Another year, and another run of updated sporting games! Normally, I don’t buy into the yearly craze of updating my sports games, however, two games I will gladly upgrade every year are the NBA and WWE 2k franchises. The games have yet to fail me, so why not upgrade?
Well, this is actually the first year that I feel like upgrading to the new version of NBA 2k has been a massive step back. Which is unfortunate. And sure, I could talk about all the positives, but where this game succeeds in areas like improved online gaming and a MyGM mode with an actual story, it falls over in basic gameplay, and the core feature of the franchise (MyCareer) being a hot mess.
Let’s start with MyCareer. It starts out like this. The backstory of your character makes no logical sense, as before the start of the game, you were a top college basketballer that was at the top of their game, and decided to stop playing basketball and possibly having a shot at being a first draft pick to be a DJ. That’s right, your character squandered the chance at being on the same career path as Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin or cover star, Kyrie Irving, so they could be a third rate Skilled.
After realizing they missed their shot at super stardom in basketball, they go back to the old playground to sign up for an amateur tournament. Conveniently, there is a scout from your favourite team (mine happened to be the Boston Celtics), and they are so impressed with how you play, they invite you to a practice session. The worst part is that it doesn’t matter how bad you play, because this will happen regardless. I lost all four of my games, only to have the Celtics scout come say “You were so great, come to train with us.” It logically made zero sense that someone that lost four games in a street ball setting would get called up to the NBA.
Before going further on MyCareer, let’s talk about the new gameplay mechanics. My biggest gripe with the game by far is the new shooting bar. No matter where I am on the court, as well as contested or uncontested, for the first few hours, I could barely get a shot to sink. I thought I was actually using the mechanic wrong, so I went on to watch some Twitch streamers, and it turns out I wasn’t using it wrong, but it was broken. On top of that, the A.I. has taken a step backwards too, as there seems to be more times than not, where A.I. players will just launch the ball up court and force a turnover for no sane reason. Even setting up basic pick and rolls, or screens, is a mission. Considering the two things are massive issues in regards to playability, this gave the game a massive thumbs down.
Back to MyCareer. Once you finish the training with your team, you get partnered up with the cockiest dude on the team. Like, he’s for real a piece of shit. But over time, you become friends with him, and he becomes less of a dick. Which I also don’t understand. There are some cool cut scenes between games between the two of you, but it felt like they were trying to replicate the “Orange Juice” storyline from 2k17 into 2k18, without having you play with him, as you and the new character never share court time together, just cutscenes.
Apart from that, there are some cool things about the MyCareer setup. They’ve taken what is normally a solo career mode, and made it more social. Outside of NBA games, you can relax in The Playground, which is essentially a few city blocks consisting of shops, tattoo parlors, mini game courts, a gym, an apartment for your MyPlayer, and what I consider the best feature, the walk on multiplayer courts. Once you’re able to master shooting, you can get into 3v3 online games, which don’t rely on clunky A.I. and let you team up with other MyPlayers. I played a few games as my Playmaking Sharpshooter Shooting Guard, and let my teammates do all the up-close damage while I sat on the perimeter and sunk 3’s. It’s rare for me to say, but the online components of this game outdo the PvE experience.
The other things I mentioned before are pretty cool too. There is a gym where you can earn stamina bonuses in your NBA games. Your agent can set you up with in store meet-and-greets with fans to earn you Followers and Virtual Currency. You can also participate in Slam Dunk contests, 3-point shootouts, and a few other mini games on half courts spread around The Playground. The whole MyCareer though, features around “The Road to 99”, where the goal is to get to an overall of 99. It’s pretty self-explanatory. As you get VC throughout the game, you use it to upgrade your MyPlayer, and by doing that, every 5 Overall you go up, you unlock new perks, like new haircuts, tattoos, clothing, etc.
Outside of the MyCareer, things haven’t changed that much. MyTeam is still the same as it always is, as with BlackTop, Play Now and the general online feel. The biggest addition outside of MyCareer comes in the MyGM mode, with the addition of a storyline to MyGM. Your MyPlayer becomes the GM of the same team you pick as your favourite (again, for me it was the Celtics) 5 years after you suffer a career ending injury. From there, you have all the respect from your players, and you play through as normal. It’s a relatively small addition, but it’s enough to get me back into playing the MyGM mode when I need to get away from MyCareer.
Overall, the game isn’t the strongest addition to the NBA 2k franchise, but it isn’t the weakest yet. A game that normally innovates took a step back. I hope this trend doesn’t continue in the future, as I love the 2k games.