Fans of the NBA are in a spot of discomfort at the moment, as players fight the association about how many millions they should be paid without actually playing any basketball. Fortunately, 2K Sports has delivered a masterful recreation of the sport that more than makes up for the ongoing industrial action.

Detail. The real beauty of NBA2K12 isn’t the glorious HD character capture. It isn’t the simultaneously frustrating and rewarding career mode. It isn’t the challenging nature of a classic matchup, playing with or against NBA icons Michael Jordan and Larry Bird.

No, the real beauty of the game is in the detail.

Like how Kobe Bryant’s tattoos glisten in the spotlight. Like how your created NBA star has to answer questions at a post-game press conference after every match. Like how playing a classic game as the 1993 Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan changes the games lighting to give that nostalgic, 1990s feel.

The core element of the game is the My Player mode, where you create a rookie and watch him progress from a rank starter to an NBA all-star. Each matchup has key objectives to complete, which earn skill points that can be used to improve your character. It’s a tough challenge, but like any good RPG, begins to get more and more rewarding the longer you play and you level up your character. That said, the early stages of a career can be the height of frustration as your player misses simple baskets and rebounds.

With the ability to play – and unlock – 15 classic players from the history of the NBA, recreated in passionate detail, there’s plenty of longevity in the game. But that’s just scratching the surface. The Association mode gives you control of a team, from the players to the draft, and lets you take it online against other players for the first time in the franchise.

It’s not all slam dunks and alley-oops though. While the commentary feels authentic and follows the game nicely, it repeats itself far too often. There’s also the fact that the AI has an uncanny ability to sink baskets, no matter how skilled the player is.

But that does nothing to take away from the overall playability of the game. It’s a stellar production, faithfully bringing to life the glitz and glamour of NBA basketball.

It’s funny that even though the NBA lockout has meant the roster of 2K12 is almost identical to that of 2K11, the game itself has an amazingly fresh feeling to it. It’s a must-buy for any basketball fan, even if they can’t play the game to save themselves.