In five years of reviewing the NBA 2K franchise, I’ve come to consider it almost the best sports gaming series ever created. It is certainly the only worthwhile option when it comes to basketball games, so from the off if you’re a basketball fan, you’ve probably already bought or are planning to buy NBA 2K17. Interestingly, it’s the odd numbered entries that have scored higher, as I revisit my older reviews. Can NBA 2K17 continue that streak?
First impressions from the game come with a much simplified menu system in comparison to the last two years. 2KTV has been relegated from its prominent place on the main screen, but it does play when loading a match – sadly there are still the long loading times that have plagued the NBA games for quite some time. Gone are the bright colours and the bombast, replaced with a much simpler layout and a white background. It feels muted in comparison.
Muted could also be used to describe 2K17 in general. This year’s game features a lot of new animations, which are genuinely impressive as always, and there’s a lot more contact between players. This is a double edged sword, though. On the one hand it does make NBA 2K17 even more realistic, replicating how players move in a real life situation, but at the same time the action feels a bit slower when comparing it to previous years.
The AI opposition feel a lot more defensive minded, managing to stop fast breaks quickly and defending a lot more effectively. You need to be a bit more patient and tactical when it comes to getting to the basket. Generally the teammate AI is as good as ever, getting into decent positions and putting up the points, but neither side is perfect, and mistakes are made, which keep matches feeling natural.
The NBA 2K MyCareer is always something I enjoy digging into, and this year allowed players to get a headstart before getting the game through playing The Prelude, where your MyCareer player works his way through college. This prelude was part of the full game last year, but taking it out allows people to get a headstart and determine a draft place.
My player was drafted to the Phoenix Suns, a team which has been performing quite poorly over the last couple of years. That has translated to a team in MyCareer that can’t hold a lead and is currently on a six game losing streak. You’re not going completely alone though, as dynamic duos are incredibly important to the game. In MyCareer this dynamic duo partners you with Justice, played by Michael B. Jordan. Dynamic duos boost each other’s attributes when linking up, and you need to maintain relationships to keep the duo going.
MyCareer has grown again this year with much more control over practices, dealing with business, and maintaining relationships. In fact, it could be that some will consider it to be a bit too bloated. Each day will present you with different options on what to do, be it attend the practice gym to help improve your attributes, attend a sponsored event to earn a bit of virtual currency, or playing games. You can skip practices and events, but these will stunt your player’s growth in the long term. While these events help flesh out a player’s life it means the gaps between games feels bigger and elongated, instead of getting you quickly to the next match to try and dominate the court.
Your progression all hinges on NBA 2K’s virtual currency. This is used to purchase everything in game from attribute points, player attire, and animations. Skipping the events may mean you lose out on the VC bonus, which in turn means you may not be able to afford an upgrade. The grind to upgrading feels even more noticeable than in previous entries, and it wasn’t exactly subtle last year.
While earnings appear to be up, the costs also seem to have risen, meaning your player’s skills will go up slowly unless you’re willing to stump up some real world cash to improve those attributes. In turn there is a kind of divide online when it comes to the MyPark arena. Here players team up to play some 3 on 3 basketball, and like previous games you run up to a court with an open space to join. There’s no real balance and I did find myself against teams whose player ratings were in the mid-80s against my 60 rated character.
MyTeam is a bit more balanced simply through being able to acquire players through auction or packs. This time there are dynamic duo player cards, so you’ll want to try and acquire the other half of the pair to take advantage of these hook ups and improve your squad. When starting MyTeam you are loaned a star player for a few matches to help get into the swing of things against other players, but once that loan player is gone, you’ll need to acquire the best to compete.
There’s no doubt that NBA 2K17 is one of the best looking games out there, and it is something players have come to expect from the series. The whole presentation puts other sports games to shame, from having pre-game shows talking about team stats and real voice recordings of players and coaches talking to reporters during half time breaks, through to what remains the best in-game commentary going. Every game feels like a real NBA broadcast because of this attention to detail.
NBA 2K17 is an excellent basketball game, but I wouldn’t say it’s a major step up over last year’s title. The player duos are a great addition, while there have been improvements to the animations and player contact, but that makes the game a bit slower and more methodical. At the same time MyCareer is a lot more fleshed out which is great, but again, things can feel slow at times and you can feel the grind and the push toward spending real money to get past that. Really NBA 2K17 is on par with 2K16, making improvements in some areas, but with a few drawbacks alonside them.
Version tested: PS4