2K Games’ NBA series has proven to be the basketball game of choice over the last few years, much more popular than EA’s Live brand. One of the main reasons behind this is the constant drive to evolve and provide memorable experiences. Some have entries have been excellent, like last year’s NBA 2K15, while others, such as 2K14 left a bit of bad taste behind due to various constraints.
NBA 2K16 isn’t the biggest departure from 2K15, but there is one major difference and that is the change to the MyCareer mode. Film director Spike Lee has brought his experience to the mode and added a story that has a big impact on the rookie season of the MyCareer mode. In this mode you control a person called Frequency Vibrations, or Freq for short – that isn’t his real name, which is left to you as you create the player. If you have saved data from 2K15 then you can import the player from that game, though only his appearance will transfer over and not attributes.
The Spike Lee directed portion of MyCareer is called Livin’ Da Dream, and sees you go from high school, to college and then the NBA. It is a different approach to what we saw previously, as you shape Freq’s choices, such as the university he goes too, so that I ended up at the University Of Kansas. The acting is well done by all that were involved, and seeing your player’s history unfold in such a fashion is an interesting idea.
However for Livin’ Da Dream to work, a major component of MyCareer has been cut down, and that is the rookie season in the NBA. It is still there, but it’s been reduced from a full 82 game season to just eight games from different points of the season, with a couple more at the end if your team reaches the play-offs. I honestly don’t know why 2K chose to cut such a major piece of the game, especially since the story doesn’t make up for the reduction.
The rookie season has traditionally been where a lot of player growth and development is done. Each match can see you improve as you acquire more points to increase attributes with, and if you’re good enough, you can even compete for Rookie of the Season. At least, you could. Here there is no chance to try for that accolade, and the fewer games mean that in the second season of MyCareer your Freq is much lower rated than others players at the same point in their careers within the game.
There have been other additions to MyCareer which do add to the experience of being a pro basketball player. Your agent helps you get endorsements and you can also hang out with players from around the league. These options are available on your off days, so you can get some points shooting a promo or potentially do some networking should you decide to spend the day with others. You can also choose to train on your off day and try to improve skills from there. However, these options are only available from the second season onwards, due to the Livin’ Da Dream being the most important aspect of your rookie season.
As before, the best mode for play with an entire team would be MyGM, in which you control everything from team roster, the way the budget can be allocated, and the action on the court. Each team’s owner will have different goals for you to achieve with the squad, be it making the play-offs or winning the championship. You’ll field press conferences too with the answers given affecting how the team see you, and how the media views you.
NBA 2K16 does play well, with team movement seeming to be more fluid, and the way the ball is passed about a lot more. The AI is challenging but not to the point where it is frustrating, with each team having their advantages and disadvantages. Neither opposition AI nor team AI is infallible and occasionally mistakes will be made, like a pass being thrown too early or the ball being stolen leading to a turnover.
Team mates will usually run into the correct lanes so you have an easier time of passing around, or defending when needs be. Fouling also seems to be less of an issue than previous games too, allowing for the matches to move forward with fewer interruptions, and you can choose to call a time-out and manually sort out substitutions, or allow the game to do it automatically for you.
On the multiplayer side of things you can play locally and online competitively. MyPark allows for you to team with other individuals to play matches against others, while MyTeam is the mode where you can collect players through opening card packs or obtain them through picks after winning certain games. The goal is to create a highly rated team as well as collect every card possible, which will take quite some time, since there are over 2400 of them. Online leagues are back too so if you have a group of friends to play NBA 2K16 with it is definitely worth setting up.
NBA 2K16 isn’t a huge jump over NBA 2K15 in the graphics department, but it remains an incredible looking game. The commentary also continues to be the best of any sports game so far, and with the addition of the pre and post game shows to MyCareer, you get much more analysis of players and teams through the game.
If you’re a basketball fan, then NBA 2K16 is definitely worth picking up. It has all the experiences you would want in a basketball game, and is easily one of the more entertaining sports games to pick up. However, the Livin Da Dream story from Spike Lee replacing a key part of MyCareer feels like a misstep, and I’d much rather have the full rookie season experience to hone my player’s skills. Overall though NBA 2K16 is a solid game that has great gameplay, and fantastic presentation.
Version tested: PS4