As close as the annual FIFA vs. PES debate can be, there really is no discussion when it comes to basketball. EA has even decided to not release a new NBA Live game this year, and 2K’s franchise has ruled the roost for years. Last year’s version was already near-perfect, so let’s see what NBA 2K17 has in store for us.
At first glance, at least when watching a game play out, not that much has changed. Visually, this is still one of the best looking sports games – just as 2K16 was. Visual Concepts did add a host of new animations – especially for situations where players bounce into each other, but only someone with a really keen eye for detail will notice those differences. It’s a different story when you see some of the close-ups during a replay, but hard to see mid-game.
That’s not to say that the audiovisual presentation hasn’t been improved though, and a large part of that is thanks to a novel new idea when it comes to commentary. While most soccer games feature one or two commentators who comment on each individual game, NBA 2K17 has an entire lineup of commentators available for you. That doesn’t mean that each game becomes a group session in the commentary box, but rather it means that commentators get swapped out and alternate. This way, you’re not hearing the same voices for every game, which is lot more like the real life TV experience.
The gameplay itself is still as deep as ever, with plenty of room for game tactics and defensive strategies. If you’re more interested in an arcade-like experience then you can play around with a big selection of sliders to change the game (increase your shot accuracy, decrease the other team’s defensive skills, etc.) but NBA 2K17 will never play like an NBA Jam game. It’s a simulation of the sport, and fans of the game will appreciate the amount of detail that has gone into reproducing it.
Fans are also certain to appreciate other features, such as the inclusion of US national teams. You can play as the (slightly underwhelming) team that went to this year’s Rio Olympics, but you can also pick the 1992 team that went to Barcelona – the first time that professionals were allowed at the Olympics. Probably the biggest all-star team ever put together, this is a chance to play with Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson on a single team.
Speaking of Michael Jordan – his namesake Michael B. Jordan is the star of an all-new career/story mode in the game. A bit like last year’s Spike Lee-directed mode you follow in the footsteps of a young and talented player hoping to make it big in the NBA one day. However, unlike the Spike Lee approach, this year’s mode is far less infused with real life drama and a lot less movie-like in that regards. It’s a much more open experience this time around, with more branches for your story to explore.
This year, we’ve reviewed the PC version for the game – where last year we checked out the PS4 edition. Visually, the PC version is absolutely stunning – possibly the best looking sports game we’ve ever seen. However, it does come (at launch, at least) with a few noticeable bugs that aren’t there in the console versions. People are reporting missing limbs, the inability to start a game and other such issues. Aside from one instance where we had to restart the game we didn’t run into too many of these issues, but they’re still flaws that need patching and they do hold the game back a little.
Having said that, there is nothing that even comes close – on PC or any other platform. NBA 2K17 is still just as dominant as the US professional basketball team at the Olympics. Except the 2004 one.