That three-letter word sums up my quick trip to the 2K Hangar to get my hands on NBA 2K16.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty, this article will strictly be about on-court gameplay. MyCAREER information will be coming out on Monday, and you’ll find it here on Operation Sports. Also on Monday you will see some gameplay footage (at last!) from some of your favorite NBA teams.
Okay with that information out of the way, let's play basketball.
NBA 2K is in its third year of a new physics engine that debuted with the new generation of consoles. During this time, the graphics have improved drastically, but the gameplay has not necessarily always kept up. However, this year the team has potentially made a game that plays as pretty as it looks.
I was able to play three games, and came away with different impressions from each. Depending on the team you play as, you’re going to be in a completely separate basketball world. You won’t be able to use the Bucks the same way you use the Cavaliers. This should help keep the game fresh, and give you a true home-court advantage when playing with your go-to squad.
If you have any specific questions, follow and ask me on Twitter at @Dustin_Toms. If I have an answer, you’ll get one. (The same rules apply for the comments section of this article.)
Game 1: Atlanta Hawks (CPU) at Milwaukee Bucks (me)
I chose these two teams for two reasons. First, Scott O’Gallagher was hyping up his new defensive mechanics with the Bucks. Second, NEW UNIFORMS! (They both look fresh, by the way).
NBA 2K16 is the only sports game with authentic wingspans. Milwaukee is a long, lengthy team that stands at minimum 6-foot-6 in the starting lineup. Using the new defensive mechanics, which are listed in detail here in OG’s blog, the Bucks can use their team strengths to hang with any team in the NBA.
Just as you would imagine, they aren’t much of an offensive machine, but using the Greek Freak to handle Korver is a real thing. MCW’s size was a challenge for Teague. Jabari was matched up against Millsap, and Millsap won that battle nine times out of 10. Monroe, the Bucks’ newest addition, was rolling off a pick-and-pop for a mid-range game that Splitter couldn’t keep up with.
However, let’s look at the flip side.
Korver was a dream running off screens. He was still getting open once in a while to get a shot off. Teague’s speed was a challenge for MCW, something that really showed when Atlanta started running their sets. Millsap punished Jabari on the offensive side, but he had to try harder when Jabari had the ball in his hands. And Splitter was definitely winning the rebound battle against Monroe.
NBA 2K16 is a chess game. You need to use true basketball strategy to gain any advantage on your opponent before they do.
I ended up winning by seven with the Bucks. I controlled the game on the defensive end, which always gave me the cushion I needed. I was never too concerned about losing the game despite how close Atlanta was getting. I was in control.
Game 2: Cleveland Cavaliers (me) at Sacramento Kings (CPU)
I had to try out the King.
First of all, LeBron was hands down the best player on the court. His size, speed and athleticism truly show in the game. All credit goes to Mike Stauffer’s new Hall-of-Fame ratings scale (I don’t know if that’s the actual name, but I’m rolling with it). A quick example of the scale you ask? Dennis Rodman is the best offensive rebounder of all-time, so he is rated 99 in that category. Now you rate everyone compared to how well they stack up to Rodman. So yeah, the ratings will reflect a player’s true strengths and weaknesses on the court during the game.
Unlike the Bucks/Hawks game, this one was an offensive grinder. I was never able to pull away from Sacramento as Rudy Gay was catching fire, matching most of my successful possessions. But Gay’s ball dominance was showing, as Boogie wasn’t getting the touches he needed to make a huge impact. Boogie would score when he had the ball, but there were times he didn’t even get to touch the rock.
On defense, Sacramento was great in the paint with Boogie and Cauley-Stein doing what they’re expected to do: protect the rim. I was able to cancel out their strategy by keeping Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson in the game for a boost in offensive boards, but was losing out on the defensive end with Love’s deficiencies.
Kyrie’s shot looked good, and he was the most explosive guard on the court. Rondo did a good job containing him though, holding him to just a few points.
I was underwhelmed with the rebounding battle in this one, as I easily doubled up the Kings despite facing Boogie. With Love, Thompson and Mozgov constantly in the game, all of the boards were mine. This was the only reason I was able to squeak out the two-point win. But that road atmosphere was tough.
Game 3: Memphis Grizzlies (CPU) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (me)
Time for my obligatory you-heard-it-here-first comment. The Memphis Grizzlies are going to be one of the top teams used online this year.
With all of the focus that has been put into defense, of course the Grizzlies are going to see some love. They completely blanketed KD all night, holding him to six points. I just could not get open. Even KD’s quick/high release (which does look much better) was not doing me any good with all the hands in my face. When KD was able to get past Barnes and the double teams, Z-Bo was there to size him up and shut down his driving lane. The strength and body size alone was too much to handle. I forced a few shots to try and draw the foul, but nothing was working. I was forced to try a different strategy.
I had to switch my focus on offense to Westbrook. It felt like KD was hurt all over again. Westbrook was running in circles, using his signature size-ups to wreak havoc. His explosiveness was showing through as well. But with KD out of the picture, someone needed to step up…Kyle Singler! Singler was knocking down open shots when he was rolling off screens. It was nice to see what the blogs were talking about (role players stepping up on any given night).
But despite my best efforts, Memphis had a hold on me the entire game. OKC’s lack of wings coupled with Memphis’ ball movement kept me off my game. Z-Bo (his body scan is massive, just like it should be) bullied his way through the defense all night. Gasol held it down against Kanter, Ibaka, Adams. Conley was Maestro of the Year. True team basketball was OKC’s doom.
There are always fun nuggets that are put into the game that just don’t have a great way to be included in the preview itself. Some of these I’m sure are mentioned in the dev blogs, but there’s just so much to keep track of at this point that I accept I'll be overlapping here and there. Here are some bullet points on NBA 2K16:
• Starting lineups are announced for both teams
• Greg Anthony is the third commentator, replacing Steve Kerr
• All 12 historic teams have been announced
• Kenny "The Jet" Smith is joining Shaq and Ernie
• TONS of updated player hairstyles
• New quick-substitution controls using just the right stick
• Improved NBA dancer routines
• Between-quarter player/coach interviews (what you see on TV broadcasts)
• Halftime show is better, but nothing that will make you watch each time
• Freelance motion offense is a thing of beauty
• Hedge defending is improved
• Each defender has his own mindset based on player tendencies/attributes
• Improved on-ball behavior
• Foot planting was completely redone
• Added anticipation to hesitations
• Full body scan, including legs, for players
• Zig-zag/base-line cheese looks like it’s gone
• Read through my Twitter timeline for more quick-hitters
I’ll leave you with a quote from Mike Wang (@Beluba) that shows just how much these guys care about this game.
“Everything feels like it's right there, and it's working on your fingertips. Offense and defense -- it's a song, a relationship. That's what we’re most proud of. Two people who know the sticks can have an epic battle without being forced into a canned animation.”