From the perspective of someone not overly familiar with the NBA, basketball can be a deceptively complex game. What originally seems to be a few blokes running around flinging a ball into an impossibly small hoop soon turns into something far more tactical, with the smallest errors turning a game entirely on its head in seconds. What’s for sure though is that it’s a great game to play, and with NBA 2k17 having a huge amount to keep you occupied it’s definitely one to consider if you’re after a sports game that’s a bit different to your usual tastes.
The most obvious thing to notice about this is just how fantastic the presentation is. While we’d normally look in the direction of EA for a sports game at the better end of the visual scale, this is comfortably on par with any of this years offerings, mixing impressive commentary with TV style presentation and brilliant player models and animations to produce something which is unnervingly easy to mistake for an actual TV broadcast. The crowds respond to the action, commentary reacts well to an individual’s performance in that match and there’s the usual array of trainer squeaks, player calls and that lovely “swoosh” when a shot goes in without so much as brushing the hoop.
But it’s the other, smaller things that might go unnoticed by some that show the thought and effort which has gone into this game. Ever been totally annihilated in a game of FIFA and wondered why nobody has packed up and gone home? In NBA 2k17, that’s exactly what they do – your fans will just get up and start to trickle through the exits as the score becomes more and more embarrassing. Fans for the other team will raise the volume if you’ve got a free throw at their end of the court, or at the end of a close game. Your controller even shakes to reflect the extra pressure felt by having an entire stadium on its feet willing you to miss.
In terms of options though, game modes are pretty much what you’d expect them to be if you’ve ever picked up a sport title before. There’s the usual exhibition and online options, as well as the MyGM mode (letting you run your team in quite a bit of depth), an Ultimate Team style mode and various other niceties to keep you ticking over, but there’s one game mode which has been beefed up this year and will most likely draw you in for much of your time in 2K17 – the MyCareer mode.
It’s partly what you’d expect – set up a new player and build them up through a career from their college team, through an NBA Draft and into the big leagues. It’s a story-based mode, which tries to teach you the game through a series of training sessions, and while it can be a bit jolting and difficult for new players it’s not long before the controls feel more natural and you’re mixing up your passes, skills and shots like a pro. The game also recognises whether you’re playing the role you’re meant to, whether you’re marking properly, passing at appropriate times, taking too many long shots when teammates are in good positions and so on, and you’re rewarded suitable for being a team player instead of trying to perform NBA Jam-esque slam dunks every time you get the ball. It’s a very engrossing career mode, and while there’s a lot of waiting around for loading screes between training, matches and the general life sections of the career the on-court action and the development of your character more than makes up for it.
It’s not a perfect picture; I found online games to be pretty ropey at times, with a couple of complete disconnects and an above-average amount of lag, but I suspect I might’ve been playing with people across the world and not in this country, so I imagine playing with friends would be more stable. It’s also a hard game to learn, especially if you’re new to the sport completely, but stick with it and the rewards are there to be had.
So NBA 2k17 is a very fine example of how to make an engrossing and enjoyable sports game. If you’re already a basketball fan then it should already be on your shopping list, but if you just fancy something different then it’s definitely one to consider.
Reviewed on PS4