NBA 2K17 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Tomas Barry 02.12.2016

Review for NBA 2K17 on PlayStation 4

Visual Concepts and 2K Sports maintain one of the most admirable track records in terms of all the annual sports series out there. Since its conception on the Dreamcast back in 2003, NBA 2K has always been a stellar, improved experience with each instalment, rarely taking a step backward or missing out on high critical acclaim. With that in mind, we can confidently pose the question, is NBA 2K17 possibly the best basketball game ever?

The answer to that question for the individual will largely depend on where exactly one's love for the game resides. Though it may not be detectable from a passing glance, it quickly becomes clear that NBA 2K17 is all about realism and authenticity. After getting over how impressively life-like the game looks and behaves, it's the wealth of details and the accuracy of the experience that ends up leaving the more lasting impression.

While technically it is a sports sim, that doesn't mean that it's not malleable enough for those with arcade tendencies, raised on NBA Jam or similar. Many sim-centric video games are so relentless in their pursuit of realism that an occasional sense of labour for the sake of learning is unavoidable; this is especially true for a newcomer, as the genre typically presents a considerably steep learning curve. However, NBA 2K17 has a more lucid and dynamic way of uncovering the great depths of the game.

Screenshot for NBA 2K17 on PlayStation 4

It is possible to just launch in, disregarding the notes and advice offered, and simply discover its many nuances at your own rate of progression. There is a comprehensive training mode for those who want it, but there's also no ominous fear that launching into things without it puts you at any disadvantage, since progression seems to come naturally with experimentation, whether or not the difficulty is being modified. More importantly, what's naturally intuitive about basketball has been expertly translated into gameplay terms. It seems meticulously crafted and very carefully balanced. The result is that everybody who understands basketball will be at least reasonably capable and empowered from the off.

Considering the excellent authentic presentation, with all HUD elements disabled it's entirely possible to fool someone into thinking they're watching a live broadcast of a real game. Graphically it's quite an achievement - on action relays players will likely notice how accurate their fleeting expressions are, like the panic on a displaced player's face, for example. There are a few very minor animation oddities, which crop up occasionally, which are similar to a lot of other sports games out there, but this does little to really detract from the experience, especially when everything else is so comprehensively replicated. For instance, if the player wants to, they can watch the pre-game, half time and post-game commentary, complete with analysis. The cameras cut away and pan exactly in the way a broadcast would, lighting is very realistic and crowd animations are allegedly modelled off live crowds. The game is also suitably littered with many stars of the game, past and present, from Shaquille O'Neal to Kevin Durant, so there's basically no element of the real sport that isn't heftily substantiated here.

Screenshot for NBA 2K17 on PlayStation 4

In terms of modes and content, NBA 2K17 is brimming over. Many sport games have been stated to lean quite heavily on online season and 'fantasy team' online-based modes in recent years, often being presented as the central pillar of the package. That cannot be said of this title though, which offers a lot of single-player content to go alongside these online staples. This year's career mode is backed up with quite an ambitious 'MyGM' mode, that allows you to player manage your own team and even expand the NBA with your own franchise, with its own stadium, team name and roster. On top of this are returning staples such as MyTeam, which focuses on building an epic team, and MyLeague, which keeps the focus on the court and pure competition. Each fulfils their role adequately.

This year's MyCareer mode has been enhanced, going down the same pathway as FIFA 17's Journey mode, without talking it up like it's a minor revelation. Points won there. Unfortunately, it's not a particularly memorable ride, even in comparison to the aforementioned sports title. Michael B Jordan, star of the film Creed, energizes things somewhat in his role as Justice, the player's coach and friend, but it's as stereotypical as a story gets, and won't win him any more awards. It's also quite irritating that these scenes can't be skipped, which will become grating if repeating things and it's all together pointless to force the issue. At least for the most part, the relationship between player, friend and coach seems genuine and never forced, beyond the cut scenes being thrust upon the player. The mode itself is the same beast fans know and love. It's something to get lost in, giving plenty of satisfaction, although on higher difficulties it's definitely more unforgiving than previously.

Screenshot for NBA 2K17 on PlayStation 4

2K17 also wisely opts to bring back retro teams such as the LA Lakers of the 00-01 season, as well as some star-studded dream teams and Euro-league teams, as in last year's edition. There are also some fairly random and playful extras, such as the inclusion of footballer Thierry Henry in playable form. Although he is a basketball fan, regularly attending games, the Irish amongst us are unlikely to see the funny side of that irony. More teams will soon be made available in DLC form, such as the All-Time College Teams pack. They've also just recently added the 'Park After Dark' patch for MyPark, a DJ-hosting, neon-infested night time arena for that mode. Though the jury is out on that, since the launch night suffered from some issues, like players just not being able to join sessions, or getting kicked randomly. Once it's functioning correctly, it will be yet another generous addition.

NBA 2K17 also features something quite novel, face-scanning technology, available via smart phone or tablet. A high-quality camera and good awareness of light sensitivity seems quite imperative to forming an acceptable human face. It has to be said that failed attempts yielded some truly haunting, but wholesomely comical results. Creative abuse of this feature will certainly provide a good laugh amongst friends.

Screenshot for NBA 2K17 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Despite a few minor irritations, such as the odd bug in a MyCareer training session or a slight oddity in the animations, NBA 2K17 is basketball at its absolute finest in gaming terms. While it's obviously difficult to rank it alongside games of yesteryear, like the more arcade-centric NBA Jam on the SNES, when it comes to simulating the game on modern hardware, this is the purest, most authentic experience out there, bar none.

Developer

Visual Concepts

Publisher

2K Sports

Genre

Sport

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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