NBA 2K16 continues its stranglehold as the premier NBA game on the market with another strong entry that pushes the sports game envelope.
What Is It?
NBA 2K16 is the latest entry in the wildly popular NBA 2K series, and it’s hard to remember the last time each game wasn’t better than the last. This is especially refreshing because in this day and age, it’s not out of the ordinary for a developer to take their foot off the gas when they know their game is the best available in the market.
Why Should I Care?
The previous two games were primarily a way for 2K Sports and Visual Concepts to get their feet wet with current generation consoles. Now that they’re on their third current-gen entry, the developers seem to be letting their creativity run wild with Academy Award-winning director Spike Lee taking the helm with this year’s MyPlayer mode.
Upon first booting up the game — after you play your first game to get used to the controls — you’ll be obligated to create your own player by choosing from a bevy of customized preset options, or simply taking a picture of yourself with your console’s camera peripheral (though that’ll lead to very mixed results). Once that’s all settled and you start MyPlayer, you’ll be treated to what’s supposed to be a family conversation, except all the actors performing are in motion-sensor gear. Following this, you get a few words from Lee, and your journey to the bigtime begins.
Your player is also known as Frequency Vibrations, or “Freq” (Freak), for short. He’s a kid from the projects in Harlem with a loving family, a sister that keeps him in check, and a best friend who’s looking out for both Freq and himself. MyPlayer follows Freq’s journey from high school, winning the state championships, selecting the college he’ll play in, and eventually getting drafted to the NBA, where all the drama begins to unfold.
The problem with MyPlayer is that it’s way too story-based for its own good. As stated, you’re going through Freq’s life, and rarely does it ever feel like it’s actually your own because you rarely ever get to make your own decisions. At first, it seems like you do, because you get to choose from a long list of colleges vying for your services through an athletic scholarship, but that’s pretty much where it ends. After your first season, you’ll have an agent telling you that now is the best time to declare for the NBA Draft, while your family says it’s completely up to you (but your father wants you to graduate first). While I got ready to make the tough decision, it turns out the draft was already happening in front of me, and I ended up being selected at pick 13. So not only did I not get to make the decision for myself, I also didn’t get picked as high as I hoped. I should’ve just stayed in school like I wanted to.
Lack of real personality aside, you can expect to see cliche after cliche. At the very least, there’s no shortage of interesting stuff happening here, and it’s unlike any other career mode you’ll find in any sports game. It’s almost like a family friendly version of Grand Theft Auto, just because of all the humor there is to experience in a story that tries its best to be a sports drama.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
While MyPlayer might see the most attention its ever gotten since its inception, the real reason you want NBA 2K16 is because of its rock solid gameplay. NBA 2K has always been top-notch, and to be honest there isn’t much you can do to improve upon its gameplay mechanics short of letting you actually play a game of basketball in person. But they did, and they improved it in such a way to reward people who live and breathe fundamental basketball.
In previous games, you could just constantly pass the ball and run around to eventually find a soft spot to shoot the ball in. While that strategy can still be effective, now the AI can adjust, and I learned that the hard way playing my first game and losing by more than 18 points. So if you’re trying to just take it to the rim with a slasher like LeBron, by all means, do so. It just won’t always work as the defense will adjust to contain those inside shots. If you’re trying to go all Golden State on the defense by shooting three-pointers with every possession, you can do that too, until they start defending perimeter shots well, forcing you to use the pick-and-roll by calling on a teammate with the left shoulder button.
In addition to the AI and the new reliance on calling actual plays, the controls have been changed up a little too, and veterans of the series might not be fans of these changes. For one, the post game is now activated with L2 (PS4) or LT (Xbox One) buttons. In previous games, you could exploit the post and perform spins and turns that’ll force a clear path to an easy layup or dunk. If you try to do that now, even players with the best handles will have the ball knocked away. More than any other game, defense has become less of a chore.
The last thing that continues to impress every year is the game’s TNT-style presentation, without even using the TNT brand. Kevin Harlan and Clark Kellogg are back in the booth for another season joined by Greg Anthony, who replaces Steve Kerr after weirdly still being in the announcer’s booth despite coaching the reigning NBA champions. Kenny “The Jet” Smith also joins Ernie Johnson and Shaq for the 2K Sports Pre-Game, Halftime, and Post-Game shows to continue to add to the authentic broadcast experience. In addition, new animations, a revamped menu, and a cleaner and more realistic look to player builds really make the game feel like an authentic NBA broadcast, leaving all other professional sports games in the dust.
Despite its laughable yet interesting excuse of a story, NBA 2K16 offers another fun game of basketball with the most authentic broadcast experience a game can provide, and that — not Spike Lee — is the reason why you should pick it up.