NBA 2K16 Review: The Mecca

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Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2k Sports
Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4
Released: September 29th, 2015

Sports games typically have to navigate a short development cycle (compared to games outside of the sports genre) and face an uphill battle to be innovative as they churn out releases annually. Sports titles that show minimal improvements from year to year are usually tagged with the unflattering term “roster update.” 2K Sports has managed to buck this trend with NBA 2K16, delivering one of most ambitious titles of its kind.

GAMEPLAY
For my money NBA 2K11 which was released back in 2010 was my GOAT as it had the most balanced gameplay on both sides of the ball. I continued to play 2K11 for many years often wishing 2K Sports could hit on those right notes again as each release after while good, felt like it was missing something. After playing NBA 2K16 for many hours I can safely say that my wish has been granted. If you played last year’s iteration, you’ll notice the improvements right away when you take 2K16 on the court. In basketball the teams who execute the best and play fundamentally sound are usually the ones that have the most success. The San Antonio Spurs are a good example as their five guys play in complete harmony making it look like they’re running a basketball clinic on the court. In NBA 2K16 its fundamentals really pop. The 5-on-5 basketball is the most polished sports simulation I’ve played since 2K11. Defenders are quick to pick you up once you get into the half court, pressuring you to execute plays and be smart with the ball. The only reliable way to score is to use real basketball concepts, so if you’re a student of the sport you’ll find yourself being rewarded for your knowledge. Even if you don’t call plays every time down the court, the freestyle offense that the teams automatically run emphasises the strengths of the players on the court, making proper rotations a critical factor to success. If I had one gripe, it’s that 2K has once again decided to change some of the controls so if you were used to 2K15’s control scheme, it will take you a few games to relearn them. When you run a pick-and-roll, you can not only choose whether the screener rolls or pops, but you can also decide which side of the defender gets screened. Post play is now activated by holding down L2 on PS4 but once I got it down I noticed it’s easier to put together moves out of it.

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MyCareer – A Spike Lee Disjointed
Obviously the MyCareer mode was this year’s edition biggest selling point and it’s where 2K put most of their energy into. With the introduction of “Livin’ Da Dream,” a storyline attached to the MyCareer mode courtesy of Spike Lee, you’re thrust into the shoes of a kid dealing with the trials and tribulations of being a top high school player and the decisions he has to make along his rise to stardom. I won’t spoil the story in this review, but I will say while it has good intentions the extremely linear aspect of the story doesn’t mesh with the user’s choices. One glaring example: I created a white center but according to the storyline, you’re a Black kid from Harlem with a twin sister named Cece. Another example of how disjointed the story is, during the small portions of pro basketball games you play you might score nothing and get a grade of D-. Despite that, you’re still dubbed the next Lebron in Lee’s narrative. Despite these obvious oversights and the story being mostly fluff, once you get past it the improvements made to MyCareer are really nice. The big difference in this year’s version is however you choose to manage your off-days, it impacts the direction of your career.

MyGM/MyLeague
There is so much to do in either the MyGM or MyLeague modes that it can be overwhelming. The sheer amount of options 2k offers is mind blowing as you can customize just about everything to your liking. They’ve been building on MyGM since it was introduced in NBA 2K14 and it really hits it’s stride in 2K16. You’re tasked with player motivation and evaluating potential assistant coaches by finding out what their goals are. You can try to hire staff members away from other franchises but they are apt to block you no matter what. On the other hand you have to try and meet the demands of your important staff members while the threat of them walking to another organization is very real. Probably my favorite new aspect of MyGM and My League is team relocation. The biggest difference in relocation between My GM and MyLeague is that any team move in MyGM has to be approved by the board of governors. In MyLeague you won’t have to bother with the red tape as you can pack up and bounce when you anytime want.

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Online Functionality
The biggest dent in the armor of the 2K NBA serties since it debuted on next generation consoles has been it’s unreliable online infrastructure. In 2013 2K Sports took a ton of heat for rolling out NBA 2K14 requiring all of it’s modes to be connected online to work, but not taking the steps to ensure that the servers could deliver. As a result frustrated gamers were stuck with a game that was virtually unplayable at launch. In the early returns from playing online in 2K16, it seems lessons were learned. So far I’ve been able to play through MyGM and get some run online with no glaring issues. The only thing I couldn’t access was the Pro-Am but hopefully that gets worked out.

BMR Endgame
NBA 2K16 is brimming with content and coupled with the smart intutive play on the court, we’re looking at a complete package. While the Spike Lee directed MyCareer movie didn’t mesh with your actual career as the gamer, you have to give 2K Sports props for trying to be innovative. I’d love to see them work with Spike again and offer something that is more organic and choice driven. Thankfully that doesn’t detract from the overall result which makes NBA 2K16 one of the best sports games you’ll ever play. – written by DJRhude (@DJRhude)

BMR Rating: 9.0