Still the best basketball game

From players' faces and tattoos, to their jerseys and arm bands, the attention to detail is phenomenal in NBA 2K17.
From players' faces and tattoos, to their jerseys and arm bands, the attention to detail is phenomenal in NBA 2K17.PHOTO: 2K GAMES

The NBA 2K series basketball simulation game has virtually no competition in recent years.

If you are a basketball fan, just grab the latest NBA 2K17 and you will find yourself spending countless nights playing it. Here's why.

The MyCareer mode has always been the highlight of the series. Many gamers would dive straight into this without checking out the rest of the game. At least, I know I always do.

In MyCareer mode, you create an avatar using a preset face, set up his physique and play him from rookie to legend.

Alternatively, you can scan your face - often with hilarious results - using the PlayStation Camera, Kinect camera, or with your smartphone's camera using the My NBA 2K17 app (available on Android and iOS) to create the avatar.

Unlike last year's MyCareer mode whereby the draggy story is directed by acclaimed director Spike Lee, this year's storyline is more straightforward and without the melodrama.

  • 9.5/10


    PRICE: $74.90 (PC), $79.90 (PS4; Xbox One, version tested)

    GENRE: Basketball simulation

This year, actor Michael B. Jordan of Creed fame stars beside your character, who is nicknamed Pres. Both of you are joining the same NBA team from different colleges and will rise through the ranks together.

Jordan's acting alone is a big reason to want to attend training and hang out with Justice Young (Jordan's character) for various activities, like going to the barber.

Besides, building a relationship with Young also pays dividends on the court.

There are a couple of new annoyances, though. While you can skip last year's multiple cutscenes, you are now made to watch all the cutscenes. The loading times required before attending each activity - such as an event or training - can also be a drag. Thankfully, the uplifting music soundtrack used prevents you from nodding off.

Unlike its predecessors from several generations ago, the menu interface is streamlined and intuitive. It takes only one or two taps of a button to reach the different playing modes.

The presentation is like a TV broadcast with pre-game, half- time and post-game shows hosted by veteran sportscaster Ernie Johnson and NBA legends Shaquille O'Neal and Kenny Smith.

The authentic feel continues into the court. From players' faces and tattoos, to their jerseys and arm bands, the attention to detail is phenomenal.

Spectators can be seen cheering, shouting and waving face placards of their favourite players. And if the home team is losing, you will see fans walking out when a loss seems inevitable.

The commentary here is probably the most varied of any sports game. There are lots of additional dialogues among the three commentators, ranging from chatter about Pres to analysis of a particular team's performance in the last season. There are also court-side reporters, who are there to interview players and coaches for quick comments about the on-going game.

The roster has been updated as well. So you will see former Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant donning the Golden State Warriors' kit, and ex-Miami Heats star Dwayne Wade in his new Chicago Bulls colours.

Gameplay is really realistic with the likes of LeBron James dominating physically and Stephen Curry downing three-pointers like dunking Oreos in milk.

The artificial intelligence has been improved. For instance, your teammates know how to step behind the ring to shoot from downtown and fill the lanes correctly. But during training drills, they will sometimes freeze and not pass you the ball, causing you to fail the drill.

Other playing modes in NBA 2K17 include MyGM, MyLeague and MyTeam. You can play any NBA team through a season, or just the Playoffs in MyLeague mode.

But if you prefer more control, you can take over any NBA team or create your own franchise as the general manager in MyGM mode.

Creating your own franchise is more exciting, as you get to pick the city where you want to base your team.

I set up a team in San Diego (calling it the Pirates) because of the city's higher income level and fan interest. I also created its logo and jerseys before drafting players. You also have to hire coaches, a chief financial officer and other staff while balancing the budget, as you have to be accountable to the franchise owner.

In essence, there are so many things to do in NBA 2K17 that you probably have to forgo your social life and stay home in front of your gaming console.

Trevor Tan

  • Verdict: NBA 2K17 is quite simply the best basketball simulation game. Period.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2016, with the headline 'Still the best basketball game'. Print Edition | Subscribe