The first mode is the Jordan Challenge--a series of 10 games, offering a selection of Michael Jordan's best and most memorable moments. Remember when Michael Jordan scored 69 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1990? Do you remember when he scored 63 points against a Boston Celtics team stacked with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge, and a non-arthritic Robert Parish--even after missing 64 games due to a broken foot? Then there was "The Flu Game." During the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz, Jordan was diagnosed with serious flulike symptoms, but despite the team trainer's wishes, Jordan went out to play one of his most impressive and hard-fought games, only to drape himself on teammate Scottie Pippen at the end because of exhaustion. If these games aren't familiar to you now, they will be.
In the Jordan Challenge, you're tasked with replicating Jordan's performance as closely as possible by completing goals associated with that game as well as sub-goals if you want to get really accurate. But what's particularly noteworthy about this mode is that Visual Concepts attempts to make it as authentic as possible. All of the games in the Jordan Challenge are accurate down to the player rosters (like the Bad Boys-era Detroit Pistons) and even individual, team-specific plays. In other words, what you're looking at in these games isn't merely a palette swap, replacing the heads of current players with those of the past. The players are all designed to behave much as they did during those actual games. Likewise, the commentary is also meant to reflect the era and the setting of the game. For example, in Jordan's 63-point game against the Celtics, you might hear the commentary team (staffed with the team used for modern games, so no Marv Albert and his delightful "Yes!") make reference to Jordan sitting out most of the season and how his career is taking shape. Ultimately, Visual Concepts hopes that this immerses you into that experience and era as much as possible.
Along those same lines, Jordan himself has been designed to accurately reflect the era. In that aforementioned Celtics game, it was only his second season, so MJ still has hair, and the skills for his outside game had yet to develop. As a young buck, he could drive through the paint and take a serious beating, but in his later career, maybe not so much.
When you've successfully completed all 10 of the games in the Jordan Challenge, a new mode called MJ: Creating a Legend opens. This mode lets you take a fresh-faced Michael Jordan and put him into the modern NBA, on any team. So, naturally, if you didn't think the Miami Heat had a good enough team with James, Bosh, and Wade, you can beef up the team with a rookie Michael Jordan. The catch is that MJ is ranked only at a 79 overall, but you can earn skill points that let you increase his individual stats and eventually turn him into the NBA great. There are also other methods for increasing stats in the form of Air Jordans (it's gotta be the shoes) that you can unlock. There are around 25 different types of Air Jordans (as well as others from the Jumpman brand), some of which are rarer than others and thus give better stat boosts. Each pair also has a bit of history attached to it, so if you don't really understand the phenomenon, this feature sheds more light on the subject.
It's worth noting that in MJ: Creating a Legend, you play only as Jordan. This means that if you get benched, you have to watch the game from the sidelines. Additionally, the game rates how good of a team player you are. If you're making poor shot decisions or just generally hogging the ball or playing stupidly, then your rating goes down and the likelihood that you'll live up to Jordan's legacy decreases. If you land on a team that doesn't give much playing time, you can always go to team management and ask for a trade to another team that fits your demands.
It'll be interesting to see how the younger generation of NBA fans takes to these Michael Jordan modes, but even if they don't, it's great to see one of the greatest professional athletes of all time get his due in a modern game. NBA 2K11 is scheduled for release on October 5.