NBA 2K17 Review (PS4)
For the past several years, all other sports games have been judged by NBA 2K's standards. It is no surprise NBA 2K is the reigning multiple time Sports Game of the Year Award winner here at Operation Sports as well.
Simply put, NBA 2K has been a bit of a big deal around these parts for a few years.
Enter NBA 2K17. This year's game features important tweaks to the gameplay, a new MyCareer experience, new additions to MyGM, and a whole host of other new features that all add up to a compelling package oozing basketball authenticity.
There's a lot to love about NBA 2K17 -- but the game is still not quite perfect, with a few notable issues continuing to hold the experience back.
The gameplay in NBA 2K17 continues to be the series' strong suit. No matter if you are playing on the blacktop in a one-on-one game or in an arena with 18,000 fans in a NBA Finals game, NBA 2K17 gets basketball right.
When it comes to floor spacing, both your teammates and opponents will do a reasonable job spacing the floor. There will be possessions players stack on top of one another, but it is not wholly unrealistic that it happens sometimes and not all the time.
Dribbling and passing, two of the bedrocks of the game, have gotten changes to varying degrees of success.
When it comes to dribbling, you can now chain together moves and not get stuck in animations as frequently as you did in the past. Take note that you will almost certainly get stuck in a few animations still -- as I did to lose a game at the buzzer not long after picking 2K17 up.
One of my main beefs with the gameplay, but also one of its potential core strengths, is how in-depth the control scheme is. NBA 2K17 is not unlike a fighting game in the amount of button combos that exist to do different things. For more skilled players on the sticks, this is a godsend and allows for the ability to control players with a level of depth that is mind boggling.
For the rest of the audience (most of them), it makes the game daunting and, dare I say it, unapproachable for beginners. NBA 2K17 tries to hold your hand a bit with the controls, but I can't help but feel a more fully fleshed out intermediate area would be a good thing to look at for future games.
Passing is better handled this year. The better passers seem to be easier to identify while you play the game, and the ability to control a bounce pass vs. skip pass vs. regular pass is obviously a welcome layer of control that's been refined once again. There are plenty of options and visual cues to help you along, though the passing system still suffers from some weird moments such as the skip pass being incredibly risky with little reward.
Shooting similarly has gotten some tweaks. If you shoot and the shot meter is green, that means you make the shot unlike in previous years (minus patches late in the year that ended up tweaking this to make it true). This is helpful and much less confusing than having feedback that's hard to follow.
AI teammates tend to do a good job of moving around the court and doing basketball things they should be doing. It is hard to judge NBA 2K17 on some levels here because for a game to be realistic your AI teammates need to be doing some dumb things at times, especially the lower-rated players, as well as doing a lot of really smart things.
Rebounding and ball physics are also more of a thing. Tipped balls, balls careening away from a pack of players gathered under the rim, and so on are more common and result in new and interesting possibilities on the court. That bit of randomness helps the game feel more lifelike.
Overall there are quibbles you can throw out with the AI, like excessive and poorly planned double teams if a player gets hot, or players not filling lanes on a fast break properly, but the AI is a net positive.
In the end, I can't help but come away from the gameplay with the feeling NBA 2K17 has done a whole lot right and very little wrong.
NBA 2K17 has an impressive variety of modes, from MyGM to Season to MyCareer to MyTeam to even a Playoffs mode. There's an experience here for everyone to enjoy, though some modes do a better job than others.
MyCareer is probably the weakest mode of the bunch. On one hand, the continued use of narrative in a sports game story mode is still something other games haven't taken full advantage of to this point.
On the other hand, MyCareer seems like a mode that's completely insecure with itself. You are forced to watch lengthy cutscenes, whether you like it or not, with no real end direction clearly apparent at the beginning. Worse yet, the mode mires you in tedium at many turns.
Why you have to spam buttons to get quick replies via texts is something I won't ever understand. Ditto for being forced to go to practice versus simulating through the more tedious aspects of the mode.
In reality, MyCareer is a mode at odds with the rest of the game. The rest of NBA 2K17 gives you a plethora of options to customize and enjoy your experience while MyCareer is a mode that forces you down a narrow path, whether you like it or not. On top of that, since you "have to" play this mode to get badges and get some of the needed perks to survive if you want to play the online aspects of this mode, it means you're stuck playing it.
MyGM on the other hand, is the best sports gaming franchise mode experience you are going to find. From managing owner, press, and player expectations to managing your roster to the new expansion and rule change possibilities, MyGM offers a true NBA experience in every way.
Managing your roster and keeping players happy with their roles while simultaneously not making your other players (or owner) mad at you is a challenge that isn't unlike what a real GM has to go through. The ability to quickly zoom through games via SimCast is still there and the "kitchen sink" option of normalizing your played stats to real-to-life 12-minute quarter stats should be a standard in all of sports gaming.
When it comes to options, MyGM just gives you so many, puts you in a world that feels alive, and then gives you more options. MyGM is a real achievement.
There are a variety of other modes included in the game that deserve mention. From the ability to jump into the real NBA season and play it out this year to being able to set up a multiple-year association with a completely customized experience to the ability to just play through the playoffs if you so desire.
MyTeam is also back with important changes. While the online modes are still hit or miss to an extent (as is typical with a 2K game at launch), the things I've been experimenting with in MyTeam have shown there is a good variety of ways to play and improve your team.
We'll have a lot more on MyTeam and the rest of the online experience in NBA 2K in future articles.
2K promised more varied body types this year as one of the core visual improvements in this year's game. While some players definitely look better than they did, the game does have a bit longer to go before players look varied and unique.
With that said, the rest of the package is excellent. From graphical overlays to the best-in-class commentary to the studio show, NBA 2K17 does just about everything well when it comes to presentation.
There was a lot of work put into making each arena feel and sound different as well. I'm not sure the game quite reached that goal, but NBA 2K has the right idea at the very least with each arena now beginning to feel different. Now they just have to work on getting the crowds to sound better overall and actually double down on making arenas feel unique.
NBA 2K17 does way more right than it does wrong. The gameplay is smooth, the presentation package is top-notch, and the modes are (mostly) the best of their kind in sports gaming.
There are some notable negatives to the game this year. First, MyCareer is a real weak point to me. The gameplay is great but not perfect as you will run into some weird moments on the court. You'll also probably find yourself frustrated if you are a newer gamer who isn't prepared to deal with the game's daunting control scheme.
Those quibbles aside, NBA 2K17 offers one of the most complete experiences in sports gaming. The gameplay is top notch, you have different and high-quality modes to experience that gameplay in, and the presentation package just screams NBA basketball.
It has become easy to say, but NBA 2K17 is an early favorite for sports game of the year and is a must buy for basketball fans of all types.
Score: 9.0 (All-Time Classic)