It’s on fire!
Another year, and another iteration in the hugely popular basketball series from 2K Sports sees NBA 2K17 land on the current crop of hardware. Does it live up to the hype like a Michael Jordan masterclass? or does it fall short like a missed ally-oop. Read on to find out.
Game: NBA 2K17
Reviewed on: PS4 (Review copy provided)
Ive always said that the NBA 2K series is the pinnacle of gaming in the sports genre and every year, the series hasn’t disappointed. While the improvements year on year won’t exactly rip up the rule book and throw you into something thats so revolutionary that it blows your mind, the small tweaks that are added or changed more times than not make a better game of it.
The NBA 2K series has always been a looker and a half and this year, its no different. Not only does each player look like their real-life counterparts as per usual, but new graphical additions to each game you play just add another layer of realism to an already stunning and well presented sports title. New half time entertainment like a team of trampoline artists in a sequence of flips and spins mid air or new commentary partner David Aldridge appearing on the sidelines talking about various aspects of the game all add to the realism factor and then some. If theres one thing that 2K Sports have yet again got right with the series, its the presentation that surrounds NBA 2K17.
Audio has been vastly improved this year as well with more varied crowd chants, better acoustics around each arena, more natural pre-match show content with Shaq and Kenny Smith and new additions to the commentary team that include the already mentioned David Aldridge, Steve Smith and Brent Barry that accommodate the likes of Kevin Harlan, Chris Webber and sideline reporter, Doris Burke brilliantly. With the new additions to the commentary team, each time you play, the commentary team will be different to the previous match you played and in turn, it feels less repetitive than what it did in previous years. Commentary this year has been improved further and feels more fluid and just generally brilliant when listening to Kevin Harlan and Steve Smith have a chat amongst themselves about the game you’re involved in but also just life in general. If theres one thing that other sports titles out there need to do, its try to get somewhere near the brilliance that is NBA 2K17’s commentary.
Gameplay has been improved this year and thanks to new animations, dribbling and ball control feels super fluid and much more responsive than ever. One critiscm of the series over the years is the fact that sometimes it feels stiff and unresponsive and this is mainly due to the transitions of each animation but thankfully, this has been eradicated this year and everything feels smooth and more natural when you’re in control of the likes of tricky players like OKC’s Russell Westbrook for example. Also, the shot meter below each player has been tweaked with a feedback style system that not only gives you more visual feedback as to how good or bad your shot was, but also lets you know how likely the shot will be successful or not. See a long bar, it means you are in a good position to take a shot but try and take a three with a centre and you’ll see the bar being very short which indicates that its probably not a great idea to throw up a three with someone that is usually under the basket causing havoc with their presence and sheer strength. That aside, the gameplay is fun and as always has those ‘wow’ moments in there droves and thats something that makes up the DNA of the NBA. Flashy dunks, alley-oops, slick strategic plays….its all there and thanks to the new animations, it looks as incredible as ever.
Overall, the gameplay within NBA 2K17 is fantastic and rewarding to regular players and also to newcomers to the series but its not perfect. For example, defensive players still don’t feel as aggressive as they should and this is something that should be a big focus with the development team as the defensive side of the sport is a very important aspect. Players like Tim Duncan or Golden State Warrior’s Draymond Green should be dominating in their expertise, but for whatever reason, it still feels a little weak. The reason its probably not as prominent in the NBA 2K series is because the developers want to balance it out and not have it becoming a slug, but like I mentioned above, this is something that needs to be looked at as its an important aspect and with a few tweaks here and there, theres no reason as to why it can’t be tightened up.
NBA 2K17 has a vast of modes to get stuck into including MyTeam, Pro-Am, the brilliant MyGM/Franchise mode which sees you take control of a NBA team and run it how you so wish (within reasoning of course) but the mode also allows you to build a new franchise with options to name them, build them a stadium, add a roster and also be included in the draft. If you want a mode that gets you as close as possible to how a sports team is run, theres no other mode in any other sports game anywhere thats as good as this. The amount of depth that the mode has is insane and it will keep you busy for a very long time. Another great new addition is the ability to now edit jump shots etc to make unique custom ones for your MyPlayer in the form of a edit hub. While this seems like a very small thing on the outside in the grand scheme of things, its another layer to add to an already packed game with a vast amount of edit options at your disposal.
One mode that needs to be talked about is MyCareer. Theres no other mode in the series that I love more than getting my teeth stuck into the story and also the progression of your own player in the MyCareer mode. Last years story element with Spike Lee at the helm wasn’t the greatest and this year, 2K have gone somewhat back to basics. Unfortunately, this is where the problems start with the mode. You take control of Pres and see him rise from high school basketball to the NBA in which he forms a special bond with Justice Young (voiced by Creed star, Michael B Jordan). The biggest issue with MyCareer this year isn’t down to the voice acting but the delivery of how the mode is set up. Everything feels like a grind and with the story being a cutscene here and a cutscene there with no real narrative, it feels disjointed and rushed. Go practise, go to a sponsor event, go practise, play game with a few underdeveloped story cutscenes chucked in to flesh it out. While last years game wasn’t the greatest, at least the story made sense and felt like you were part of said story. Another major problem with MyCareer this year is the horrific loading times and cut-scenes that cannot be skipped. Not only are the loading screens far too long, but they are far too frequent. Go into your MyCourt…loading. Go to an event….loading. Go to practise….loading. Go play a game….loading. It becomes a frustrating experience very quickly. Its extremely disappointing that MyCareer turned out like it did this year as like I mentioned, this is the mode I love playing more than any other, but unfortunately, this is the weakest the mode has been for a very long time.
The online portion of the game for me has been very good with only a few slight connection issues. These issues always appear during the launch window of any game but compared to the horrid experiences I’ve had in the past on NBA 2K near launch, this was a walk in the park compared to that. When I got into a single game for example and also tried out MyPark, the experience was super smooth without any lag occurring and generally a pleasant surprise considering the issues I had last year with 2K16 for example.
Overall, NBA 2K17 is a brilliant replication of the sport and even with its issues, it still plays a fun and engaging game of basketball. As long as the development team keep tweaking and adding better mechanics to the gameplay, then the series will keep taking the strides in the right direction. Its a shame that the NBA 2K series doesn’t have any competition these days as when theres competition, it pushes the best to get better but even without it, the series is going in the right direction and not only giving us the best representation of the fast and dynamic sport, but also the most polished package of a sports title that we have ever seen.