With the success of the NBA Global Games in Johannesburg last year and the exclusive coverage of Supersport, the NBA has never been hotter in South Africa than it is right now. The 2016-2017 NBA season is only a couple of weeks away and that means it’s time once again for the next NBA 2K release courtesy of publisher 2K Sports and their in-house development team Virtual Concepts. The 2K brand has really come into its own and dominated the virtual hardwood for nearly a decade in the face of completion and continue to do so due to their commitment to presentation and upping the ante year after year, when it seems near impossible for them to top themselves anymore. As we will see below, that trend continues with NBA 2K17 as they continue to build upon an already solid foundation. Since taking the game to the current gen systems, the amount of modes and options available in NBA 2K is staggering and will give any player no shortage of play and will definitely give any player their money’s worth.
Gameplay has long been one of the shining aspects of the NBA 2K series over the other NBA games on the market, and has constantly been refined and tweaked with each release. The core gameplay and mechanics will be familiar to players of past NAB 2K games and results in what feels like more polished experience as to run your teams up and down the floor. Gameplay feels much smoother this year from how your team run to the floor, to transitioning from defence to offense and vice versa, to how they pass and thread the ball into the paint to penetrate a tight defence and driving the ball into the basket for a dunk or even a soft layup. All of this looks slick and plays great. This is no doubt thanks to the thousands of new animations added this year, many of which will likely go unnoticed by the vast majority of players but each help recreate the look and feel of the game at an unparalleled level; some of which include ground and mid air collisions, new boxouts, tipped balls and more. Shooting has been tweaked this year with a retooling of the shot meter. Now a player’s meter will increase or decrease in size depending on where a player’s shooting hotspots are, thus giving players with a larger meter a greater chance of making the shot. In addition to that there is additional importance placed on using the right stick correctly when attempting a jump shot of running layup as vertically flipping the stick up or down will give your player a shooting boost, while leaning slightly to the right or left could through your shot off, especially while taking mid or long range shots so be careful. Defence and the post game inside the paint have been retooled this year as well to incorporate a more physical brand of ball like you’ll find in the NBA proper as well as new dribbling mechanics for spinning past a tight defender or breaking some ankles on your way to posterizing on the other team. These are just some of the many changes implemented to the established gameplay this year that provide the most lifelike basketball of any video game on the market.
Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of the NBA 2K series going back many years to the PS3 games has been Visual Concepts emphasis on presentation and never has the presentation been any better across the board than in NBA 2K17. From the moment your start the game and view the clean fresh menu layouts; to the varied and entertaining pre and post-game shows hosted by Ernie Johnson, Shaquille ONeal and Kenny “The Jet” Smith as they break down the games in a variety of ways; it is very clear that Visual Concepts has worked long to make sure they have left little to no stone stones unturned in this regard. Graphically the game looks as stunning as any sports game you’ll find today thanks to the 2K scanning tech. The vast majority of players in the league look great and near lifelike with every pore and tattoo faithfully captured. This is further highlighted under the bright lights when sweat drips off their bodies. There are some players and legendary players who did not get scanned for various reasons and as a result can vary in quality, although some weird faces and body types aside, most have been faithfully sculpted regardless.
That is only the beginning though. Not only did players get the royal treatment, but the announcers did as well as even sideline reporter David Aldrige gets a mostly faithful model for mid-game reporting, although some improvements could be made to him. From every detail on the court and the floor like players on the bench, mascots, referees and sidelines attendees, to the crowd lifting up signs, there is a lot happening on the screen at any given time but it never feels too crowded or busy as the emphasis is always firmly placed on the ten men on the court during play. The arenas themselves have never looked better as all were scanned and faithfully reproduced so gone are the days when New York’s Madison Square Garden looks the same as Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena. In addition to the look of each arena, the team at Visual Concepts travelled to every arena in the league and recorded the acoustics of ball, buzzers and crowd chants of every one making this the most authentic sounding NBA game made to date. And now for the first time ever, there are 11 announcers in an NBA game and many will alternate depending on the arena being played in. With that many voices in the game, commentary could have very easily fallen apart and sounded clunky, but as a credit to all involved, the commentary remains one of the best in a sports game. The 3 person teams have a natural flow and banter to them, even if one skips animations between referee calls, and as though one is watching the game itself. All these small touches combine to provide an overall authentic experience for gamers.
MyCareer returns, and after the limited and linear storyline last year by Spike Lee, NBA 2K17 returns to a more open MyCareer storyline experience which has been a hallmark of the series since introducing it’s current form with NBA 2K14 on the PS4. You create your custom MyPlayer and assign a position and speciality and can then adjust weight and height to assure your ideal skill limits and to vary the number of MyPlayers one can encounter. If you download the MyNBA 2K17 app, you will even be able to scan your face into the game to truly play your career. Once you play through college and get drafted to a team, you will be paired with Justice Young who played to perfection by actor Michael B. Jordan (of Creed fame). As you attend practices and develop on court chemistry with Justice and the rest of your team, you will unlock the new Dynamic Duo duel-play mechanic called “Orange Juice” that will see you click with Justice on the court and boost your stats when activated and making plays together. In addition to play, you will be able to take control of Justice if you choose while “Orange Juice” is active. Between games, watch as you are presented cut scenes that further your MyPlayer’s (Prez’s ) will see your bond with team mates, your girl and even choose between shoe deals early on. You will also chill between games in your personal MyCourt where you can shoot around alone or invite friends online and can also manage your social media and relationships with team mates, mother and girlfriend through instant messaging. You must also manage your off days and game days and decide if you want to attend schedules and optional practices as well as attend endorsement events and socialise with other personalities around the league. There is plenty of choice and stat boosts available if you attend practices and put in work.
MyTeam returns with new card tiers as well as a reworked pack system that will give players a great chance of pulling better quality cards and players for their team. There is also the addition of dynamic duos into MyTeam if you pull and assign both parts of a dynamic duo on the court together. Free agent cards also provide the opportunity to draft a top quality player card for a limited number of games. Once you have pulled a number of cards you like or buy and sell from the auction block on MyTeam, you can assemble your custom team and compete in MyTeam challenges which will update regularly, or Domination mode as you match your team against the NBA’s greatest as well as take your team online and test your team against the rest of the world. This doesn’t even take into account the ability to design your own team logo, uniforms and courts of which you will have the option to customise every detail.
That ability transfers over to MyLeague/MyGM which return this year, now with the ability to include up to 36 teams if you choose to customise your league that way. You can play using the baseline of the current NBA or customise your own league and move teams to new towns as well as plenty of other options as you see fit. The options are near limitless and regardless of what you choose, your league will dynamically adapt to your changes so conference and season games, to the playoffs and draft will all adjust to incorporate any changes to your teams or the number of teams.
NBA 2K17 is a vast beast of a sports game that packs in so much content, it is unlikely you’ll be able to get through everything in every mode in just one year alone. Of course, it is possible you will likely have your favourite modes and just stick to those, but the options are there. The virtual world of video game basketball has never been better or more expansive. It makes one wonder just how 2K and Visual Concepts will top themselves next year, but knowing them, they are already planning how to do just that. For now, we are left with the fruits of their labour in NBA 2K17, and that fruit has never been sweater.
Reviewed on: PS4
Available on: PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC
Age Rating: All Ages
Publisher/Developer: 2K Sports/Visual Concepts
Estimated RRP: R749 – R899
Release Date: 20 September 2016
- Best gameplay of any NBA game yet
- Presentation and audio are top-notch
- Some un-scanned faces not 100% accurate.