As another year rolls around on the sporting calendar, as does the annual release of every sports franchise known to man. Over the last five years there have been three sporting titles that have ruled the roost, FIFA, NBA 2K and Madden. Of the three series only FIFA has had any form of competition as NBA Live swung in limbo land, releasing once out of the last four years. Now that EA has returned to the hardwood, has 2K rested on its laurels or have they hit the panic button and radically redesigned the game?
NBA 2K has always delivered a solid basketball experience. The series has never really faltered besides losing the rights to ESPN to Live and a few hiccups including Spike Lee’s horrible story mode. It has always included all the things that makes basketball great, slick passes, huge dunks and blocks and players getting hot streaks and shooting the lights out. 2K seem to have ironed out the minor annoyances over the last few years, defensive players lunging way out of position, or blocks coming from a ridiculous position being the worst of them. But realistically what has been added to try to advance the series has been a little messy, namely the career/story modes. My Career started out so well years ago, focusing on your player on and off the court, gaining fame and success. It turned into a mode that had horrible writing and forgettable, annoying characters.
This year it seems that 2K has decided to fix the My Career mode by adding in a central hub known as the neighbourhood. The neighbourhood would best be described as a smaller, more basketball orientated PlayStation Home. Remember PS Home, the MMO city where you had little to do and everyone just hit on female avatars? I forgive you if you don’t as it isn’t worth remembering. The neighbourhood is equally not warranted. Why 2K could not just go back to what made the mode great being fewer characters, one rival, being given rookie duties etc, or at least ditch the story and hub and just concentrate on playing ball and building your legacy? Why do all the characters talk like the cast of Boys to Men? I’m pretty sure that most NBA players are intellectual and big on current affairs, not wanna be hip hop heroes. The mode is again somewhat of a mess which is extremely unfortunate.
Career mode aside, My Team returns along with My League, My GM, My Park and Pro AM. My Team thankfully retains a solid single player experience with plenty of challenges to play out. There are moments to play, weekly challenges which earn tokens to be traded for rare player cards and the excellent Domination mode returns. I say thankfully as I have always had latency issues with NBA 2K games, this is more likely due to my dire internet speeds but it makes precision shooting and defending impossible. My Team remains robust as ever and as micro transaction reliant as always. I always set out for the grind, collecting in game currency by reward so this never bothers me; the temptation to purchase using real cash will again line 2K’s pockets again this year if you’re so inclined.
My League remains unchanged but My GM now plays as more of a story mode this time around, woe is me! Thankfully, The Next Chapter is nowhere near as painful as My Career and I found some enjoyment here. My Neighbourhood also acts as a pathway for your My Career player to access My Park and Pro AM, two modes that I have never really enjoyed, again due to latency issues.
Although My Career again is a massive let down the game on court is as good, if not better than ever. The contests seem more realistic than ever and it is not as simple as using a pick and scoring an absurd amount of points at will. The defensive AI has stepped up its game considerably, quick switches happen often, and rarely are players caught too far out of position. I do seem to have way too much space given to Dwayne Wade on the three-point line in My Team, they don’t respect my aging star and he rarely fails to make them pay.
I am sure to get some negativity for what I am about to say, but graphically NBA 2K18 looks like it has taken a step backwards. The courts all look shiny, polished and fantastic but the characters look less realistic, especially in replays. The CGI in the My Career mode has always looked average and again this year the tradition continues. Thankfully though, during the game play the animations are smooth and the players react and look as they do in real life, on the court. The menu’s again have changed and the loading screens are long. Again, real footage is used to talk up 2K in all its glory, and what is happening in the world of basketball which is great. There has been a couple of excellent additions to the commentary team.
As mentioned earlier I have always and remain to have latency issues with NBA 2K online. It is disappointing for me but for those that have decent net speed there is plenty to do online. Al the previous online modes are present and bragging rights are yours to be won.
It is a pity that 2K have not fixed the only thing that is wrong with their franchise in My Career. It is the franchises greatest addition in is history yet they have managed to get it wrong since NBA 2K5 every year. Thankfully the game is still amazing on the court; perhaps it is time they looked to the past to move forward in the future!