The time has come for the yearly iteration of NBA 2K. Commonly, 2K is met with criticism over their one year development cycle. Opponents of this development strategy argue that one year of development does not allow the game the opportunity to grow and improve year to year as all changes are small tweaks and not large overhauls. This has most certainly been true of NBA 2K in the past and they haven’t seemed to want to deviate from the yearly release. Does this commitment to tradition force 2K to release yet another graphical upgrade of the same game or is 2K16 a fresh new NBA experience?
The most important aspect of any game is the how the game plays. NBA 2K15 was fun but had some serious game play flaws that left the game feeling unfair and unrealistic. In NBA 2K16, a lot of work has been put into game play tweaks and adjustments, making the game feel leaps and bounds above its predecessor.
There has been an emphasis on the defense this year making playing on-ball defense monumentally easier by allowing players to scale the intensity of the lock down defense they play. This allows players to choose between speed and strength, putting some much needed control into the player’s hands. There is also more contact, changing the feeling of the game from canned animations to procedural physics based collisions making the game look more realistic and believable. While not an entirely new game, 2K16 is a lot of fun to play and is the most accurate basketball experience to date.
One of the most widely touted features of 2K16 was the fresh new “MyCareer” experience being written and directed by Spike Lee. Claiming the tag-line “Be The Story,” 2K spared no expense hyping this up to be the story of year. After playing through the 6-7 hour story experience, I can comfortably say the story was a failure. Not only is the dialogue cheesy and unbelievable, there was absolutely no interactivity during the story and no personal choice. You were not in control of your players actions off the court like expected, and, even worse, on the court performance had no effect on the story either! The story suffered the most from the short development cycle as it needed much more polish and refinement. For a story claiming to let you “be the story,” nothing seemed to change no matter what customization options you chose. I was a white kid but somehow my twin sister was black, along with both of my parents. There was a total lack of attention to detail leaving the story feeling disconnected and uninteresting. This without a doubt was my biggest disappointment of all.
Despite the lackluster story, NBA 2K16 is absolutely brimming with awesome new content. One of the
simplest, yet most useful features added is “MyCourt”. This amazing feature is the waiting screen for “MyPlayer”. This is a customizable court that you can shoot around in as well as invite friends to for your own impromptu pick-up games. I spend so much time at the beginning of my play time using this court to quickly test out different jump shot animations and size up moves. This year 2K has brought only a few original game modes to the table. Despite this, they have reworked all the previously existing game modes making them all more enjoyable and playable.
One of the more popular modes is My Park, which was introduced back in 2K14 had a lot of work done to it. Now with the newly designed defensive control, My Park feels much less arcade-y and a whole lot more fun. To improve this game mode, they have also changed how player creation works so that players are no longer able to make incredible freak athlete “MyPlayers,” destroying any balance the game had. For the time I have spent playing MyCareer, I have spent an equal amount at the park and this game mode is truly a lot of fun. It really captures the feeling of going to a local park and playing a pick-up game with random people. My one issue with the My Park game mode is that 4v4 is largely unplayable as the court becomes a chaotic mess of players running all over the place. With that being said 3v3 and 2v2 are very fun and the right size for uncoordinated pick-up games.
As a supporter of longer game development cycles, I am truly one of 2K’s biggest skeptics. With NBA 2K16 however, they have made me a believer. NBA 2K16 is without a doubt the most robust basketball video game ever created with so many modes and features, I don’t have time to talk about them all. The game play has been retooled to feel as realistic as it ever has, making all game modes more enjoyable. 2K16 is not without it’s bugs and issues, but I can see and feel the effort that was put into this year’s NBA 2K, and I can over look some of its problems to truly enjoy playing this game. If you are looking for your basketball fix until the start of the leagues regular season, look no further as 2K16 will occupy your time well into the playoffs.