NBA 2K6 Review (Xbox 360)

Is it a port? I suppose so - but to call NBA 2K6 simply a "port" wouldn't do it justice. Essentially every issue that the game had on the original Xbox has been fixed, the controls have been improved, and the end result is the finest basketball game ever made - period.

This review will be brief, as Mark Fossen's excellent review of the Xbox version of NBA 2K6 already covered all the nuts and bolts of the game - and the Xbox 360 version has exactly the same feature set, presentation and online capabilities as that game.

Here, I'll discuss what's changed for the Xbox 360 version; a version of the game that is subtly but markedly improved for Microsoft's next-gen powerhouse.

There's no question that NBA 2K6's graphics have improved on the Xbox 360 - but the question of how much, however, will be in part answered by what the game's playing on.

On a standard-definition TV, the improvements are admittedly rather small; although some of that should be more of a credit to how good NBA 2K6 looked on the Xbox rather than a complaint about the Xbox 360 version. There are more animations; especially during shots when a player is fouled, and the entire package is smoother in general. Player models also have more detail in general.
On a high-definition TV, however - all the things listed above have even more of an impact. NBA 2K6 in HD is nothing less than gorgeous.

Player faces could be improved, as many players have a flat, smooth, plastic-like visage, and some of the textures unrelated to game play could stand to be improved as well, but these are minor quibbles.
A more relevant beef involves the level of advertising in the game. I don't begrudge developers for seeking alternate sources of funding to offset their costs, but the Toyota ad in each game's introduction seems a bit forced. Of course, that's nothing compared to the Power Bar ad that pops up during replays. The problem isn't the ad (well, OK it is…), as much as it is the gamer's inability to skip it. You can click a button during the replay itself to bypass it, but as the Power Bar ad plays before it, you can do nothing but watch. That's simply unfair to force a gamer that's spent $60 on your title to have to sit through advertisements during game play, and 2K Sports would be wise to remove that from future releases.

For comparison, NBA Live 06 may look slightly better in still frames, but when the game's in motion - as it will be… well, whenever you're playing it - it's head and shoulders better than the competition.
The entire package is so absorbing visually and so naturally appearing that it'll easily confuse passers-by for the real thing - especially in high-definition.

Don't have an HDTV? Then go get the Xbox 360's VGA cable. The screen you play on may be smaller, but believe me, you'll be glad you did. The difference is night and day.

There's solid work here, as has been the norm for recent 2K Sports' games. The new announcing team of Kenny Smith and Kevin Harlan is excellent (although Smith's lines get a bit repetitive), and adding Craig Sager to the proceedings livens up the commentary as well. Game sounds are spot-on and the crowd comes to life at the appropriate times. On the whole, NBA 2K6 sounds like you're watching the game at home on TV, and that's what 2K Sports appeared to be shooting for.

Read our review from October - because this game's features are exactly the same as it's Xbox cousin's.
However, this is a good thing, as their main competitor, EA Sports, has stripped almost all its launch titles of nearly all their features, and the bare-bones releases have left a poor taste in many consumers' mouths.

Want a full-featured game with a fleshed-out Franchise mode ("The Association), mini-games ("24/7"), and player stat tracking ("VIP")?
Then you've got one - and only one - choice for the Xbox 360 - NBA 2K6.

Sublime - simply sublime.
The improved graphics help make the game play flow a little better, as the newer animations and smoother frame rate help the user feel completely in control of the action.

The Xbox 360's controller itself is well suited for the game, and the left trigger now activates a defensive crouch to better guard your man. It seems like a minor improvement, but good positioning with the crouch will cut off the CPU's drives, making them take more difficult shots and increasing the gamer's ability to stop star players on the opposition - an issue that has plagued the series for years.

Shooting percentages have been improved dramatically. While still a bit on the high side, percentages of 70-plus are long gone.

The match-up issues (where a center would often be covering the point guard) have been noticeably reduced. Mismatches still occur, but more naturally during the game's flow, and the end result is more realistic play on both sides of the ball.

The Isomotion functions have been tweaked, as well - while it's no more powerful than it was, it has become somewhat easier to pull off the more complicated moves and string them together. This gives the player more options and improves the overall feel of the game.

Not all is ideal, however.
Substitution patterns are still odd and need to be overhauled.
Let's say that you're playing as the Phoenix Suns and want to play power forward Amare Stoudamire at center and small forward Shawn Marion at power forward to take advantage of the team's speed and athleticism - or as coaches put it, "small ball".

Lots of real NBA teams do just this, but in NBA 2K6, the auto-sub function will slide Marion and Stoudamire back to their "primary" positions and place the highest-rated center on the roster on the floor while sliding one of your preferred players back to the bench at the earliest opportunity.
This could be solved in large part by granting some sort of temporary "primacy" rating based on the user-defined starting rotation - meaning that if Stoudamire took the tip-off at center, then for the length of this game, he would be considered by the CPU as a center - regardless of his "real" position.

As the NBA is embracing versatility even more - witness Phoenix's 6-8 guard/center Boris Diaw for a perfect example aside from the league's innumerable "swingmen"- this kind of change is going to be immediately necessary if the 2K Sports development team intends to try and maintain their game's status as the sport's preeminent simulation.

Taken as a whole, the difference between the game play in the Xbox and Xbox 360 version is neither dramatic nor instantly recognizable, but there's a distinctly different and more realistic "feel" to the game.
As an NBA connoisseur, I notice the difference and quite honestly, can't go back to the Xbox version anymore.
Your mileage may vary, but any you slice it, the game has improved on the court, and as such, doesn't truly deserve to be called simply a "port".

I'm going to borrow from Mark's Xbox review, because I couldn't say it better myself:
"The online section of the game is simply the best the industry has to offer. Once you get past lobbies and QuickMatch games, there is nothing available that can match the league experience that 2K Sports offers. Along with living rosters; which mean injuries and trades can be part of any league, there is also now the option to do a fantasy draft. The statistical presentation on the website is excellent, and after playing in 2K Sports leagues, everything else seems second-rate."
'Nuff said.

Lag does exist at times, however, and the fantasy drafted leagues seem to have difficulty registering completed games for some reason. Hopefully, 2K Sports can work these issues out with an update.

Despite its few flaws and it's relative lack of "newness", NBA 2K6 offers excellent value - especially in comparison to other sports titles on the Xbox 360 system - and gives the gamer a full-featured product that also happens to be the best professional basketball simulation ever created.
If you're not a serious NBA fan, then you may not feel the need to step up to the Xbox 360 version of NBA 2K6; but if you are - then you surely won't be disappointed with your purchase.

NBA 2K6 Score
out of 10