A Rant About NBA 2K11

April 14, 2011 1 comment

Hey all!

First thing’s first. I’m not dead. I’ve just been overwhelmed with work since October. But I won’t be for much longer, and I plan on making a come back when I finally have some freedom to sit and properly write a blog.

Until that time, here’s an unchecked, rushed rant about NBA 2K11:

NBA 2K11 is a fantastic game. Perhaps the best sports game ever. I love it. I’ve spent over 100 hours playing it. I despaired when I thought my copy had broke a few weeks ago (it hadn’t). If someone held a gun to my head and told me I could only have one game and had to destroy all my others, I’d keep NBA 2K11. And I wouldn’t feel too bad about it.

However, the game has one problem which totally ruins its magic, and has me turning the game off and walking away in GAMERAGE at least once every few matches. That is the way 2K11 handles the difficulty issue.

Essentially, NBA 2K11 cheats in order to make the game more difficult for you. And it does this too often and too intensely. It’s a pretty sloppy solution to the AI problem 2K face. All sports games face this problem. Sports are inherently relative and situational, with each possession being so uniquely different in its subtleties that it’s impossible to capture it with an AI that runs on algorithms and set sequences. When playing against a human intelligence, the human will always have the advantage because we can make judgements on the fly and can play in ways which exploit the AI’s algorithms. Unchecked, this will make the game unrealistically easy. So how to make the game difficult?

Ideally, what we would have is an AI which operates on an increasingly complex set of algorithms as the difficulty level increases, having the AI play smarter, better, and more and more like a human opponent. What you would hope to see is that regardless what difficulty you’re on, the abilities and sliders stay the same. It is the way the AI uses these which change. 2K have obviously found this a bit too difficult, because they’ve put in a series of solutions which realistically amount to cheating.

There has been a well-documented morphing problem, where the ball tangibility is heavily biased in favour of the CPU at higher difficulty levels (see below). And there’s always those annoying but forgivable flaws such as your teammates’ AI being consistently dumber and more docile than opposing AI. But there are more. You see, being in control in 2K11 is really an illusion. If you want any proof, up your stats to maximum, get in the game and start shooting jumpshots. If you really are in control, you shouldn’t miss a single shot that is open, in range, and with a perfect release. And yet you do. This happens most in My Player mode, where my point guard with 95 medium shot, 85 shot off the dribble and 90 consistency ratings will go 2-11 on open, perfectly released, mid-range jump shots. During those times, it actually doesn’t matter what my input into the game is. There is nothing I, as a player, could have done better. The game just decided I was going to miss, and that was that.

This happens mostly when you’ve won a few games, or when you’ve gotten yourself a nice, comfortable lead. The game seems to be getting hints that the game is becoming too easy, and decides to up the ante without consulting you. It will make the opposing team ridiculous. They’ll start hitting every shot they take, regardless of whether they’re out of range and/or contested. Meanwhile, not only will you go ice cold and not be able to do anything about it, but so will all your teammates. I play for the Chicago Bulls, and it just makes no sense to see Carlos Boozer go 1-18, have Derrick Rose miss lay ups on the break, and Joakim Noah get blocked by Luis Scola on 3 straight dunks. The game will do this until either 1) you lose or 2) they’ve made the game close again, then they’ll revert back to their old ways.

Not only is this totally unrealistic out of context, but even more so when you add the context. My Bulls have won 6 straight games. We’re playing well. This should be reflected in the gameplay. Instead, we’ve gone completely the opposite way because the game has decided we’re having too much of an easy time. I’m having to force out our victories now, which feels more like constipation than casual fun. What’s more, I haven’t really seen any evidence of the game letting up when you’re going through a particularly bad stretch either. It’s a one-way street with 2K. Look, I’m sure we’ll go through a slump at some point. It happens. I had a 2-15 stretch with the Clippers last season. It’s tough. So please, just let me enjoy our play while it’s still good.

2K’s solutions aren’t really solutions. They’re just a substitute set of problems, and don’t make the game any more satisfying. Instead of being bored by an all-too-easy game (such as NBA 2K10), I’m now feeling cheated and screwed over when I lose. And this has a knock-on effect. Because when I lose fairly, I’m usually suspicious that somewhere along the line I got screwed and didn’t notice it. So now I never lose close games in 2K11. I restart them, and only accept the loss when it’s such a blowout that cheating wouldn’t have mattered. No one wants to play that way.

What’s annoying isn’t just that I’m being cheated, but that I have to play on lower difficulty levels to avoid it. I can’t play on Hall of Fame because the morphing and cheating just become too much. Occasionally, it gets too much on Superstar too, and I have to play a game on All-Star in order to get a fair game. And the lower difficulty levels suck. They’re not even challenging, because the AI doesn’t really dumb down. They just shoot 25% and finish with 49 points in 48 minutes (To be fair, my Bulls’ defense rocks.).

It hasn’t really occurred to 2K that maybe some of us are happy with our difficulty settings. I like playing on Superstar. I feel my victories are well earned, games often end with the scorelines they should and, ultimately, they’re fun. If I wanted a bigger challenge, I’d move to Hall of Fame. Or, here’s a wacky thought, you could make the sliders available to edit on My Player mode and I could adjust the game to play however easy or hard I wanted it to. Surely that should be my right as the person who forked over £40 to you to own this game.

It’s really not that difficult. The user should always have control. A perfect release should always go in. Always. Want to make it tougher? Make a perfect release more sensitive. Make it harder to achieve if the person is out of range or if the shot is contested or if they’re on a cold streak. Make it easier if they’re open and in range and on a hot streak. It’s the simplest, fairest, most realistic solution.

But NBA 2K11 favours the cheap solution. And it’s not really a solution at all.

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ZombieSmash on sale for 59p

October 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Here’s a quick notice to let you know that ZombieSmash is on sale in the iTunes store for 59p.

The sale is quoted as being available for a limited time only, but it’s for Halloween, so it will probably stay on sale for at least another week for those of you a little cautious about buying the app.

I would heavily recommend ZombieSmash, though. It’s easily one of the best castle defense games in the app store and, in my opinion, just one of the best games, period.

Categories: Apps, Gaming

NBA 2K11 Review: The Jordan Challenge

October 19, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve played sports games for a long time. Since the Sega Mega Drive, in fact. I’ve owned FIFA, Pro Evo, Madden, NHL, Formula One, TOCA Touring Cars and, of course, NBA Live and 2K. So when I say NBA 2K11 is the best sports game I’ve ever played, don’t take that statement lightly.

I’ve been playing 2K11 for 2 weeks now and I’m convinced this is going to be the game of the year for me. There’s a lot of reasons for this, but lets start with the cover athlete, Michael Jordan.

The Jordan Challenge

Very few, if any players have had the impact on a sport that Michael Jordan has had on basketball. In 2K11, you get to play through and try to replicate MJ’s 10 greatest moments. Want to take on the Bad Boy Pistons? You can. Want to beat the flu? You can. Each of these challenges is done with a surprising amount of authenticity.

The players look like they did, His Airness flashes the tongue, and guys even have their own signature shots and free throw routines. Commentary is specially done for each of these challenges, talking about events and storylines that occurred during or before the games. The arenas feel and sound like they should (The Boston Garden is so loud it’s deafening). Even the camera is slightly grainier than normal to match the broadcasts of the 80’s and 90’s. To top it off, there are special cut scenes to help relive those memorable moments. Both the Bulls and the opposing teams look and play like they did back in the day. The play at the tempo they played at, run plays they ran, and generally bring it like they did back in the day as well.

2K11 is so legit it rewards you for your historical knowledge. Want to contain Magic? Do what the Bulls did. Put Pippen on him. It works. But scoring 63 points on the Celtics is not easy. Not while you also have to shoot a good percentage and dish 6 assists at the same time. And winning the game while you do this is even harder. I never got to witness Michael Jordan myself. I was too young. But I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for him after this.

There are only two flaws I’ve found in the challenge: lack of opposing benches and 8 minute quarters. It kind of grated on me when Larry Bird fouled out in the third quarter of The Arrival, but stayed in the game the whole way because the Celtics didn’t have a bench and, thus, no one to sub in for him. It turns out fouled out players staying in the game is a bit of a gamewide issue anyway, but that’s for another review.

8 minute quarters. They frustrate me because they make the whole game harder than it needs to be. Michael commonly played 38-40 minute games, and these only last 32. To get your achievements you often have to force them. I know 2K want you to take over the game with Michael, but I don’t want to do it at the expense of the flow and enjoyment of the game. And that’s often what you have to do. 10 minute quarters and 40 minute games would be a much better number. It’s challenging, but allows me to play within the game too. At least give us the option to change it.

The MJ challenge could well be a game in and of itself. But it’s not. It’s an added bonus that corrects the big flaw about sports games: they only capture the previous year. The Jordan Challenge takes you through a decade, an entire career, of great basketball moments. It’s the sort of thing that’ll make 2K11 still worth playing 5-10 years down the line.

Popcap Games On Sale

October 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Popcap Games are having a 59p sale on some of their most successful games to mark their 10 year anniversary.

The 66% sale extends to Bookworm, Chuzzle, Peggle and Bejeweled 2. No Plants Vs Zombies, though, I’m afraid.

The sale lasts until October 20th and is not all Popcap are doing to celebrate their anniversary. On Sunday it was reported that they allowed Bejeweled 2 for desktops to be downloaded for free from their site. And they may do this with some of their other titles in the coming week as well.

Popcap Games make some very addictive titles which are usually very well translated to the iPhone. If you’ve been intrigued by one of their titles in the past, now is the best time to grab it.

Sonic 4 Demonstrates Apple’s Growing Power In Gaming

October 9, 2010 Leave a comment

In case you haven’t actually heard yet. Sonic is back.

And it seems he’s with Apple these days.

Sonic’s much hyped return to (hopefully) good games will be happening next week for console owners, and people are getting excited. But if you have an iPhone or iPod, you’re one of the lucky few that get to experience Sonic’s return one week early.

Sonic 4 Episode 1 was released on the App Store on Thursday 7th and is already fighting it out in the top most grossing list. The game seems to be living up to the hype and has gained almost unanimous 4 and 5 star ratings, giving those of us who haven’t played it a bit more promise that Sonic might be a respectable franchise again.

Sega didn’t just release the game on the App Store first. The game is priced at £5.99 ($10) on the App Store and will probably be released for consoles at around £10 ($15). That’s a 30-40% saving, which is actually pretty cheap, and worth remembering given mine and most other people’s reactions to pricey apps. You’re also getting added content at this lower price, with the game boasting two additional exclusive levels that take advantage of the iPhone and iPod Touch’s accelerometer. Throw in the ability to carry the game around with you anywhere and you’ve got some pretty significant pulling power for iDevice gamers.

With video games slowly but surely drifting over to the downloadable universe, Apple are going to be given greater and greater openings to make some big splashes in the gaming community. While we’re a while away from console games being completely downloadable, both PlayStation Network and Xbox Live are growing a strong selection of downloadable games for £5-£15. As this section of gaming grows, so does Apple’s potential as a gaming force given the popularity of the iPhone and iPod Touch and downloading apps.

Me, personally? I’ll be waiting the extra week and forking over extra cash for less content in the PS3 version. Why? Because I still prefer playing games on a console with a HDTV and a controller than on my phone. Quality games deserve being given the best gaming experience. I still believe that experience is on consoles. Apple’s pull is never going to come from besting consoles, power devices built specifically to game. Additional content, cheaper prices and early release dates are the way to go if they want to compete in the gaming world, and that’s exactly what they’re doing.

Sonic The Hedgehog

Borderlands: Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution Review

October 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Whenever I get drawn into a game with RPG elements, I love going back and getting reacquainted with my old characters and the weapons I’ve collected for them over my game time. Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution gives fans of Borderlands who have long since put aside the game reason to dust it off once more.

Borderlands has had a history of solid downloadable content before now. The Zombie Island of Dr Ned brought a fresh element and new personality to the game. The Secret Armoury of General Knoxx gave players an optional mega-ultimate boss, Final Fantasy style, and featured some nice combat, but was let down by excessive and drawn-out travelling. And Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot was just a flat out fail. Claptrap’s Robo Revolution falls just below General Knoxx, in my opinion, but is still a decent DLC for fans of the game.

Chronologically, Robolution (as I’ll refer to it as from now on) takes place after all the previous DLCs and shows us what happens to the Interplanetary Ninja Assassin Claptrap from the main game’s ending cutscene. Long story short, the Claptraps are rebelling and are turning everyone into robo-zombie slave followers, and you’ve been hired by Hyperion to stop it.

The main attraction Robolution brings is the ability to fight Claptraps. Honestly, who hasn’t tried shooting a Claptrap between missions? Now we actually get to kill them. The Claptraps are designed in varying amusing ways, but the novelty wears thin and soon they just feel like any other enemy. They fight like robotic versions of the midget enemies you’ve already encountered in the game, and don’t really have the character that, say, the zombies had with Dr Ned. The same goes for the Hyperion soldiers, who feel an awful lot like the Lance soldiers from General Knoxx and the main game. The same lack of character extends to the scenery and story. The story itself is actually rather bland here. We’re given a fun premise but the story never feels fleshed out or developed like it had in previous DLCs. It almost feels like the missions are just a repetitive step-by-step to achieving the ultimate goal where at times a more immediate motivation would have made things more interesting. The scenery itself is nice enough, and it certainly has the character of Borderlands, but I didn’t feel it was different enough from the main game. One of the most appealing aspects of previous DLCs was the fresh twist it brought to the game. Robolution feels a lot like the kind of stuff we’ve already witnessed, which is fine if you loved the game, but after already playing through that I’m looking for something different to keep me coming back.

The area still has the Borderlands satirical charm.

And that is how most of Robolution feels. A rehashed version of a game we’ve already experienced. The whole thing leaves itself vulnerable to getting repetitive, and if you play it in one sitting it can certainly start to tug on your patience. What keeps you going is the amount of boss fights. There’s a good four or five challenging boss fights packed into six or seven hours of gameplay. And guess what. You’ve fought most of them already. Be prepared to have to re-fight some of the memorable enemies from your Borderlands past, reanimated as robo-zombies. While the rest of the DLC might feel a bit stale, these certainly don’t. I enjoyed fighting all these guys again. It’s these interspersed moments that keeps Robolution from feeling like just a rehash and more like a celebration of Borderlands. This comes together no more beautifully than the end, where you have to fight your way through your old enemies one after another before facing the Interplanetary Ninja Assassin itself. And trust me, that is perhaps the hardest boss fight in the whole of Borderlands.

Your reward for all this? Good question. My favourite parts of other DLCs were the weapon and level upgrades they provided. Robolution isn’t fantastic for this, but it’s not bad. I played it through on playthrough 1 with characters just starting playthrough 2, and I upgraded my shield slightly, purchased a slightly better rifle and got a nice upgrade on a class mod I only occasionally use. It wasn’t until the end where you are rewarded with Hyperion’s gift shop weapons stash that I found a true gem, a high powered Maliwan Hellfire. While being able to sell everything and buying nothing is great for your bank balance, I would prefer to spend my money on great gear. To get the most out of this, I’d recommend playing Robolution when you’re approaching the end of the main game. This was the same time I played Dr Ned’s DLC and walked away with a hefty bank balance and big upgrades on nearly every weapon and gear slot. I don’t think Robolution is that valuable, but I’d be surprised to hear anyone walk away without better gear if they timed it right.

Be prepared to run into some old enemies.

Overall, Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution is a fairly solid DLC that is best served for giving old fans of Borderlands reason to dust off their copy and celebrate the game they know and love. It may feel too similar to the main game to be worth the money for those in full swing, but the chance for a bit of extra levelling up, plenty of boss fights and the possibility of better gear may be too much to resist. Buy Dr Ned and General Knoxx’s DLCs first, but if you still want more Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution is a solid experience that will keep you happily treasure hunting for that little bit longer.

Categories: Gaming Tags: , ,

BioShock First Glimpse Gameplay

September 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Here we have a good solid ten juicy minutes of BioShock Infinite gameplay. Advice: watch this in HD. The graphics look awesome.

I don’t care that this isn’t in Rapture. This game looks like it’s going to be epic. And still has that creepy BioShock feel even in the sky. Hell, not relying on Rapture might force Irrational Games to make this game creepy not through scenery, but with events and people, which could make it even freakier than before. After seeing this, I’m pumped!

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