It’s not every day that we hear about a mainstream sports simulation game, even more so with a sport like basketball. And probably even more remote is the thought of a basketball role playing video game. But far-fetched as it may seem (or not, if you’re not allergic to simulations), that seems to be what the newly developed NBA 2K17 aims to be. And competently so. This review will cover the most realistic (arguably, the only video game franchise that can legitimately claim to be a remotely realistic in this genre) and fulfilling basketball experience you’ll ever find in a console or PC.
Developed by Visual Concepts and published under the 2K Sports umbrella, NBA 2K17 is the 18th installment in the long NBA 2K basketball simulation series. It’s set to be released for all major platforms (PC, PS3 and PS4, Xbox 360 and One), except those of Nintendo. It comes with a few significant improvements over its predecessor, namely the reintroduction of the MyLeague and MyGM game modes. The gameplay inside the court has also been improved towards a more realistic, if more challenging experience.
The so-called “physics” of the game inside the court is top notch. One of the perks of many ‘contact sports’ video games is the very difficult to model element of contact itself. The whole dynamics between two or more soft and tense bodies fighting for a positional advantage or ball possession on the field has always resulted in a huge amount of awfully unrealistic and jerky simplifications. It’s something that many games have tried to do, but none succeeded so far. Stealing a ball from the opponent’s hands is something that usually requires a lot more luck than skill. Only luck.
But somehow NBA 2k17 allows you to see the time to steal a ball and actually be rewarded for your skill without exaggeration. Seeing an improvement in defensive help, for example, is essential. How many times has a player dribbled the whole defense perimeter and had open space for a slam dunk because no defender reacted like actual human basketball players? There has been a chronic lack of choice between forcing one’s way through the defense and opting for circulating the ball through the players until a gap opens up. Not anymore with NBA 2K17. For those who like Kyle Lowry or Deron Williams, this is music to the ears. Until now, it was difficult to actually use players who rely on force to get to the rim in a realistic way. With point guards this problem was even greater.
The fatigue system has changed as well. Until NBA 2K17, the way to show the virtual fatigue was to simply lower skills. The new system should penalize better those who play on “turbo” all the time. In all truth, this is nothing short of a revolution in sports games’ mechanics. Especially for those who play the multiplayer mode. There will be actual thought and strategy behind the way each one plays, makes a substitution, etc. And it’s fascinating to see how nuanced and dependent on actual skill the mechanics become in a human vs human gameplay.
A Basketball RPG?
MyLeague and MyGM, in addition to MyCareer, offer extensive managerial power to the player by enabling control over many aspects of the team’s operation during entire seasons (and off-season activities). And that’s what NBA 2K17 is truly about: control. Seeing the eventual consequences of the decisions you make throughout a season is nothing short of gratifying, bringing back to memory the best RPG experiences.
Both MyLeague and MYGM make a return to the series after being deprecated in 2K16. These modes allow you to control entire teams with different levels of complexity. With the MyPlayer (MyCareer) mode, you incarnate the protagonist of a story that has the potential of being as rich as your imagination. Struggling to succeed in college basketball and enter the NBA, you will experience many of the tribulations and dramas that almost all real professional players have gone through.
As usual, Visual Concepts delights players with top notch graphics and cinematics. The whole menu, design, music and overall pace of the gaming experience is very satisfying, and aids the pathos of NBA 2K17. Overall, a truly competent and gratifying basketball simulation for the fans of this sport.