Every year sports game bring with them the challenge of having to be innovative while still improving over last year’s gameplay and graphics. This year is no different with NBA 2K16 and everything from the top-notch graphics, the updated Defensive AI, and the customization of MyPlayer add up to a complete package.
The graphics and animations in NBA 2K16 are fantastic. From seeing Derek Rose’s jersey bounce as he runs down the court to watching LeBron crash into defenders in the paint, there were a couple moments where I sat back and marveled at how realistic the animations looked. The defense has also been ramped up, and it’s no longer possible for players to juke or spin their way to the rim. It will take more planning and passing to open up scoring lanes in the paint.
There are many different modes in NBA 2K16. The highlight of them are the Play Now Online, MyCareer, and MyPark modes. Play Now Online is a big improvement over previous matchmaking systems where gamers would get matched up against uneven opponents, then get dominated or blown out until somebody quit. Then the winning player would be left to play against the AI for the rest of the game or risk taking a loss by quitting against the computer.
This year NBA 2K16’s Play Now Online mode has different classes so that players are more evenly matched up against each other. The classes range from Freshman to Greatest of All Time and are ranked based on player skill. What’s great about this system is that players know they will be playing games against other players of their skill level. If a player does dominate another player so much that they rage quit, the game stops and the player who didn’t quit is awarded with a win in that class.
Another change in Play Now Online is the implementation of three different tiers of teams. If a player with a tier two team like the Bulls plays against a tier one team like the Cav’s and wins, they will get an extra win on top of the original win as a bonus because of the difficulty level of playing with an lower team. This gives players an incentive to play with more than just the four best teams in the game.
One of the modes that 2K Sports heavily advertised for NBA 2K16 was their partnership with Spike Lee to deliver an engaging story in the MyCareer mode. It’s great for a sports game to give a more story-based approach to a player’s career, but it would be great to give gamers choices in that player’s life. The story follow the main character “Freq” and his first years of playing basketball, from senior year in high school all the way to his rookie season in the NBA. Each year is compressed down into a certain number of games which does a great job of balancing both the story and the gameplay.
What I thought was going to be a story that gave real choices and consequences ended up being just a movie. At first I was worried that I would miss out on opportunities or made bad choices, but the only choice I had was to choose which college I would attend. After watching the promos, I thought that there would be options to who you could be, or choices on who to surround yourself with, but really, gamers just sit back and watch the drama unfold in front of them.
Near the end of the story every character would tell Freq that he needed to make a decision on how to handle the situation or issue in front of him. Every time I was nervous about which choices I would have to make, but there was nothing to choose from. The game just pushed you through to the homebase of MyCourt where you could advance the story by going to the next game. The lack of options to the storytelling was a missed opportunity by the developers to show how choices could matter and family and friends would be affected as Freq’s star rose to the NBA.
When the “Livin’ Da Dream” portion of MyCareer ends, the real career mode starts. In Freq’s second season as an NBA player, there is now a full schedule including game days and off-days. There are three different activities to do on off-days. The first thing a player can do is go to live practices which gives a short boost for upcoming games, works towards attribute upgrades, and unlocks the coach’s gameplan which can offer currency bonuses if completed in NBA games.
Another option is to hang out with NBA superstars and legends which unlock different rewards from badges to MyCourt perks. Finally, promotions is where Freq’s agent Dom Pagnotti will set up appearances and sponsorships that Freq will need to fufill to earn currency and in-game ads like billboards. As the season went on I found myself more interested with unlocking these trinkets on my days off than playing in the actual games.
MyPlayer is such a central focus in NBA 2K16 because gamers can go from playing in MyCareer to inviting some friends over on MyCourt for a private game to jumping into MyPark and playing pick up games against other players. Currency is what is used to upgrade the MyPlayer’s attributes and swag. It’s also used to upgrade their MyCourt. The great thing about NBA 2K16 is that gamers can gain currency in many different ways including playing in the MyCareer, Play Now Online, and MyPark modes.
The most fun I’ve had so far in NBA 2K16 is the MyPark mode. The ability to take a character that I created and bring him to the court for a pickup game is something that I didn’t think I would like so much, but I did. I found myself standing up and cheering when I made a major shot or dunked on an opponent. There’s something so basic, so satisfying to stepping on a court, playing a pick up game, and demolishing an opponent.
NBA 2K16 excels with the scope of what they accomplish in the presentation of the game. Everything from the pre-game and post-game shows to player interviews between the first and second quarters really show a love for the sport that many games don’t even match. Since it will take time to load up a match it’s nice to be treated to a pre-game show with Ernie Johnson, Kenny “The Jet” Smith, and Shaquille O’Neil talking about the upcoming match-up or other NBA related things. And the interviews between the first and second quarters really show a glimpse into these players real lives that details more of the NBA than just gameplay.
The biggest issue I found with offering presentations like this is that they start to repeat quicker than intended. After a day of playing I started to hear the same interviews or the same pre-game shows, so the repetition became something to skip than to savor. From the coaches pep talk in the locker room at half time to the post game show after the games, I found myself clicking through these moments so I could get at the good stuff: the gameplay.
Even though the presentation can become repetitious and the story portion of MyCareer lacks options to choose from, NBA 2K16 is a great basketball game. Between the quality of gameplay, the new balanced online play, and the customization of MyPlayer to use in MyPark and other modes, 2K Sports delivered a winner with NBA 2K16.
Superb. A games that finds its way into the top of all our lists, but lacks that special something which makes it exceptional.This game was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 console.