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NBA 2K6 PlayStation 2

Published by 2K Sports
Developed by Visual Concepts
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

NBA 2K6, an introduction.

It can't be easy creating sports games. In most genres you are usually looking at two to three years between sequels (sometimes more) which is plenty of time for the developers to include enough new material to make the whole thing feel fresh. Sports titles are usually released annually though and aside from updating the team rosters, the developers have to be selective about what areas of a game can be improved in the limited amount of time available to them. It's certainly not an easy task but it's one that Visual Concepts have managed in style with NBA 2K6.

What's the game about?

NBA 2K6 is simply a basketball extravaganza. The modes on offer are 24/7: Road to the EBC, The Association, Season, Street, Tournament, Practice, Situation and Online. Whilst some modes are self explanatory, some do need some explanation. The Association is the games franchise mode. 24/7: Road to EBC is a mode where you can play as an aspiring young basketball player who is trying to make it in the NBA. Situation mode allows you to set up a mid-game situation and it's a great mode for practicing the effectiveness of tactics in a particular situation. Street allows for full court street games with a choice of 2 on 2, 3 on 3, 4 on 4 and 5 on 5 games. Half court, One on One and 21 games are also possible in Street mode.

What's good about the game?

As in previous games in the series the modes that will hold your attention are the 24/7: Road to the EBC and The Association. The 24/7 mode allows you to create your own basketball player, develop their skills and attempt to turn them into a great player and you can also earn endorsement deals as you make your way in the game. The Association is a reworked franchise mode that offers more depth than the franchise mode in ESPN NBA 2K5. Almost every aspect of the mode seems to have been improved and there's a heck of a lot to do here including scouting new players, training your team, interacting with your staff (who all have their own personalities) and having to keep the team's owner happy. If you make the most of The Association mode it's quite capable of taking weeks to play through a single season. The control system has been reworked and whilst it's more complex it's far more satisfying. The right analogue stick, for instance, can be used to shoot with as will as performing various blocking manoeuvres. You'll also use the right analogue stick for free shots, which is far more satisfying than having to work with gauges to line up your shot.

What's not so good about the game?

The game has obviously been designed with basketball fans in mind in regards to its difficulty. The game has five difficulty levels, Rookie, Pro, All Star, Superstar and Hall of Fame. By default the difficulty is set to Pro but even on the Pro setting the game can be tricky to get to grips with, if you're not familiar with the sport. The controls are fairly complicated to learn. However, once you've mastered them you'll find the control system to be really good. You'll also notice a fair amount of adverts in the game, which does seem a little strange and also a little disappointing. With the cost of game development always increasing though it's probably going to be a common occurrence, especially in sports titles.

How does it look?

NBA 2K6 looks OK, although there are some areas where improvements could have been made. Player models are generally well detailed, although the players do have a kind of plastic complexion and they look a bit unnatural with their shiny skin. Other character models, such as the audience when you get a close up of them and the cheerleaders you see during the intervals, don't look anywhere near as good although that's hardly a problem. What is impressive is the pace of the game. Quite a few basketball games I've played on the PlayStation 2, actually feel a little slow and suffer frame rate problems. NBA 2K6 has a realistic, high tempo, pace about it and the frame rate remains very smooth. A couple of the player animations don't look as fluid as they should but for the most part the animations are impressive and there's a very large range of them here.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

As you would expect the game commentary isn't subtitled. There is some other speech in the game that isn't subtitled. In the 24/7: Road to the EBC mode, there's some introductory speech (that's given when you access various areas for the first time). There's some speech that introduces the players before a game too. All of this speech is pretty much non-essential though. All of the important information is shown in text so despite there being some unsubtitled speech in the game, it's not going to cause deaf gamers any problems.

Final thoughts.

Last year's ESPN NBA 2K5 was an enjoyable basketball game but whilst this year has seen the loss of the ESPN branding, it's definitely seen a rise in the quality of the game. In fact NBA 2K5 is probably the best basketball game you can purchase for the PlayStation 2. The game represents a rise in quality for the series and aside from the lack of provision for deaf gamers (with regards to speech from commentators etc.) there's little to fault with the game. The new control system and the enhanced modes make this an irresistible package that basketball fans should not miss out on.

Overall Game Rating: 8.8/10

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NBA 2K6 is simply the best basketball game you can purchase on the PlayStation 2. Basketball fans need not look elsewhere.