Every release of NBA 2K is a signifier of another NBA season around the corner. It’s a nice way to prime the NBA fan for the coming season—the players wearing new uniforms (looking at you, Kevin Durant), the latest team unis and floors and roster moves—while getting to play one of the best sports simulations.
Like its predecessor, NBA 2K17 revolutionizes the way basketball games are made and played. The actual gameplay is smooth and fluid. It features players’ actual shooting forms, footwork of each player, and it shows a distinct attention to detail that shows off each player’s tattoos. NBA 2K17 has every team’s respective offensive/defensive style true to form. If you’re playing a serious game, you’ll probably notice that it’s harder to dribble than last year’s game. The updated shooting mechanics feel more natural and are much easier to handle—you just have to know when to release the ball at the correct point. That’ll make the difference between you being Chef Curry with the shot or Harrison Barnes in the 2016 Finals. What really had my attention was the detail that the game creators showed for each NBA arena, in pregame cut scenes that mimic the TV broadcast.
The MyGM feature allows for fine micromanagement that will satisfy the most fastidious tactician. Playing styles, substitution patterns and roster management can be modified to fit your GM aspirations. You can even go full Mark Cuban and build your own NBA franchise from the ground up—everything from naming your squad to building out an arena is all there. Fans who like to play “what if” can entertain all their dream matchups, such as the 1996 Bulls vs. the 2016 Warriors or the 1992 Dream Team against the 2008 Redeem Team. Or you can just architect your own dream team. MyGM has a feature that allows you to skip the regular season and play through the playoffs. How many NBA teams wish that they could do that in real life?
The crowning jewel of NBA 2K17 is the MyCareer mode. After last year’s debacle that featured Spike Lee, this year’s MyCareer mode features Michael B. Jordan playing your friend and Hannibal Buress offering his comedic flair while you sit on his barber chair. There are more characters central to the development of your player, but it’s best left to be discovered for yourself as you play through the game. 2K revamped MyCareer entirely. It’s actually a more streamlined version of last year’s, making it an addition by subtraction. MyCareer makes you feel like an actual basketball player who’s on the come-up to becoming an NBA player. First, you start out in college and then work your way up the big show, accumulating points along the way to improve your draft stock.
The creation of your player in MyCareer is no longer just a cosmetic affair. Going small will gain you speed and going big will do the opposite, making for a more lifelike experience and putting emphasis on becoming an overall player. My player was selected third overall by the Lakers because I had a few rough outings. It even takes into account the action off the court. At various points, you’ll be faced with decisions of playing in certain games or practices where you can hone your skills with your teammates or appear at events. The decisions you make will shape your development on the court and the endorsements off it. Suffice it to say, it all matters, and MyCareer is pretty deep in putting you in the shoes of an NBA player.
Speaking of shoes, NBA 2K17 will grab the attention of any sneaker head with the many brands that are featured in the game. All the major sneaker brands are represented, and the detail to each sneaker stands out, satisfying new heads (Yeezys) and old heads (Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars) alike. If you preordered the game with Kobe Bryant on the cover, you will have access to Kobe’s Nike sneaker line.
NBA 2K17 is visually appealing. Even though the level of detail and realism is plateauing a bit, it remains one of the most realistic sporting games on any next generation console. The game presentation is top notch. The people in the stands clap, stand, or raise their hands in the air, and coaches react alongside the crowd, all making the game feel realistic and less robotic than past releases. The announcers’ commentary is random and reactionary to the action. The players look like their real-life counterparts, from facial expressions and the way they shoot to their mannerisms on the court. Little details, like players exhibiting excitement while dunking and giving a little smile after they sink a shot, go a long way. Another nice feature is the ability to scan your face into your MyCareer player by downloading the My NBA 2K17 app. The rosters are deep, but we do wish more classic teams would be available. The same goes for certain players who recently hung up their NBA unis, guys like Rasheed Wallace and Steve Nash. Otherwise, NBA 2K17 gets high marks all around, especially the improved MyCareer mode and small visual and gameplay tweaks. In the meantime, NBA 2K17 will keep everyone happy until we’re able to enjoy real basketball when the 2016-17 season kicks off later in the month.