Title: NBA 2K16
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Reviewed on: Windows
Genre: Sports, Simulation
Players: Single player, Multiplayer
Written by Dragoon 14th October 2015
The games tied, five seconds left on the clock. Your team has possession but the other team isn’t going to let you take a winning shot without a fight. You jostle with the guy defending you as the deafening crowd roars. You manage to get into space just as the ball flies perfectly into your hands, you raise up and let it go. Everything goes quiet as the ball seems to hang in the air for eternity while the clock ticks down. It hits the rim and spins around, the atmosphere is electric. You hear nothing but the sound of the ball rolling on the rim until that iconic swish echoes through the arena as the ball falls through. The crowd erupts into rapturous applause and your teammates rush to hoist you up in victory as the other team stands downhearted and defeated.
Moments like these are why I love Basketball, to me no other sport has as much excitement and spectacle. Ever since I watched Michael Jordan do his thing as a youngster I always wanted nothing more than to be like him. Unfortunately being as vertically challenged and unfortunately placed as I am I was never able to play at a decent level but the NBA 2K series has always been there to at least let me experience the game in a different way. 2K Games have always been the undisputed king of Basketball sims but is this still the case with this year’s iteration or is it time to relinquish that throne?
The first thing that always stands out in the NBA 2K games are their amazing attention to detail and this year is no different. It all feels close to the real thing with a fantastic mix of great visuals and little touches that make the game feel authentic. For example little details like the way the players uniforms flutter around as they move and the inclusion of iconic celebration poses for star players really help make it feel real. At a glance it’s not too difficult to mistake a game in motion for a real life match broadcast. The players movements this year are as close to their real life counterparts as you can get since more of an effort has been made to mimic unique player quirks, for example cover star Stephen Curry has his iconic quick release shots this year. 2K got him and many other superstars in to their motion capture studios so they could capture their essence and it shows in the way the game plays.
Gameplay is the true indication of a great simulation game and that is not something 2K have glanced over this year. They put a much larger focus on defense this time around with a whole new pressure system that lets you know how much you are harassing the ball handler and a revamp of play in the post. The new post controls take some getting used to for veterans but they give you so many more options down low which felt stagnant and binary to play in the past. While defense is better for the player it also feels like the AI has become even harder to get around on offense and to stop on defense. The game still suffers from unnaturally good defense for AI controlled teams and while this can be irritating it does stop you being a one man army, after all Basketball is a team game so you have to make good use of your teammates to score.
When it comes to shooting the gameplay is fairly similar to previous iterations but there have been some slight changes to how a successful shot is decided. The game still uses the shot release timing system of the past but how big the sweet spot is seems to have more factors. Before it was fairly easy to just fire up a shot from anywhere and get it in as long as you had the timing down but that’s not the case this year due to the aforementioned defensive revamp. Now you are only really guaranteed a basket if you have an open shot, even some slight opposition can throw it off so you have to make liberal use of dribble moves and screens to get open. This is good because it makes the game more true to life. You’re supposed to be the best playing against the best so it should always be challenging and satisfying to get those points. Also gone are the days of throwing up endless threes, you only really have a chance to hit them if you are wide open and even then there’s a good chance you’ll miss unless you get the timing perfect.
NBA 2K16 offers a wide range of unique game modes as well as their titular MyCareer mode. This years MyCareer went down a different path from the past iterations but there is too much to cover here so I decided that it needed an article all to itself, keep an eye out for that but for now I will just say I found it disappointing. The Play Now option offers a range of normal one vs one match modes, an interesting mode is NBA Today which lets you play a match that is being played today in the real NBA. Play Now Online offers a unique online ranking system for normal matches that makes you want to play at your best and improve.
There are a mind boggling number of options for the management game modes this year, these being MyGM and MyLeague. MyGM lets you become the manager for an NBA team, letting you take the reins while MyLeague allows you to make and manage your own Basketball league. Both offer tons of customisation options, this year you can even relocate your team to a wide range of locals, a highly requested feature from fans in the past. There is also the returning MyTeam card game mode that lets you build your own team using cards you get with the games Virtual Coin currency, which is universal for the whole game and mainly used in MyCareer. This can be bought using real money but it is completely optional and is not required to enjoy the game.
Sound has always been a big part of the NBA 2K series with a big emphasis on the licensed soundtrack, this year curated by big time producers DJ Khaled, DJ Mustard and DJ Premier. The soundtrack boasts 50+ tracks from a wide range of genres featuring classic artists like Nas and newer ones such as Imagine Dragons and Drake. It’s a fantastic selection and there’s enough variety that you’re bound to find something to like in there, as always if you don’t like the music you can turn off select songs or all of them.
Another big plus is the commentary. Sports game commentary has always been a difficult thing to approach, it’s near impossible to make it sound organic but 2K have always done a great job and it improves every year. This years commentary team consists of the old favourites Kevin Harlan and Clark Kellogg with Greg Anthony subbing in for Steve Kerr who is sadly absent. The voice work is fantastic with a wide range of fascinating tidbits and trivia about key players as well as relevant commentary to the match itself. One thing I’ve always loved is the way the commentary flows around a match, if someone is telling a story about a player while a big play happens they will interrupt themselves to comment on that first before picking up where they left off. It’s small touches like these that give the game a more human feel.
Another new addition is a studio crew consisting of Shaquille O’Neil, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith who offer an analytical look at the game. The banter between them is fantastic with some great comedic moments (mostly due to Shaqs general kookiness) and relevant analytical points. These can be a tad annoying though due to them being unskippable and you will usually see all the possible conversations after a few hours of gameplay.
In game the sound is incredible, you can hear the squeaking of sneakers on the game floor and the resounding thud of the ball being dribbled. Players will shout at each other on the court and the arenas each have their own soundboard effects and announcers. It’s the crowd that really amp up the atmosphere though with their deafening cheering for their home team and the heckling of the away side. Another interesting detail I love is how the crowd will slowly filter out of the arena if their team is getting beat, living it near desolate at the end of the game, it really makes you feel like you’ve let them down.
Overall NBA 2K16 is still the king of Basketball video games. They put much more of an emphasis on making it more of a simulation this year with the changes to how defence and offense work and the gameplay in the post feels so much better. As always the presentation is amazing, both for visuals and audio and the curated soundtrack definitely delivers. The amount of game modes and options in said modes are fantastic, there’s something for everyone and you can definitely get your money’s worth out of it. NBA 2K16 will definitely be a game I play for a long while, a must buy for hoop fans and worth a go for people who have an interest in the game.
Great Gameplay Improvements,
True to the real game.
NBA 2K16 slams down hard with an emphatic 9/10.