The best sports games always add a little something extra.
This is particularly true with baseball, basketball and hockey games, which have competitors because those sports leagues don’t have an exclusive license with a game company, as football and golf do.
A key feature can, and often does, put some distance between a game and its rival.
That is what 2K Sports attempted to distinguish “NBA 2K11” from EA Sports re-branded “NBA Elite 11,” the series formerly known as “NBA Live.” The total package offered here could strike a big blow to “NBA Elite 11.”
“NBA 2K11” has all the features you’d expect from a sports game: a season mode, a more detailed franchise mode and online play.
But what sets it apart from its competitor — and probably every basketball game created to this point — is the addition of Michael Jordan.
Games have added former players as playable characters — “Madden” has done this often — but none have integrated a player into a game like “NBA 2K11” does with Jordan.
It’s clear from the start that the developers didn’t want to just throw the Hall of Famer on the front of the game’s box and add him as a playable character to sell copies.
This game is all about Jordan, which makes it all the more remarkable that this mode is included on top of the standard basketball game.
The main Jordan mode is called the “Jordan Challenge”
The challenge spans Jordan’s Chicago Bulls career — there are little to no mentions of Jordan as a Washington Wizard — taking the gamer through every key moment in his career.
The first of 10 challenges requires you to match Jordan’s 63 points he scored against the Boston Celtics in the playoffs early in his career.
Each challenge tier requires you to pass a set of in-game marks — scoring, assist totals, shooting percentage and most of the time winning the game — that mirrored Jordan’s accomplishments in that particular game.
Each of Jordan’s six championship teams are included in the challenge. The other challenges include Jordan’s 69-point outburst against the Cleveland Cavaliers, a duel with Dominique Wilkins and the Atlanta Hawks and matching the 55 points Jordan scored against the New York Knicks in the No. 45 jersey shortly after he returned from his short baseball career.
Jordan can be also used in the season and franchise modes by simply adding him to the team of your choice. He is available to play in the Slam Dunk Contest. You can also unlock every pair of Jordan shoes.
The “Jordan Challenge” alone would probably be worth playing, but the addition of the full franchise mode sets this game apart from just about every other basketball game ever released. One noteworthy addition is the ability to create and/or download draft classes to use in your franchise mode.
The NBA regular season began this week, and playing “NBA 2K11” seems like the perfect way to celebrate for basketball fans.