What I like about Visual Concepts’ take on the NBA 2K series is that they aren’t afraid to take chances and give new things a try. In NBA 2K16, they handed MyCareer over to Spike Lee for his “Livin’ Da Dream” story. Sadly, it turned out to be a terrible mess. After the release, they took a step back, looking at what worked and what didn’t, and most importantly — they tried to refine things. As a result, NBA 2K17 has been toned back to be more sensible this time around. As an overall package it is a terrific sports title, but it still has areas that could do with some improvement.
The actual basketball gameplay in the NBA 2K series has always been outstanding. This year there are some subtle changes to the way things work. Visual Concepts has made alterations to button mappings and combinations while performing certain moves, added a shot meter for layups, changed the shot stick accuracy while at the free throw line and added tip and put backs while rebounding. It’s always neat when you’re playing and you see something so small that’s been added into the game which makes it that much more realistic. This goes right down to additions on the presentation side like having half time shows play out during the break, adding an extra sense of realism. Something that really stood out to me while playing was the look and feel of the arenas; they’ve done an amazing job in NBA 2K17 to capture the what it’s like in each of these venues. From the noise the crowd makes to the little sound bites the home teams plays in the background over the P.A., it’s in there. Then you have the broadcasting team; the amount of TV talent they have delivering on and off screen content is staggering.
The NBA 2K series has also encouraged players to invest most of their time into the MyCareer mode. This is where you create a player and take them into the NBA with the hope of becoming a superstar. As mentioned previously, Visual Concepts has fine-tuned the story this time around, putting Creed scriptwriter Aaron Covington at the helm to write and direct, also casting NBA star Michael B. Jordan to deliver an outstanding motion capture performance as your teammate. At the character creation stage, you’re also able to scan your own face into the game using the NBA 2K17 mobile app, which is a pretty fun feature that adds an extra connection to your character.
After creating me, I set off for a few games of college basketball where I was trying my absolute best to be considered as a top draft pick. It wasn’t turning out as well as I’d planned, with projections estimating a late first round selection. I completed the series of college games, but then things got a bit weird. Coach K, the head of Team USA basketball, makes a phone call to your character and asks them to play for the team. This doesn’t make much sense at all. Why would a young basketball player with no NBA experience be put together with an elite group of NBA All-Stars to compete for their country? The next thing I know, I’m throwing a ball down the court with Kevin Durant against the Australian Boomers. This didn’t fit well into the broader story and it just didn’t make much sense. I feel like this encounter with Australia would have played out a lot better if this was something your character had to earn later on as a NBA superstar.
Once you’re signed on with an NBA team after the draft, you’ll have to manage your day to day calendar in an RPG format. There are times where you’ll have off days and have to decide what to do with them. You can choose to spend time with your friends, put in some extra practice or go fulfil some sponsorship duties. Then there are also tasks during the calendar that you’ll need to participate in, whether it be a game day or team practice. A majority of the time within the calendar is set aside for practice and, while a lot of this isn’t mandatory, this does help in boosting the stats of your player, so you do feel like it’s something you should do. When you’re in practice and completing tasks you’re given a gold, silver or bronze rank depending on how well you’ve accomplished them. This fills up a meter to a certain point in relation to your ranking and once practice is completed that meter then dumps itself into another bigger meter. When that one is filled few times you get the option to raise the ceiling cap on some of the stats.
Unfortunately, this is executed in a very sloppy way, and practice sessions can be very tedious and sometimes unhelpful for the type of role your character is currently in. My player entered the league in the small forward position where my stats where more aligned with helping me get into the paint to score. But I’d go to practice and be asked to do drills like trying to shoot from the three point line and I would ultimately fail the drill because I wasn’t a three point shooter. This kept coming up though, so I got to the stage where I would decline to do the drill, but even then I would sometimes be randomly allocated an extra point in my stats – for not even doing anything.
While there are a few small things in the MyCareer that I’m not a fan of, the rest of what is on offer is superb. Other modes like MyTeam are a lot of fun to play. This is a virtual card building game where you acquire player cards, coaches, playbooks, arenas, jerseys, etc. that can be used to assemble your fictional team. With this team you’ll complete challenges for defined scenarios from real world NBA events, including weekly updated challenges. There is also MyPark, an online mode where you grab your MyCareer character and put them up against other players in a range of different styles of games that include half or full court basketball.
Visual Concepts continues to set the benchmark for sports titles with NBA 2K17. My very few gripes with the game are small compared to hefty amount of content that is on offer, and for all the different things this game does right. It’s hard to pass up NBA 2K17 if you’re looking for an amazing video game; it’s even harder if you’re a basketball fan.
NBA 2K17 was reviewed using a promotional download code on PS4, as provided by the publisher.
Review: NBA 2K17