NBA 2K18 Review
2K have outdone themselves once again, with a supremely well-rounded and pioneeringly (that is now a word) refreshing “upgrade” to the NBA Franchise.
The NBA Series is a very unique set of games, each year seeing something different in terms of options or reworked features, but often times, the new features are magnificent in their concept, but in execution, well, they have fallen short of intended glory if represented as the most aggressive Baby Hook. Smashing onto shelves tomorrow, I have not had an extended amount of time to get sweaty with this title*, but from all the perspectives I unlocked and explored, this is quite boldly, the best installment of the series and caused me to re-evaluate my “I’m not really a fan of sport games” attitude. Having kept NBA 2K18 in my peripheral, the development process and improvements from early Beta to Final release has been inspiring. The Beta received some really great reviews, so it is only natural that the Final release performs well too. Let’s take a look shall we?
The “Big Man” Takes The Spotlight
With Sport titles being so fast paced, player movement has always been an issue for me, because if I cannot control my player easily, I get annoyed really quickly and turn off and trade the game. I was pleasantly surprised that with NBA 2K18, movement, attack and defense are so streamlined and relatively easy to get used to that my “rage-meter” was in the green almost permanently during match play. Difficulty scaling is blatantly noticeable as well, as an example AI defense players redefine Deadly Outside Shooters by rotating to contest long-range shots, leave poor shooters open and block passing lanes to key players almost as if they are reading your mind, predicting your strategy.
When venturing into PlayGround (which used to be MyPark), Blacktop and Pro-Am, it was yet again, very clear that a serious amount of dedication and attention to detail went into development, as the in-game representation of the real life applications with these modes are simulated a lot closer to legitimacy. The biggest additions and upgrades to this year’s release is “The Neighborhood”, “MyCareer” now being a Sandbox MMO experience splicing together Pro-Am, MyPark, Customization and elements from “MyGM”, but leaving MyGM to be it’s own section entirely. Personally, I found this mode to be quite overwhelming, but probably because of my prior mentioned stigma against Sport titles, but by applying my Sandbox experience from other titles that feeling of “What. Where. How” went away relatively soon and I found myself being distracted by “side activities” and adventuring instead of sticking to my goal. I loved that by using the MyNBA 2K18 Smartphone Companion I could scan my face into the game, allowing it to be a personalized journey through the NBA World.
The “Story” is the generic “get noticed by talent scouts, get signed and push to meet sponsor goals” vibe, by your avatar being a fresh Street Baller who makes a name form himself at The Proving Grounds and then gets signed by an NBA Team (the organization you select as your favorite). After signing on the dotted line, you are then given a list of objectives to follow, but thankfully you are able to go off on your own mission to explore whenever you want (as long as you meet your deadlines). In The Neighborhood you can mess around at a Clothing Store, Barbershop, Tattoo Parlor, the Pro-Am Gym, The Playground, The 2K Zone and even hop on and “fast travel” through The Neighborhood quickly via a Subway System. Note, that The Neighborhood requires constant Internet Connection.
Pump Up The Jam
The modes are very self explanatory as per above, but for the new comers or if you are reading this review just out of interest, let me crack it down quickly. As mentioned, MyGM is a standalone section of NBA 2K18, which can keep you seriously preoccupied. The story and team building mesh into a new organism, because your character will receive a back story and you then interact with other Key Players, Management Teams and members of the Press, so in a nutshell, it is a whole new “Single Player Mode”.
From what I hear from one of my bro’s that loves this franchise, “MyLeague” has always been a key player in the NBA games, and this mode has only received slight tweaks, which is probably for the best, seeing as most of the other features and new modes needed to be tested and perfected, so why “fix” what aint broke right? I also believe that this League mode is the best of it’s kind in the genre, which confirms my previous statement’ accuracy (phew!).
“MyTeam” has a Draft Mode (Pack and Playoffs) and a Salary Cap function which is creating much excitement to fans of this mode, especially with in-game Challenges, exciting Card Reveals and Smarter Pack Contents, making this one of the best card collecting concepts for the NBA game franchise. In Pack and Playoffs you draft five players, as the games have no reserves or stamina. You have to try mix up the most ideal lineup to battle competitors online in a type-of PvP Playoff Structure. If you win four games you move onto the next round, but similarly, if you loose four games, you will get eliminated. “Super-Max” is the Salary Cap Mode and it is boosted by two features that make coach selection vital. System proficiency is key in pushing your players to perform to the best of their abilities. If your system doesn’t fit your roster, then your team will under perform, with often elimination results. Coaches have perks based on their gem level. You can use these perks during timeouts to give your team a (much needed?) boost.
Everything looks amazing, the players look legitimately like their real like counterparts, but the Create-A-Player feature in NBA 2K18 has serious limitation issues. I said you can scan your face into the game (which really is epic), but that is where it ends, as from there you can only pick from a few hairstyles and body types. The scan feature has forced 2K to remove the “Facial Sculpting” ability, plus you cannot change the eye color or skin tone of your custom players once you have finalized your head.
Something that confused me a lot was the lack of continuity, in most current games where you can customize your avatars, your customizations stay in-tact at all times, especially in game cut scenes, but I could not help but laugh during MyCareer cut scenes, when my avatar was taller than I had set him in the MyPlayer customization section. If anything needed a soft-patch to add more awesomeness, it would be this “oopsie”, everything else however can and should stay as it is, fitting like a glove.
Admittedly, I needed to consult one of my friends from Ghana who is an absolute NBA fanboy to gain accuracy to this section of the review in comparison to previous NBA titles, so he spent some time at my place this weekend* pointing out the noticeable flaws or pitfalls. He was particularly passionate about how in the “Play Now” games, the presentations are acceptable, but in the MyGM, MyLeague and MyTeam Modes, the Pre-Game Interviews, Pre-Game Show, Half-time Show and Post-Game Wrap up needs be specifically applicable to your current season only and the events that have taken place recently. My friend also pointed out that with the Classic Team and All-Time Team Sections, a lot of special or legendary people were simply missing from the rosters. He said it is not a deal breaker to this awesome version of the game, but that the little things do make a big difference to the fans who know the teams as well as he does. He laughed at how most of the classic teams were not sporting the kit they wore in their respective eras, just shaking his head saying, “Eish, these guys!”.
As for the rest of the graphics, as mentioned above, everything is stunning and texture rich, setting it apart within games of it’s genre. We cannot compare these graphics with the likes of any of the recent FPS or MMO titles, because the elemental applications are different and the environments are different, albeit The Neighborhood contradicts my statement entirely. The soundtrack is enjoyable and the sound effects are not annoying for a change in a sport title. There is very little latency between activities and loading times are within tolerable parameters for a modern competitor.
Developed by Visual Concepts and Published by 2K Games / 2K Sports, NBA 2K18 will hit shelves tomorrow, 19 September 2017 (at the time of this review) for PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. You can get your physical copies tomorrow for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 for R915.00* from BT Games. From what I experienced this weekend while playing and from what my friend said, NBA 2K18 is a very ambitious pursuit with it’s new features spicing things up, making this an expensive, however “worth the money” title for true fans of the franchise to add to their game library straight away. If you are interested in trying the game out as a new comer to the sport game scene, give it some time to drop in price or keep your name on the pre-played title waiting lists.
*Pre-Order Website Price at time of Review
*Early Access Code provided by 2K Gaming