As the headline-grabbing tussle between NBA management and players prepares to enter its 100th day, the cancelled fixtures keep coming. This week saw the preseason axed and the first two weeks of the season look to be in serious jeopardy. Who knows what'll happen next. What does a fan have to do to get a game of basketball around here?
NBA 2K12 (2K Sports)
This week sees the launch of NBA 2K12, the follow-up to last year's smash hit NBA 2K11 and the only new NBA simulation game to come out this year (EA's once-proud NBA Live series is on temporary leave). And unlike their real-world counterparts, the digital players in the game aren't likely to be locked out any time soon. According to the first wave of critical takes, NBA 2K12 is quite possibly the best basketball game ever made.
Topping the bill is Games Radar's Richard Grisham, who, amid lavish praise for presentation, controls and and impressive list of NBA legends and historic teams, awards the game a rare 10/10.
"The combination of sublime gameplay, unprecedented level of compelling historic team matchups, and an excellent update to My Player," writes Grisham, "puts NBA 2K12 at a level no hoops game has ever been." A steep learning curve and some long load times are the only significant gripes he has with the game, and you get the impression he's just fine with both.
"2K12 treats every game like a televised matchup," says IGN's Jack DeVries, "with intros, animated roster lineups, and commercials for upcoming games. The crowds and stadiums are realistic and react to how well your team does. Seeing nobody show up to a Charlotte Bobcats game (a serious real life issue for the franchise) and then watching the seats fill as you take the Bobcats to their first ever playoff appearance highlights the level of detail." IGN's verdict is a 9.5 — the same stellar grade they gave last year's NBA installment.
"The best basketball sim ever," opens Game Informer's Matt Bertz, who goes on to outline the numerous areas where NBA 2K12 outshines the competition: presentation, gameplay, commentary ("the best ever recorded in a sports game," he says) and the completeness of its modes.
Crowning it "the most complete sports sim I've ever played…the new benchmark," Bertz only marks it down for some missing online features. His score is another 9.5.
Currently the game is averaging a whopping 93 on Metacritic. Shoot that high of a percentage from the foul line and you're a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame -- which is probably where this awesome b-ball sim is one day headed. Maybe the lockout's not going to be so hard to bear after all.
Also new this week:
Rage (PC, Xbox 360, PS3)
It's been seven years since their last major release, but for countless thousands of old-school shooter fans, Doom creator id Software still remains the gold standard in first-person combat games. They've got a rep to maintain, in other words -- and this week they're stepping up to defend it with their latest work, Rage.
Mixing vehicular combat with the first-person shooting that made the studio its name, post-apocalyptic Rage is, on the whole, pleasing the critics. An 82% is the average score, so far — but check out that spread, from perfect scores all the way down to the 50s. Looks like Rage is a matter of taste.
Just Dance 3 (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii)
Here's one that needs no introduction. If you own a games console manufactured any time in the last six years, you can't have failed to notice the massive commercial impact of Ubisoft's huge-selling Just Dance series. The original released to derisive howls from reviewers, but the gaming public made it the biggest selling non-Nintendo Wii game ever in just four months. Now it's back for a third installment, on Xbox Kinect, Playstation Move, and (naturally) Wii, featuring an all-new soundtrack and a new mode that lets you create your own dance routines.
Dark Souls (Xbox 360, PS3)
In the mood for a challenge? Dark Souls is the sequel to 2009 PS3 action-RPG Demon's Souls, a game which rose above its complete lack of marketing (not to mention a difficulty level that made even seasoned gamers blanch) and proved an overnight smash. A sellout, even. Dark Souls is, if anything, both harder and better. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll die...and a lot more of the latter than the former. It's a great game, but don't say we didn't warn you.
Spider-Man: Edge of Time (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, DS, 3DS)
What's this? Yet another superhero-licensed Activision release that's flying under the radar of most critics? Yup, after last week saw X-Men: Destiny sneak onto store shelves with nary a peep from reviewers, now the latest Spider-Man game is trying the same stunt. Destiny eventually turned in a woeful set of reviews; early reports on Spider-Man are better, but not by much.
Orcs Must Die! (XBLA)
They must! Why? Because they're gross and mean and are trying to invade your castle in this downloadable Xbox 360 game. Part action, part tower-defense and all kinds of murderous fun, it's getting terrific buzz from game critics. They must hate orcs, too.
NBA Jam: On Fire Edition (XBLA, PSN)
If NBA 2K12 is too realistic for you, there's always Jam. This souped-up version of last year's NBA Jam reboot throws down a tweaked Career mode, loads of unlockables and the ability to set the whole damn team on fire. Also, dunks. Lots of them.