Game Review: NBA 2k16

My love of basketball video games is full of amazingly good (and bad) memories and experiences. From the halftime shows in Double Dribble to Christian Laettners’ three-point hook shot and Tom Chambers double-pump jam from three-point land, I have had a glorious and wonderful time playing basketball video games. I mean, I remember spending HOURS playing NBA Jam at the arcade with friends and then, once we were out of quarters, we’d head home to play some more on Sega Genesis. And don’t get me started on Arch Rivals. Seriously, look it up. It’s the Blades of Steel of basketball games and the spiritual predecessor for NBA Jam.

I recently realized that I hadn’t owned an up-to-date basketball game since College Hoops 2k7. After reading some reviews and seeing that Spike Lee was involved, I decided I was ready to jump into the present and I picked up NBA 2k16…

Play Ball!
With any sports game, the controls are almost always paramount to the games success. That said, NBA 2K16 is a solid basketball simulation. The controls feel good, real, and reasonably difficult. The game doesn’t really do much to tell you HOW to pull off any moves, which is frustrating if you just want to jump in and dominate. The right-stick is a little tricky. It can be used for dribble moves and shooting. If you’re not careful you’ll end up taking a terrible shot instead of taking your guy off the dribble.

I have only played the MyCareer mode to this point, and so far it all feels really good, and I don’t just mean the controls. Working through your off days is interesting, whether you choose to practice, spend time connecting with other NBAers or fans, or doing events for endorsement deals to earn Virtual Currency (VC). I’m not a huge fan of micro transactions – I don’t hate them either – but that may be because I don’t play on-line competitively, so my player improving gradually through grinding feels natural and good.

That being said, I still want my player to get better faster, and that means earning more VC – which they don’t really tell you how to do. Playing through the game is the primary way to earn VC but you can also watch the 2KTV episodes and answer the interactive trivia during the episodes. They’re not too long and you can watch them on your phone or tablet if you have the My NBA2K16 app. Speaking of, this is another way to earn more VC. The MyNBA2K16 app has a few options, but the main game is a card-based strategy game that is not nearly as annoying as I was anticipating and even a little addicting. I won’t go into a full review of it, but if you’re playing NBA2K16, you should make the most of it to have a little fun and earn VC.

Telling a Tale…
The story mode is fun, but kind of weak in many ways. It’s fun working through the progression of Freq, but there are some pretty glaring things that completely take the player out of the experience. Your twin sister and parents are black, regardless of how you design your character. Did I mention she’s your twin? It’s not that it couldn’t happen, but if they leave the twin part out, you could use your own imagination as far as how your (potentially) very pale character ended up in his video game family. It’d also be nice if you could pick where you’re from. I mean, NYC is certainly A mecca of hoops in America, but the story is basic enough that it could take place in any big city – Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, etc. I mean, it would be cool to have your character from, at least regionally, where you are from.

Additionally, what would be really cool would be, maybe in the next iteration, the player can choose their background. I mean, not every NBA player is from “Da Hood” (NBA2K16 quote, not mine…). I mean, sure, the suburban kid’s journey to the league probably isn’t as dramatic as someone from the projects, but there are certainly a different set of expectations associated with that different situation. Or what about adding the option to pick from the child of a retired NBA player? It’d just be neat to be able to get a story line from different upbringings.

With this being the first big step in a different direction for story mode in the NBA2K I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Typically they try to build on the modes and if they do build on the MyCareer mode, I think it could really be something special.

Technically Speaking
It looks fantastic. I mean, you’re not going to mistake it for a televised game, but it’s so much better than it was the last time I played in this franchise (probably not since PS2). The players are all completely recognizable. They nailed the facial captures, for the most part (Kelly Olynyk is pretty bad) as well as the body shapes and types.

The cut scenes are all well done, if a little repetitive, but that’s kind of expected.

Connecting to 2Ks servers are where I consistently run into issues. It typically takes me three or four times to actually get into MyCareer as I keep receiving a connection error. It’s pretty annoying by the 10th time you run across it – so much so that I’m docking my review points for this particularly annoying technical deficiency.

Verdict: 7.5 (Worthwhile)
I’ve only played through the MyCareer into my second NBA season, but so far it’s an enjoyable experience that I think I’ll be playing for a while. I was a little worried that I would play it for a little bit and then never come back to it, but as I’ve gotten into the game, I’m much less concerned about that. I’m totally engaged in actually playing the game (a weakness historically for me) and haven’t even touched the MyTeam or MyGM modes, which are really why I bought the game. I love the behind the scenes simulation stuff and haven’t played a good one since College Hoops 2K7 – and that didn’t age all that well. Part of my score at this point reflects the fact that I am counting on loving the other two modes. I don’t really care about the online competitive modes, so I probably won’t touch those at all, but who knows – this game has surprised me a little bit already.

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