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‘NBA2K17’ Review

nba_2k17_jimmy_butler

Platforms PC/PS4/XB1/ PS3/360/
Developer Visual Concepts   Publisher 2K Sports
Genre Sport   Platform Played On Xbox One

The NBA2K series has reached the stage where the gameplay and presentation is so refined that it would still be a great game if nothing changed year to year. The team at Visual Concepts isn’t going to take the easy way out though, attempting to one up itself every year. NBA2K17 is no different, keeping the same great gameplay and presentation from previous years, and adding to it in mostly beneficial ways.

The two gameplay elements that have received the most work this season are passing and the physicality of post play. Three of the face buttons are now dedicated to different types of passes, providing more options to move the ball around the court. The standard pass is accompanied by a bounce pass, and a lob pass. The bounce pass works well, allowing you to thread the ball through tight gaps to beat defenders on a cut to the basket. However, the lob pass was mixed in its effectiveness. The lob pass throws the ball to your teammate who is furthest away, so trying to lob a pass over an opposing post player to your own center does not work. Also, the pass felt inaccurate; I was never sure if the ball would end up at the right team mate I was aiming for. Overall I like the added variety to the passing mechanic, but next year I hope the lob pass is modified.

The next big change is to post play and the general physicality of play. In what appears to be a trend in sports games this year, NBA2K17 wants to replicate the physical, body to body side of basketball. Posting up is now dedicated to the left trigger (or L2 on PlayStation 4), and allows the player to quickly shift between posting up and facing the basket. If timed well, you can catch an opponent playing physical defense against you and blow past him for an easy dunk or layup. It takes a bit of getting used to because you’ve got to keep the trigger held down to perform a hook or fade away from the post, but it’s a nice change that makes post play more interactive than pressing a button and moving towards the hoop.

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Defending outside of the post has adopted the same physical play, with defenders able to better block the path of attackers trying to drive. It places more emphasis on using dribble moves like crossovers and spin moves to beat opponents. A successful dribble move feels more rewarding and means getting open shots is a lot harder on higher difficulties now.

To account for that, there is a lot more tactical depth in the game now on offense. The tactical choices on the d-pad have been increased exponentially, with many more ways to set up in the half court. There are still traditional options like “2 in 3 out” or “spacing the floor”, but there are also half court sets for certain teams like the Warriors, Celtics and Mavericks, as well as classic team’s set ups or the triangle offense from Phil Jackson’s Lakers. The more casual players won’t have to worry about this feature, but for die hard players it offers much more variety to the tactical moment to moment gameplay.

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Around and off the court, the broadcast presentation has been expanded again this year. Kevin Harlan and Greg Anthony return in commentary, but Clark Kellogg is replaced this year by a rotating cast depending on the game. Doris Burke moves from the sideline to the rotating third chair, switching out with Chris Webber, Steve Smith and Brent Barry. David Aldridge is the new sideline reporter. It’s nice to see some fresh faces and the ever rotating third chair keeps the commentary from feeling repetitive. During time outs generic coaches will talk to the team to motivate them, and audio grabs of real NBA coaches have been captured to be inserted at the start of quarters. Considering how great the in-game animations are, I wish the developer would find a way to make the halftime and end of game interviews with players look less rigid. The players aren’t even looking at the interviewer when they are being asked a question. Further, following Madden 17’s inclusion of a “hold to skip button”, I’d love to see an option available in next year’s NBA2K game. The presentation is great, but it is largely the same very game and when you’re playing games back-to-back sometimes you just want to play the game and not see all of the presentation elements.

Game mode wise, all of the game modes return including the playoffs mode which allows you to play through a playoff bracket without playing through a season. MyPlayer is less scripted this year and includes actor Michael B. Jordon as your rookie team mate. I love the MyPlayer mode when it was introduced years ago, but since 2K introduced micro-transactions in the form of VC coins, the mode feels like much more of a drag. You’re better off playing the other game modes to earn VC coins for your MyPlayer and then upgrading him for a faster development. It’s still a great game mode to give you the feel of becoming an NBA player and going through the highs and lows of a season. Franchise mode now includes the option to expand the league to 36 teams.

The Verdict

NBA2K17 keeps the same great gameplay and presentations from past years and seeks to refine them. It’s a successful attempt with more passing choices, more tactical options and greater emphasis on capturing the physicality of basketball. The presentation does a wonderful job at recreating all aspects of television broadcasts, despite most of the interview interactions feeling rigid. When you’ve got a monopoly on NBA video games, there’s a temptation to keep what’s not broken, but Visual Concepts continues to find new ways to improve on its formula.

The Good

  • Emphasis on physical play
  • Feels like a television broadcast
  • MyPlayer continues to recreate the ups and downs of an NBA player’s season

The Bad

  • Rigid interview animations
  • Inconsistent lob pass mechanic

The Score: 8.8


Nathan Manning is an Xbox Editor for AnalogAddiction. You can talk games with him on Twitter @Nathan_M96 and follow @AnalogAddiction.

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