Points in the Paint.
With continual debates over who reigns as the top dog in basketball sims, there’s a divide. Okay, maybe not a divide, but there are a handful of people who doubt NBA 2K’s mighty allure. With every passing season fans wait anxiously for that yearly upgrade, and to this point 2K has stayed consistent in every way. It certainly looks as if the only one to stand in the way of NBA 2K's greatness is itself. But with NBA Live attempting to make a comeback, the question remains: Will NBA 2K16 stand its ground?
For the most part, yes. Not to give away the ending so soon but the developers over at Visual Concepts had a task at hand and certainly went at it like champs would. They were faced with advancing game modes as well as competing visual presentations. When it looked like EA still had a trick up its sleeve, Visual Concepts swooped in with an even better trick, though it is interesting what ideas are going into basketball sims these days from both parties. The mirror image of real basketball in both games is almost uncanny, especially if you’ve ever experienced or have been around the life of a developing top talent in the sport.
As such, NBA 2K16 highlights and demand your attention on MyCareer. Entitled “Livin’ Da Dream,” this is a story mode not quite ever seen in the sports genre. Given that it's a "Spike Lee Joint," a certain flare for dramatics had to be a theme. The documentary-like mode starts off with a telling of a young man’s story. Frequency Vibration, shortened to Freq, is the nickname of your personally created character.
Like a typical Lee film, there’s a whole cast of characters, from the sister/manger, to the “ghetto homeboy” from the streets, down to money-hungry agent. In the first five minutes of dialogue my roommate asked if someone was going to die—classic Spike Lee. It’s all premised around the good kid from the streets of Brooklyn trying to make good for him and his family. Did someone say Jesus Shuttlesworth?
Beginning in high school, Freq eventually works his way through one year of college and then into the pros. Throughout all of this, after each game, you are giving movie-like scenes and long back and forth dialogue between characters. Some of it helps add emotion and background to the story but a lot of the times it can run on too long, which breaks the momentum in your game time. Until you finish your NBA rookie season, this film-like sequence is what you get. After the end of the season you can continue on as usual; play each game while being given grades for performances and leveling your stats with rewards points as you see fit.
The great thing about your created player is that he translates to other modes as well. Each one giving opportunities to earn rewards points that can also be used to better your stats as well as buy hoop gear. Beyond just being a pro, 2K16 is also about progress and illustrating what life is like for your average baller looking to shoot some hoops. With the two new modes, MyPARK and Pro-Am, players can take their game into a street ball like atmosphere and practice their craft.
MyPark is ridiculously real-to-life. Just like going down to your local 24 Hour Fitness or neighbor hoop parks, you have free roam as you look for open courts to play in a number of pick-up games. “Who got next?” Either form a team with friends to challenge peers online or call next game and wait for others to join you. It’s definitely the closest thing we’ve had to a NBA Street game in a long time. It's still basic basketball but it has those flashes of ball-up mentality.
Pro-Am, just like Live’s version, is about putting together a 5-on-5 matchup, with or against friends and others playing online. After a few games in the mode, you soon realize the style this mode is catered to players who hog the ball and what to be the star. Since my player is a rim-protecting big man, getting the ball in the paint at times is impossible. Depending on whom you are playing as, having a buddy or two with you may make for a better experience.
Funny enough though, after playing with my created player for so long inside of MyCareer and everything else, I had realized I hadn’t even played in a simple exhibition game. So for my first, I decided to run with my home team, the championship defending Golden State Warriors and put them up against Lebron and company in a finals rematch. Visuals on court as well as player likeness are stunning. It’s still amazing to see details like tattoos, shoe logos, and player mannerisms. The presentation is 100% there. Pre, mid, and post game reports are uncanny. It’s fun listening to Shaq, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith banter on about their respective sports knowledge. No Chuck, though? Where’s the full TNT crew?
On-court action is decent but not perfect. I’m pressing hard for sure, but I’m just not wowed by how players move and interact with each other. There’s a slight lag I feel when trying to perform the moves I want. Setting and then rolling off screens is too slow and doesn’t have that smooth reaction time we see big men work on game to game. Post offensive has added a gritty touch when battling with the bigs but you oddly can get stuck in the paint when setting up for an entry pass to then be called for 3 seconds.
But not to down the play mechanics too much, there is a sense of ease to the physics. Shooting and dunking are actually really fun when you have open lanes to work, and player ratings translates well when on the court. Steph Curry’s threes are off the chain—off balance, left foot, right foot, fading back—his shot leads the way, along with his fellow Splash Brother. Lebron is a train that can’t be stopped. And James Harden’s euro-step will get you most of the time. Whatever the case, the plays are there.
NBA 2K16 is full of features and detail. It’s possibly the most complete game to the series. Truly when picking a title for yourself it’s all about your preference. I actually like NBA Live 16’s Pro-Am more, yet I like the way 2K16 presents its product on and off the court. Having options like playing with old-school teams and players further keeps fans interested. The game's soundtrack is great too, as I'm sitting here listening to IAmSu! (who would have thought…). 2K Sports rarely take a step back and this year is no different.