The Xbox 360's sports lineup has been, overall, less then impressive--just new coats of paint slapped on old games. NBA 2K6, while nothing revolutionary in the way of basketball games, is able to break that trend, showcasing some nice visuals but adding tons of customization, game modes, and, most importantly, keeping the gameplay accessible yet deep. NBA 2K6 has some flaws and, occasionally, it feels rushed, but it's bigger than the sum of its parts and the best choice when it comes to basketball on the 360.
Still, if you're looking for a game to show off the graphical prowess of the system, you should look elsewhere. This isn't to say NBA 2K6 is ugly, far from it. The game is pretty, with some excellent player models, sweat detail, blur effects, and character animations. It looks very good, but I'm not sure it looks great. If you have a high-definition television the next-gen feel of the game comes out. If not, the game looks unimpressively current gen. The players have enough character and facial movement to make them look more real than on previous systems, but sometimes they look do oddly constructed-especially their coaches who, despite excellent texture detail, all look like they were in an accident. And developers have yet to get the facial expressions on the characters right enough where I was blown away. Still, at least they have expressions unlike a certain other NBA game
we'll not mention. Each player starts off each game sweat free but and will begin to glisten as they play and, later, exhibit signs of fatigue. Overall, graphically, things are very good. But if you play a basketball game for the graphics-and, seriously, who does that?-then you'll be a little disappointed.
As for game modes, NBA 2K6 sports a variety of options. In Association
(think franchise mode) you'll draft and take your team to the top, and in 24/7 EBC
(Entertainer's Basketball Challenge) you create and train your player for the big time, draft him, load him into any situation you want. You'll find yourself playing these two modes more than others as they can seriously fight for your time. EBC particularly becomes addictive as you level up your character by training him and competing in street games. More on the line of traditional basketball modes are tournament, season, quick play, and street (play from 1-on-1 to 5-on-5 and even half-court). Whatever your fancy, 2K6 has you covered.
Even if you have a high-def TV, you'll notice that 2K6 plays exactly identical to its PS2 and Xbox counterparts. That is to say, noting minor enhancements, the game is still the same you've played. I'd been debating with myself if this is a bad thing, running over the faults the game has--which are minor, to be sure--and weighing them against the fact that NBA 2K6 was an impressive game on both PS2 and Xbox to begin with. Featuring a new mode of ball-handling (called isomotion) and a better way to shoot the ball (the Shot Stick), NBA 2K6 does what it does so very right that it's hard to fault it for controlling the same as its Xbox and PS2 cousins.
Isomotion? That's right. The right and left triggers are used to modify the aggressiveness of the character you're controlling. Holding in the right trigger and doing a little wiggle of the left joystick causes a cross-over, R + up on the left stick causes a juke and an aggressive drive, L + R and move the stick in a circle causes a spin move. The moves are all very useful and because of the intuitiveness of the control scheme. Other moves include hesitation cross right/left, step back, speed boost, hop step, and half spin. After a few minutes with the agression modifiers, controlling your ball handler becomes natural. But it still takes skill to dominate; isomotion isn't an easy-out.
As for AI, NBA 2K6 feels right-if not a little steep in the learning curve. Players will work together with those they usually do and those who don't (we're looking at you, Kobe) will try to take the whole team on alone. This is a nice addition, seeing teammates who usually work together actually work together. That said the AI can be difficult and extremely precise since they don't have to time their button presses. And blocking a quick player who can dunk is next to impossible once the dunk motion--or even the layup motion--has happened. Sometimes you can get lucky but, more often than not, the ball will slam right in your--or my--defensively inept face.
To fault the game for being less than perfect is difficult because it's so well rounded. However, there are moments that boggle the mind and choices the developers made that only make the gamer wonder. For instance, when you're playing street ball, the computer clears the ball extremely slowly and it's easy to place your player between them and the three-point line (the clear line) and watch them never quite get there. All you have to do is keep stealing and, voila!
instant turnover. There also seem to be inaccuracies with the passing game and setting up combos can be a trial of patience. Theoretically you can press Y to select a player then press left, right, up or down on the d-pad to send that player in that general area. Problem is they don't always go where you want them to making it quite difficult to set up any real give & go situations. The possibility is there, but sweet maneuvers seem to be more accidental than intentional.
NBA 2K6 is an example of quality attention to detail. And even though there's no real change--excepting graphics--between the current gen and the next gen, it stands as the best basketball game on Xbxo 360. Getting March Madness early? NBA 2K6 might just be the cure.