NBA 2K18 [Review]: Grand Theft Hoops.
The yearly 2K basketball sim is back, with a vengeance. I started with NBA 2K11, where you had the option to participate in the Jordan Challenge, and play out Michael Jordan’s top b-ball moments–innovative for 2012! Then, yours truly discovered the MyCareer mode and could not believe what was in front of his eyes: a damn sportsball RPG. Hell, I’ll even admit at this point, I wasn’t a big NBA fan; but by the time 2K12 rolled around, I was foot-to-toe in Houston Rockets crimson. Fast forward to NBA 2K18, and I’ve maybe sunk in 75-hours in the MyCareer mode. The lone reason…
In the last iterations you’d just grind away, game after game, earning credits to upgrade your player, texting your agent on the in-phone game, and going on the calendar setting up practice (yes Allen I; all these years we still talking about practice) and meet-ups with other players. Now? It’s so much more. Your agent wants to see you? Want to get the freshest new pair of KD or Kyries? OK. Walk your happy selves out of your loft to your agents’ office and on your way a block down to the local Foot Locker. Get faded up. All that. The Neighborhood completely engrosses you the minute you walk out onto the street, as you’re sharing an MMO world with other likeminded avatars trying to make it on that “Road to 99”. The ‘hood is not only about grinding but you can play pick-up games, show off your skills on the dunking area, go Downtown in a game nailing baskets from random spots on the court, join a Pro-Am game — be it with a team you create or as a walk-on in a 5-on-5 pick-up. The ‘hood is your grand stage, the spotlight is on you and it’s about time you showed the world what you’re all about. 4/5 Bibles. – Lauro Rojas
OK, Lauro. I see you. But I’m gonna expand on MyCareer mode with this year’s fictional created character. First off, he gets points for being nicknamed “DJ” — not only because he left college to pursue a music career and made his way back to the game, but — because DJ are my initials IRL; the ‘rents named me what they did so they could call me “DJ”. Yeah, I’m one of 4 people who get to hear their name all through this year’s career mode. Suckers.
This year’s mode isn’t as story driven as the Freq & Pres past (no girlfriend, no reporters following you since high school, no orange juice, or grape juice, or apple juice, or anything of the such), but the “Road to 99” is a GRIND!!! I’ve been playing for 5 days, and I’m at 87 (VC can be spent to level up to 85 right off the bat). There’s no doubt that this time around, very few people will make it to Jordan level. The reward for hitting 98 is a feature on NBA 2KTV, so there’s no way that thousands of stick-ballers are going to be featured. Still, it’s a long haul that can last the life of 2k18. So far, the grind is fun.
While you can do everything mentioned in the above review, the real draw of the new MyCareer is stacking up against other users. Instead of selecting game modes from a menu, you actually walk your player to the games. You go to the playground to play 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 pickup games, which can be fun, except for the 2K servers being sub-par and lagging out during games (even @Ronnie2K meta clowns himself about these issues in a tweet from DJ). And it feels like a real pickup game, since many players vary in ability. Sure–both the park and Pro-Am are fun; but outside of the team mode, nobody actually plays as a team. It’s full of players trying to pad their own stats to level up and it devolves into users playing 1-on-5 every time they get the ball. I’m not amazing at this game, but I’m not horrible either, and I’ve won a total of 3 games between the modes because of other users not wanting to work together. It also doesn’t help that the “steal” button might as well be the “intentional foul” button. As solid as it is, MyCareer wouldn’t be worth the price of admission (2.5/5). But luckily this year’s addition of extra “historical teams” and All-Time rosters for each franchise are enough to make 2K another can’t miss put-back. 4.5/5 Bibles. – Dave Story
OK, hold the phone guys. Before we get into Moody’s last say let’s talk 2K from an NFL and NBA 2K title player perspective since the Sega Dreamcast. This year’s installment on PC instantly had me hooked with pristine graphics and animation; those intending to upgrade their Xbox One to the X this winter will be in for a treat! Like the boys above and Moody below, I’ve mostly been playing MyCareer, but I’ve also delved heavily into MyTeam. Visual Concepts, once again, nails the card-pack dream team mode. Players choose 25-26 items/pack, to which the first five are automatic but locked in, resulting in a coach, contract, playbook, stadium and one player. The next pack will get players their free agents not locked in; you’ll need contracts for these (likely superior) players throughout the challenges. The last packs you’ll obtain for your team have players configured and aligned with attributes they acquire as a player.
Starter packs contain defense, grit and grind, pace and space, perimeter centric and post where in each of these packs of 5 you only get to choose two. But most fun of all in MyTeam? Not having to constantly play against the A.I., with the option to play against another around the globe. One can keep playing these challenges to ramp up their game or build up MyTeam to be the best. For one, these weekly challenges are the best way for a player who has barely jumped onto 2K to learn how to play in different game situations. A coach proficiency system ensures players pick up ballers most fitting for their team strategy, too. The only issue had early on is the usual: it needs patching. 2K18 is a bit slower than before and is difficult to discern a player with a rating of 69 from a player with a rating of 89. I have seen things in this game that make you pull your hair out and say, “WHAT!!!” 3.5/5 Bibles. – Solomon Gamino
A 3.5, Solo? Are you sure you weren’t playing NBA Live 18? Lauro and Dave spent the majority of their review on MyCareer, arguably the weakest mode in 2K. The characters look stranger; the acting/dialogue (sans team mentor/security guard) is less impressive than Madden 18‘s glorious new story mode, Longshot; having to constantly spend time in the Gatorade Fitness Center and badge practice is relentless; and every non-NPC — pretty much everyone — looks like a STUPID IDIOT standing in the middle of the street with no cars in sight, as stone-faced zombies on their iPhone, not moving an inch to interact with anything or anyone. But! There’s absolutely no question that the freedom of The Neighborhood is a game-changer. You don’t have to compete in the NBA if you don’t want to; you don’t have to compete in the parks if you don’t want to; or, best, you can do a little of everything and keep every agent/PR rep/teammate/strange roommate around you happy.
With that said, those grinds might one day deem rewarding, and I’ll continue to run MyCareer at 85-90% at least until the official start of the NBA season. Despite losing all that glorious story/back-story 2K17 offered with Team O.J. in a story I didn’t want to move on from (but 2K18 has my guy Kyrie gracin’ the cover in Celtic green!), there’s still enough “cute” cutscenes and moments in the mode to keep me intrigued. And despite a 65-rating after grinding harder than Destiny in 15 NBA games with my Moody PG (standard edition review code) — and the all likelihood I’ll barely test the online waters of the park or Pro-Am — I’m having solid contributions off the pine with plenty of double-doubles. Adjusting from a dominate Big to a semi-struggling PG has been a great story for me; sooner or later I’ll have that job, D’Angelo!
- Gameplay thingy’s my compadres haven’t touched upon:
There’s a new cinematic narrative added to this year’s MyGM too, although not without the same cringeworthy graphics/text-based dialogue/handwaving found in last year’s WWE 2K17 promo engine. “The Next Chapter” is a nice way to boost steam to 2K’s most underrated mode, and hopefully some quality voice acting and visuals will accompany the game’s secondary campaign next season. Advancing MyGM into the season, I love-love-loved the option to “Normalize played in sim minutes/stats”. I was called-out on Facebook about this being in NBA 2K17, and indeed that’s truth. But who the fuck played MyGM mode last year? Thought so. Playing 6-minute quarters in my Moody GM Fantasy Draft League (using players from both current, classic and all-time teams) is gonna be a helluva lotta fun, especially without feeling the urge to play all 12-minutes.
- Guest commentary from KG and Kobe. It’s so-so-so-so good, and a wonderful surprise when both H-o-Famers join the already loaded booth. I also loved that C-Webb had a rant on current NBA players from the Big 10 too. So dope. Still no highlights from around the league during season modes (I mind as well give up now), but–bar none–NBA 2K18‘s presentation is once again near-flawless (those new freethrow angles tho!), despite a new Jordan Player of the Game drop that often comes too early/awkward during close games and sometimes contradicts game outcomes that aren’t already by 20-points. And you can forget seeing Ernie, Shaq, and Kenny’s TNT brothers Barkley and Miller on commentary in 2K ever, since they aren’t even in the game as All-Time players! Moses Malone and Rasheed Wallace are noted omissions, too. Fuck licensing.
- Actual gameplay. Yes! There is a game of basketball to be played beyond all the new, wonderful open-world MyPlayerCareer stuff. The 5-on-5 on-court play is smoother, less stilted, and far more organic than ever, despite plenty of erroneous “direct” passing (holding the pass button still doesn’t thread the needle; but no looks and bounce passes are easier to manage). Loose balls are more active, offering a far more rewarding and animated fight for the rock, like tip rebounds. AI is improved AF, too, as defenders will stick sharpshooters like glue and leave any struggling chuckers to help defend the paint from incoming threats. Everything on the court looks and feels so authentic and fresh. Irregardless of NBA 2K18‘s narrative/graphical shortcomings in its ever daunting Grant Theft Ambition, there’s still no sports title better. 4.25/5 Bibles. – Travis Moody