2K sports might have owned the NBA crown for more than a few years, but there’s still one thing they haven’t quite managed and that’s capturing my attention quite like the NBA Live titles of the 90’s.
Let’s jump back to NBA Live 95, there’s no comparison to the visual quality of modern day games, but for me that was the last NBA game that really grabbed my attention, both in the way it looks and the way it feels.
Over the last twenty years, I’ve been unable to find the perfect NBA title. Even though there’s been some fantastic innovations, and the NBA 2K franchise has gone from strength to strength with life-like presentation and player likenesses and an interpretation of the sport that’s far more real than the games from my childhood, but try as I might, I’ve just not been able to get into them in quite the same way, I’ve put it down to age, a change in taste or pure bad luck.
While 2K have done a fantastic job over the years and as a reviewer, It’s hard to fault them, but on a personal level they’ve just not felt quite as accessible, until now…
After the first match, things felt different, I wasn’t searching for what I did and didn’t like, I was back to my teens, enjoying every pass, reading every interception and feeling every slam dunk like the ball was rolling off my own fingertips.
Following on from last years title, there’s not any major changes that could point to my sudden immersion, but with a variety of minor adjustments, everything is just that little bit more refined which leads to a smoother and even more impressive experience.
There’s certainly a step up in animations, with improved reactions and overall fluidity.
Starting up the game, you’ll be introduced to the spectacular visuals thanks to a montage of plays, dunks and various NBA stars and teams, as you expect from a showcase reel, the visuals are nothing short of fantastic, and I’m not exaggerating when I say many of the clips are near impossible to tell between game-play or real life footage.
Upon starting you’ll be taken to the character selection screen to set up your player, there’s various options from scanning in your own face to manually sculpting the definition of the face before concentrating on the usual suspects such as hair, eyes, tone and freckles. There’s a solid selection meaning you can get some pretty lifelike (or gruesome) appearances, and it’s unlikely you’ll find any created players looking exactly the same, with enough time on your hands, the potential results are as limitless as they are realistic making this one of the best create-a-character systems ever seen in a video game.
Onto the main menu, and there’s 6 sections split easily into Play now, My career, team and GM/League, followed by 2KTV and Options/Features.
Most are self explanatory, with Play Now covering your standard quick matches, Options and features covering everything from creating players, managing music, settings, rosters and just about everything else you expect to find as well as a few you don’t expect such as the awesome create your own shoes creator.
The meat of the game is within the three ‘MY’ modes, Career, Team and GM/League.
GM / League covers a custom league, season or online league as well as the choice to continue using your favourite team from the current point in the NBA system. My GM mode follows in the footsteps of last year providing a deep and engrossing stance on team management .
MyTeam continues the fantasy trading card system made so popular in the EA sports titles and while there’s enough game-play and improvements in any of these two areas to last you a full year, it’s the MyCareer mode that seems to have received the most attention.
The quick and easy set-up allows you to select your position, play style, height and weight as well as arm/wing span, shoulder width and whether your left or right handed and of course your jersey number. After a few intro sequences which unfortunately can’t be skipped, there’s a highlight reel from your high school balling and you start on your path through university and towards the NBA. The story driven progress is split between cut-scenes and game time and all are very well done that make you feel more like you’re participating in an interactive story rather than just a collection of basketball matches.
In all there’s plenty of gameplay, and with NBA 2K17 updating rosters and jerseys automatically, 2K17 will last you long through it’s named year.
Looking once again at graphics, 2K17 is, as you’d expect further polish on the already outstanding visuals you expect from the franchise with even more animations in play, you’ll find yourself discovering new moves and tweaks even after days of gameplay. There are a few character models that seem a little artificial, especially those on the front end and half time shows, however with the very slight exception of a few smaller guards, the vast majority of players look as close to real-life as meeting them in person, truly inspirational player likenesses and animations make this a game you can enjoy watching just as much as playing.
Audio is mostly top of the line, with sound effects and court sounds all spot on, some of the voice acting is a little off, not so much the commentary (much of which ties in long flowing conversations about a player or team, while mixing in dynamic commentary of current actions. Unfortunately some of the narration from the intro, half time and end of game shows just doesn’t flow quite as well leaving an artificial feeling closer to the early 2K games, but that small glitch aside the overall presentation of both vision and audio is some of the best we’ve seen so far.
With a near endless supply of ways to play, whether it’s playing locally with friends, taking your career pro into Pro-Am matches with other players, or full leagues online, there’s no shortage of things to do, the MyTeam mode is probably my favourite composed from many years of experience playing Ultimate team modes, there’s enough fresh to keep it feeling very different to EA sports offerings, while at the same time being familiar enough to appeal to the fan of the game mode.