Is the hegemony of the EA Sports series crumbling? Where the FIFA series is getting more and more its ass kicked by Pro Evolution Soccer, the biggest adversary on the basketball court is the NBA 2KX (insert year at your own choice) series. Does NBA 2K6 succeed in strengthening its position now that NBA Live 2006 turned out to be a little disappointment? Without a doubt.
One of the most rewarding things the developers did was transferring the whole atmosphere of basketball and the NBA to this game. Even though they don’t have the ESPN licence anymore, the game still knows that typical sports channel look and feel, inclusive instant replays, all kinds of statistics and rather arrogant – but funny – commentators. Cool actions are rewarded with a replay from all kinds of creative camera angles and performing a dunk or some brilliant action will certainly please the audience. That audience looks a bit plain but that’s like almost the only negative point of this game.
But the real action is on the court and that’s where all the eye candy is. The virtual characters are practically clones of their real life counterparts, although some of them seem to suffer a bit from the Pro Evolution Syndrome. You know what I mean; shiny, almost Barbie-like textures. The animations, the different indoor and outdoor courts and the ball itself all look brilliant. Scoring though, can trigger a slight pause in the game; something which can get you out of concentration but never gets irritating. The menus and the matches are accompanied by a hip hop and R&B track that does not excels in quality, but the soundtrack manages to keep the pace and the tension high. All other sound effects are simply excellent too; the response of the audience, the bounces of the ball and the sneakers of your players on the floor. Everything sounds freakishly realistic .
Realism is the keyword in NBA 2K6. In contrary to the Live series, NBA 2K6 can call itself a true basketball simulator. The gameplay and the controls are just perfect. The right analog joystick is used for stealing attempts or shooting. The different directions all respond to different shots or defensive moves. With the R1 button you can trigger the aggressive mode which gives you the opportunity to break through the defence and perform a swift and strategic attack. After a few matches, even the greenest rookie will be able to play to most exciting matches and believe me: one game of NBA 2K6 can be as stressful and exhausting as the real thing.
Al this fun is divided into a whole lot of modes. Apart from your standard quick game, a street ball mode and the tournaments; there is the 24/7 and the Association mode. In the last one you take on the job of a manager to guide a team of your choice to the play-offs and get that champion title. The management part goes rather deep and you’re able to control, manage and train your team from the lowest to the highest level. An extra dimension is the team chemistry. This is a percentage that shows how well the basketball team plays as a team and is something you will definitely need to keep your eye on. Putting a lot of star players together doesn’t necessarily create a wonder team. After a successful – or not so successful – season you will be able to buy fresh blood, fire old players or negotiate new contracts. And then you can start all over again.
The well produced and varied Association mode is a feature that certainly increases the replay value of this game. But there’s also the 24/7 mode. In this mode you can create a character and guide it through several street tournaments against known and lesser known basketball gods to reach the highest rankings of the EBC. 24/7 is a feature which is more appealing to gamers who fancy street basketball, the others are more likely seduced by the other modes. During the matches you can gain VIP points to unlock various items as well as some fun minigames. The multiplayer is a guarantee for some hilarious but also very exciting moments although the co-op mode doesn’t work that well as in other games.
The overload of options, modes and freedom in the Association mode successfully covers the few small flaws of the game under hours of genuine gameplay fun. If you’re looking for the perfect basketball game on the PS2, you’re right on the money with NBA 2K6.