of all of these modes, I’ve enjoyed Association the most, but they’re all done well and give you a few different options for how you want to play the game.

The NBA 2K series has always felt a little slower and tight, and NBA 2K6 on the Xbox 360 is no different. There are a few new shooting mechanics that migth have inexperienced basketball gamers scratching their heads. The new Shooting Stick control style is mapped to the right analog stick, and with it, players can take all sorts of different shots to try and get around defenders. Offensively, this Shooting Stick really mixes things up but I found it easier to drive to the basket than anything else. Three-pointers were definitely not my strong point. On defense, the right thumbstick controls blocks and steals. I felt that playing defensively was very exciting, and going for rebounds or loose balls was a rush that felt even more realistic when the graphics were factored in. One thing I did feel that was too common are fouls, both offensively and defensively. The foul shots are handled much differently as well. On the charity stripe, players hold down the thumbstick and release it as the shooter is about to release the ball. This system feels extremely smooth and works well. I hope to see Visual Concepts incorporate this in future editions of the game. This easy system makes free throws a lot more interesting and fun than the timing-based mechanics of the past. Unfortunately, these new control styles aren’t very familiar at first and took a bit of time to learn, but once I had them down, I had a great time shooting around opponents and showing them up on the court.

I must applaud Visual Concepts for a job well done on their Xbox 360 basketball debut. NBA 2K6 does have a few flaws, and it’s not as easy to pick up as some other basketball games, but once I learned how to play and play well, I couldn’t put the game down. Whether you’re playing the 24/7 Mode and trying to develop a rising star or you’re managing a team in The Association, you should have a great time with this game. Of course, if you’ve picked it up for other consoles already, you might want to skip on buying the 360 version–but don’t skip on trying it or renting it, because you’d really be missing out.

Graphics: 9.5
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 8.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 8.5
Written by Cliff Review Guide

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