NBA 2K18 review (PS4)

NBA 2K18 was released on the same day at NBA Live 18, and despite massive strides by the EA title it was never going to be a contest which game would emerge on top this year. Find out why NBA 2K18 is still king of the basketball court.

The short version of why 2K’s latest basketball sim is so good is “why would they change an already near-perfect game?” The changes applies to NBA 2K18 aren’t exactly drastic, but that’s to be expected – EA’s own NHL franchise exhibits the same kind of pattern as the dominant title in that particular sport.

Despite this, NBA 2K18 does rock an impressive list of changes – though most don’t directly relate to how a game of basketball plays out on the court. For instance, the career mode has been expanded and gives you more freedom to follow a path of your own choosing – whether it be to join the NBA league or not. There’s also a third person “neighborhood” mode that sees you walk around a small game world as you go from shop to shop and hit different basketball venues along the way. It looks a little like GTA meets NBA 2K and it felt like a fancy 3D way of navigating a regular menu, but I wonder how 2K is going to build on this in the future.

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Another new mode is the “road to 99”, which serves as an achievement system that should hold a player’s interest for longer. Your goal is to ultimately build a character with a 99 overall rating – something that can be done through a multitude of ways. It’s fairly superficial, but any achievement hunter will tell you how effective a system like this can be. MyCareer got a boost as well, mainly in the content department. The way the mode plays out isn’t too different from before, but there is more to do and you get to interact with past and present NBA stars as well – making the entire experience seem more alive and personal.

Heading in-game, the shot meter has received a few slight tweaks to make you feel more in control of your shooting, but my own experience was that it takes quite a bit of practice to get this right so initially I had to up my shooting percentage in the difficulty settings to adjust for this. The other change this year is a new animation system – which promises “dynamic animations” instead of pre-defined ones. I’m sure this is a major change under the hood, but when playing it’s difficult to notice unless you’re watching slow motion replays – this difference can be seen especially well when a lot of players are caught in a small space.

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The audiovisual layer of the game received some more polish, mainly in how realistically players are represented on-screen. Perhaps not noticeable to casual viewers, fans will definitely appreciate the subtle nuances that have been applied to things like tattoos and even scars that players might have. As is the case with the new animation system, these are differences that mostly just show up when watching close-ups or instant replays, but it adds to the authenticity of what was already the most realistic basketball game out there.

It’s no surprise that NBA 2K18 is another great game from Visual Concepts. I haven’t even touched on the wealth of game modes that are available outside of the ones I mentioned, and the core gameplay is as solid as ever. The changes are subtle enough that veterans can jump right in, but the simulation is also still as complex that it could be daunting to newcomers. As mentioned in our NBA Live 18 review, those gamers now have a good alternative by way of EA’s game – but basketball aficionados will want to stick with NBA 2K18 as the superior and more well-rounded package of the two. It may not represent the leap forward that NBA Live made this year, but 2K easily gets away with because their NBA series were already ahead by so much. Next year will be interesting indeed.

Score: 8.7/10

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