There's a lot riding on NBA 2K11. Not only did 2K Games secure Michael Jordan -- a huge get -- but with EA looking to revitalize its basketball game with NBA Elite 11, there's more pressure on the NBA2K franchise than ever before. Being the top-selling basketball game across all platforms last year doesn't mean that NBA 2K11 can secure Jordan and then "rest on its laurels and call it a day," a 2K rep told me.
The first thing 2K Sports showed me was the game's retooled presentation. The company managed to snag a producer from TNT who used to work on its NBA broadcasts, and it was immediately apparent the expertise he brought to the game. The swipes between replays (and even the replays themselves) looked more in tune with what I'd seen on TV than in other b-ball titles. The presentation showed a considerable amount of polish.

The realism of the presentation was given more weight thanks to the new player models, animations and the completely rewritten dribbling engine that provides 1:1 ball-handling via the right analog stick. This year, players have a more defined look -- smaller guys look the way they should and all of the players don't have the bulky shoulders of previous years' releases. In addition, with the changes to the way the ball is handled, 2K is promising more dynamic action and less in the way of canned animations -- there's even an in-air collision system now.

I also learned that because a lot of players had issues with the online stability of NBA 2K10 -- really it's a problem with all 2K Sports games -- 2K Sports is looking to completely overhaul its online network. (As you may have read in this story I posted last week.) 2K promises that it will be better equipped to handle the server load, so hopefully that will resolve the online issues that plagued the previous installment.


Sadly, 2K wouldn't budge on anything Jordan-related. When questioned regarding the rumors of possible highlight moments recreated in the game, we were given the usual "no comment." Frankly, it sounds like a great idea and while the 2K rep couldn't give me any kind of confirmation on that, he did express that the company is extremely excited to have Jordan on board. (I bet.)

For the most part, the feeling I walked away from the 30-minute demo with is that 2K knows what got it to the top and is looking to clean up some of the problems of last year's game. There's a concerted effort to up the visual strength of the title -- both in terms of presentation and actual gameplay -- and it would seem this isn't just a case of making "NBA 2K10 BUT NOW WE HAVE MICHAEL JORDAN." We'll all find out when the game launches in October.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.