It’s hard to imagine a world where NBA 2K wasn’t one of the best sports games on the market year-in and year-out. But that wasn’t always the case. Look back a decade and the NBA 2K franchise was the up and coming basketball franchise that couldn’t compete with NBA Live. Flash forward to now and the NBA Live franchise is all but abandoned and NBA 2K continues each year to not only be the best basketball game on the market but easily one of the best sports games.
Being on the top isn’t an easy spot to be in. Each year we expect more and more from 2K and Visual Concepts and somehow they continue to deliver. Last year I was pretty impressed with their new Spike Lee directed My Player mode which brought the first story-driven mode to the series. Although a bit heavy on the cheese factor, it was an enjoyable mode and one I’ve been wanting for years. This year they made a complete reversal of last year’s mode. This year is less story focused and much more interested in you getting to know the day-to-day grind of being an NBA superstar. This means you will spend more time on the practice court then in actual games, at least at the beginning. Once you’ve been drafted out of college, you join your NBA team and go through practices, media events, sponsorship decisions, and, oh yes, playing the actual games. Each of these pieces is all about grinding out points for your player’s skills.
The best way I can describe the new My Player mode is as a delightful grind. You can do up to three practices a day, some of which are team practices while others might involve meeting a couple teammates on the practice floor to work on your shot or run some drills. There’s enough variety to keep things interesting, but by two months into the season, it can feel like a bit too much. These practices are there to help bolster your player with points to put into your players attributes. There are some story beats, your teammate is Michael B Jordan (actor from Creed & Fruitvale Station) but it’s far more subdued then last year’s outing. I spent the majority of my time with this mode and can say that once I got into a groove, I found the grind to be more relaxing then playing game after game after game. I could actually see myself and my created player getting slightly better as I went. There was just enough carrot at the end of the stick to keep me grinding through.
The on-court action hasn’t changed dramatically from last year’s game, although there are some slight tweaks. Dribbling has been improved and putting together multiple moves and finishing it off with a shot or pass is far more satisfying in NBA 2K17. Movement in general is just a hair slower than last year’s game which allows this feeling of having more control while still being able to pull off some extremely satisfying maneuvers. There were still a handful of times where I would string together a second juke move that would inadvertently land on an opponent or teammates leg and go missing, but those were few and far between. The other mechanic that’s changed is the shooting mechanic. While it still allows you to use the right stick or a face button, the meter has changed making it more visible to the player. It’s a slightly longer meter as well so long-time players of the series will need a little time to adjust.
Even with these rather small updates NBA 2K17 continues to be one of the most dynamic sports games on the market. It’s such a smooth experience that captures the real-life sport to a degree that still surprises me. The way in which players have unique animations and arenas react differently doesn’t get old. That’s complimented with far and away the best commentary of any sports game. It’s not even close. Whether it be the pre-game show or the on-court action, the commentary is engaging, accurate, and enjoyable. It’s the rare sports game that months after release I still have the volume on to push the action forward. It’s a remarkable feet.
The other area I spent a considerable amount of time in was online, an often sore spot for the franchise. Two weeks post-launch I’ve only had one of maybe thirty games drop, and almost all have been silky smooth. Compare that to the first couple weeks of the last few releases and it’s a mighty big improvement. The one area where I had a little more difficulty was with My Park, which seemed to suffer a bit more from lag but not consistently.
I still haven’t even scratched the surface of how much content is in NBA 2K17. My GM is back and is as dense as ever. As a more casual basketball fan, I continue to be drawn more to the My Player mode but I did dive into the My GM mode a bit and it is still glorious. If you’ve had a dream of running a basketball team this is the game for you. Whether you want to start a new team or take over an existing the options are literally limitless.
NBA 2K17 continues the strong legacy of the NBA 2K franchise. While it pushes the series forward the on-court moment to moment action is just beginning to show signs of age. But like Lebron, it’s still the king, and for that all other sports franchises should take notes and pay attention. NBA 2K17 is a great game of basketball and easily one of the best sports games of 2016.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.