For a long time, 2K has added or tweaked every feature imaginable in their NBA series in order to create the most realistic basketball sim on the market. When you?re king of the hill for as long as this game franchise has been, though, it?s easy to get complacent. With NBA Live slinking back into the shadows after not being able to make a noticeable dent in 2K?s popularity the past three years, it feels like NBA 2K17 is the year where developer Visual Concepts took some time off to gloat over their seeming victory instead of continuing to tighten their grip on the sports genre.
The first thing you?ll be asked to do when starting the game up is to create your own pro, which can be done via the face-sculpting option the game offers, or you can try importing a scan of your face through the game?s mobile app. I tried the latter, and although this feature has definitely come a long way since it was first instituted a few years ago, I feel like you?re still asked to bend over backwards to get the best lighting situation and angle to give the game a decent representation of you. After three tries, I settled for a face that definitely has some similarities to mine, but which still made me feel like I was looking at a caricature of myself. This is disappointing, because the character you create at the start permeates the biggest modes in the game?and it?s like you?re constantly looking at 2K?s inconsistency in every replay and cutscene.
It?s not just your created character where NBA 2K17 is, in a word, ugly. Visual Concepts? engine is clearly starting to show its age, with broken animation and inconsistency across character models and presentation. The game does a fantastic job of capturing the energy and the dynamic between Shaq, Kenny ?The Jet? Smith, and Ernie Johnson on the pre-, halftime, and post-game shows of each game you play?it?s just as hysterical as Inside the NBA on TNT. It?s a shame, then, that Ernie Johnson looks like a Fallout 4 ghoul, and Kenny looks like a dude crossed with an ostrich. This continues with the dead, haunting eyes of sideline reporter David Aldridge, who has given me nightmares now for almost a full week.
It?s just as bad on the court, too. During your college days during the MyCareer mode, band members are playing instruments with their eyeballs; when you turn pro, the cheerleaders look like people from games from two generations ago. And the players themselves! Just like in 2K?s WWE games, you can tell when Visual Concepts took the time to meticulously scan and create a person and when they didn?t. The Carmello Anthonys of the world look spot on; the Joakim Noahs, not so much. I understand you can?t scan every player, but the divide in quality is massive. Throw in some horrendous glitches?like when players and coaches merge together on the sidelines during timeouts so it looks like players are trying to chest-burst their way through their coach?s abdomen like in the Alien movies?and it?s shocking and disappointing a game can be released this sloppy-looking. It makes you question why there are so many loading screens, because it sure isn?t the visuals weighing the game down.
One positive that comes from the presentation at least is the audio. Kevin Harlan and Greg Anthony are probably the best commentary team in sports games, and with a rotation of Doris Burke, Chris Webber, and other great basketball minds joining them depending on the city you?re playing in, the commentary never feels stale.
Fortunately for NBA 2K, looks aren?t everything. Something that didn?t need a lot of messing around with is the series? stellar gameplay, but two critical tweaks were made. One that was absolutely phenomenal was the ability to string together moves on the court. Now, you can spin, crossover, and pump fake more easily and fluidly than ever before. If you love scoring inside and breaking ankles, then NBA 2K17?s gameplay here should be beloved by newcomers and veterans to the series alike.
One other adjustment that was made was the timing of shots. When on the outside, a more accurate shotbar at a player?s feet gives you a better representation of when to let the ball go?and if you?re all green this year, there?s a 100-percent chance that shot is going in. As you get closer to the basket, though, things start to get a little more difficult. Easy layups and slam dunks are a thing of the past if you?re not on a fast break. No putback from the offensive glass is guaranteed if there?s someone in your face, too, and it takes some time to get used to. This leads to a lot more shooting fouls and unique buckets due to contact inside, providing a more accurate NBA experience. It?s a good change, but it is one a veteran of the series might need time to get used to.
As good as these changes are, though, they?re really just refining systems that have long been in place?and there are still others that need more work. A prime example of this would be determining how much heat you can put on a pass. This is a critical addition that needs to be made, and its absence is sorely felt considering how much action takes place in the paint now due to the previously-mentioned changes. I want to throw a bullet to the corner for a three after drawing a double-team under the basket, not a lob pass. I don?t know if another meter is the solution, but it sure would make things more interesting.
Besides changes to gameplay, Visual Concepts also tweaked a lot of the game?s modes. Players can now expand the NBA right at the start of MyGM and MyLeague, offering up new customization options right from the get-go. If you want a 36-team league, now?s your chance, without all the red tape of building permits and citizen tax dollars. If you want to re-do the 2016 NBA Draft and really start from the beginning of the year, you can. These are nice touches to the modes that micromanagers such as myself always come back to in games like this. My only complaint is that the owners you report to in MyGM don?t always share accurate personalities to the actual owners of the team. I?m sorry?as much as I may agree with it, the New York Knicks will never go into a full-blown rebuild mode. And, I don?t lose often in sports games, so those are going to be some failed owner objectives. Then there?s the fact that my created character looks way better as a GM than a player in MyCareer.
Speaking of MyCareer, the staple mode for the NBA 2K series returns, and really does a great job of making you feel like an NBA superstar. It?s weird that I felt myself actually playing for that next big cutscene in a sports game, but that?s what MyCareer is known for. It?s an RPG wrapped up in a sports game, not just an extension of a sports simulation, and that?s why it?s the best mode out there that lets players get in the shoes of an actual professional athlete. Things can get a little melodramatic at times, and the story is largely predictable, but the mode is hugely entertaining?and having it filled with Hollywood actors, led by the likes of Michael B. Jordan as Justice Young, only adds to the legitimacy of each scene.
MyPark and MyTeam both return with minimal additions, but serve as cornerstones for an impressive online suite including the Play Now option if you just want to go head-to-head against friends. There?s a new Blacktop mode, which gives more of a street ball feel we rarely see anymore in basketball games. Meanwhile, MyTeam adds new single-player and online challenges to help you build your ultimate card-based fantasy team. Overall, however, these online modes feel like they haven?t really made any significant strides forward or backwards. Thankfully, stability appeared strong while playing online games across the modes, even a couple days after the game?s main launch.
The biggest change to the online suite, though, comes in the form of the new Pro-Am mode, which serves as a dedicated mode for 2K?s eSports initiative. You and your friends can put together a team of as many as 10 players?comprised of your created superstars?and play in ranked matches to move up the leaderboards. It?s a welcome addition to see a clear path to how one might want to turn pro in playing this game, and makes it easier to find people possibly just as competitive as you to team up with and go for prizes of all shapes and sizes.
NBA 2K17 doesn?t appear to be a huge upgrade from last year?s game. Some of the changes always feel like there?s a caveat attached to them, and others just don?t go deep enough. Throw in the age that Visual Concepts? engine seems to be showing on the graphical side, and it feels like NBA 2K17 is just sitting back at this point. The addition of Pro-Am as a dedicated eSports vehicle is a big deal, but it?s not big enough to get me excited for basketball season like games in the series? past have. If I were a GM, and had to draft NBA 2K this year, the series simply no longer feels like a lottery pick?it?s more like a late first-rounder. Still good, but nothing most should necessarily be excited about.
|Publisher: 2K Games ? Developer: Visual Concepts ? ESRB Date: E – Everyone ? Release Date: 09.20.16|
Graphically, the game is hit or miss, littered with glitches and inconsistent quality seen in the player models. Throw in a lack of overall improvement year over year, and we?re left with a game that is good, but definitely not at the level we?re used to.
|The Good||Being able to string moves like crossovers and spins together is a scorer?s dream.|
|The Bad||Visual Concepts? engine is starting to show its age a little.|
|The Ugly||Some of these character models are the stuff that nightmares are made of.|
|NBA 2K17 is available on PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by 2K Games for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.|