There is a particular recipe that only a fair few gaming connoisseurs know how to utilize properly. Year in and year out 2K Games proves that it knows exactly what it’s doing with each annual release of NBA 2k, and 2K17 is no different. With all their staple modes intact and ironed out, the team pushes to better the experience even further by bringing in Aaron Covington to scribe and direct a narrative for My Career, upping the ante even further than what fans expect. Gamers know that the only decent basketball game on the market will always be worth a punt, but like every title, it has its hiccups and double dribbles on the way to a victory.
For the duration of my time with NBA 2K17, I played on the difficulty that was in place by default.
One of the best enhancements this year is the shooting meter. Simply put, its aesthetic is much cleaner and easier to interpret. The bar grows larger as your player gets more comfortable with the shot as well, so you know exactly what to expect when you attempt one. Also, a perfectly timed shot illuminates the bar green, making that shot a guaranteed basket. It also stays with you for a short time to improve your shots later on, making perfect timing a reward unlike last year, where you could still miss the shot in this case.
One of the greatest moments I had with my time in 2K17 was my very first game in My Career. After selecting Alabama, my team and I were greeted with all the pomp and circumstance any person could ask for. The band was playing strong and the entire audience was in unison chanting and dancing to the rhythm. Even though I wasn’t the actual player, the presentation of it all projected onto me, like it was meant for me, and in that moment, even before I had dribbled a ball as my career player, I was taken. While the rest of the infrequent but short cutscenes are a bit corny, they are well delivered through on-point voice acting that never goes overboard or plays to Hollywood hyperbole.
I thank Key and Peele for the inspiration for this name
My Career is one of two primary focuses with 2K17, as your player becomes your representative when you jump into MyLeague; and while MyLeague has everything you need to run a basketball team, it serves a greater purpose: earning currency for MyTeam, the other primary focus to 2K17. Upon loading into MyTeam, the Ultimate Team of 2K17, five starter packs are offered to you, each one depicting a superstar; those being Kawhi Leonard, Kristaps Porzingis, LeBron James, Russel Westbrook, and Stephen Curry. With each, 23 cards are awarded, including the player you chose. What’s quite cool about MyTeam is that 2K recognized how swagger exists between players, making them more potent together than they would be on their own, and this reflects on the game itself with Dynamic Duo cards. When these two cards are together, they enhance each other’s skills and abilities on the court. All the staples are here: single player challenges, purchasable card packs, and online matches against other players’ card-based teams.
What MyTeam does well is introduce the concept with a tutorial that funnels the first moments of time within the mode to walking through each section and what each option entails. It doesn’t take long however to get to the action and be free to play as you see fit. As is the case with any ultimate team, you’ll be subject to inevitably compete against players who have invested enough money into the game to overpower any opposition early on in the game’s life, so beware. Also be wary of the servers themselves, especially at the onset of the game. Timing shots becomes a greater challenge than it already is, because the first few minutes are filled with delayed responses to button presses. So by the time the server normalizes, you’ll have to readjust your timing again. It’s not terrible, but it’s just enough to disrupt your goings-on.
Menus hold a strong, clear aesthetic, so they’re as worth the wait as the gameplay itself, but having such long load times between even menu changes is a hazard that will test gamer patience. Load times are frequent in sports games, but here they’re rampant, bogging down not only the time it takes to get into a game but also when navigating between screens. The wait is always worth it due to the pristine level of quality in its overall presentation, but the cost is time. In my experiences with games like this, there’s a great deal of fidgeting and frustration as the overzealous wait times keep you from progressing at your pace. The one compromise is having this wait time dedicated to changing lineups and matchups as well as observing player and team stats, but even then it’s only worth having those options every once in awhile.
My biggest gripe about 2K16 was how it like so many sports titles relied so heavily on animations to deliver its presentation. This year is much closer to a 1:1 ratio regarding user input and what that input projects in the game. There is still a fair amount of animated interactions, but it’s much closer than say Madden or The Show are or have ever been. While it’s nice that players aren’t performing elaborated movements based on one button press, there are a few tradeoffs here. The first and more forgivable one is how uptight and rigid players look and move on the court. Only when running down the court do shoulders move or hips shift. While in the half court player shifts look more like body parts are moving ambiguously to the body rather than the body moving said body parts. Lower arms will move without the upper arm going anywhere, and feet will move ever so slightly while the player moves much further than that action would conceivably cover. On paper this sounds quite exaggerated, but it’s indeed rather subtle. On the court, especially when compared to the sport itself, the player movement is a few steps back from the authentic visual presentation 2K16 had; though I’d argue that the payoff for better gameplay is well worth it. Herein lies the beauty of annualization and what this team has proven it can do: This little issue will be cleared up next year.
The other peculiarity with gameplay is the AI itself, and the issue lies not in its incompetence but its polarity of execution. At time, a defender or teammate will be in the exact place at the most opportune time and maximize the situation for a turnover or points (depending on situational circumstance), but there were enough times where the AI proves that it’s artificial intelligence. One time I stole the ball and a teammate was practically streaking down the court uncontested, but when I passed it to him for the easy layup he stopped at the arc and waited for the other nine players to catch up, throwing away the advantage. Other times I had attempted to steal and the defender just stood there while I left a lane right down the center completely open; I didn’t even have to run to get back into position. At the same time, I’ve had teammates call a screen without my noticing the situation and line me up for a perfect shot, and without a thought another would be at the rim ready for a one-handed rebound shot. Really, the AI’s only flaw is in that it has room for unreliability.
The final product that is NBA 2K17 is exactly what basketball fans want, right down to Shaq at the commentating table, but in areas where it progressed it also felt some growing pains. With loading and AI/gameplay issues holding it back, NBA 2K17 still has some work to do. Still, the core game is gorgeous and entertaining, and the presentation is top notch with visuals showing up most of the industry as a whole. With a bit of patching, even after patch 1.03, a few of these issues could be ironed out to make 2K17 as fantastic as it’s been in previous years.