As a UK-based contributor, I'm lucky enough to possess a unique perspective on the world of sports gaming from across the pond. Unfortunately, I'm also left out of my depth in regards to certain sports, and basketball is one such example. It's not that I don't understand the basics. I've played my fair share of basketball games over the past 20 years, but I've never ingrained myself in the culture of the sport to the point where I understand the tactical techniques or terminology involved.
Back in February, I published a "noob's perspective" on Madden NFL 16, and following the recent weekend-long trial of NBA 2K17 on Xbox One, I set myself the task of tackling a new variation of this challenge. In the process, I gathered further impressions from a copy of last year's game to add extra longevity to my playing time.
Keep in mind that these are a small selection of initial thoughts from someone who doesn't understand the sport or the mechanics of 2K's NBA games all that well, but it might be illuminating to you as to how a more casual fan sees the games we play. Go easy on me, folks!
NBA 2K captures my attention from the instant I hit the court, and I'm particularly in awe of the sheer amount of diverse animations that add a unique quality to each play. Games flow naturally as a result, making it easy to create those replay-worthy, jump-out-your-seat moments. The only noticeable downside to the visuals are the awkward facial animations that look unnatural up close.
I can already see how the pregame, postgame and halftime show sequences could grow old quickly, but as a casual fan, they offer the immersive aspects I crave. It's easy to be amazed by the outstanding announcer work and player interviews, but I'm not so keen on the coach timeout talks that suffer from jarring transitions and a generic feel across both iterations. Minor issues aside, the NBA 2K series benefits from an impressive level of presentation across the board.
Offense & Defense
I'm not the biggest connoisseur of the NBA, but I know how to shoot hoops in the virtual world when I need to. If there's one constant that I and other casuals can share from our experiences, it's that playing offense is usually easier than defense. In the past, I've often found it possible to hit 2-point shots without much resistance, allowing me to forego intelligent basketball in favor of taking direct routes to the net. The same couldn't be said for defense, where it felt like I was being punished for failing to manipulate the mechanics to my advantage.
In both 2K16 and particularly 2K17, I've noticed a switch. Even for an inexperienced player like me, my intelligent positioning on defense feels like it's being rewarded. On offense, the fluidity of each attacking move allows me to carry out clever plays to get to the basket, and the defensive AI forces me to do so. It's also pleasing to see that the confusing free-throw mechanics of years past have been simplified considerably.
I Love MyPark...But
You don't have to be a regular NBA 2K player to have heard of MyPark. I've watched enough videos and read enough content to know that it deserves my attention, but only recently have I begun to understand the appeal. It's quickly becoming one of my favorite modes, and I've spent plenty of hours dropping into other people's games, irritating them along the way with my noob-ish ways.
That said, I haven't been able to invest enough time into significantly upgrading my created star, and I don't care for the grind of doing so. When I'm occasionally hauled into a game with overly powerful opponents, my interest soon wavers, and while I could invest more time into upgrading my player, I'd rather be offered a balanced system to compete with all players from the outset. It's purely a personal preference, and I know there are many fans that prefer the stat-building aspects of online play as opposed to the class-based format of NHL 17's EASHL, for example. I'm not one of them.
It's a tough ask to put out games of outstanding quality on a year-by-year basis, but many would argue that 2K has achieved that feat over the course of the series' lifespan. It's an even tougher ask to capture the casual crowd and get them to opt for a full-price purchase, and although they haven't quite managed to do that in my case, they've come close.
I'm already missing the ability to take advantage of additional announce teams, gameplay enhancements and a MyCareer story that isn't penned by Spike Lee (sorry Spike!). Although I wouldn't envisage paying top dollar (or pound) for 2K17 at present, that could change if I find myself getting more invested in the sport and the series as time progresses.
Ultimately, the in-depth aspects of 2K's NBA series are lost on me. I can't determine whether it accurately represents the sport of basketball in terms of tactical replication or team management, and that's not my concern as a noob. I'm just after an accessible pick-up-and-play experience, and despite occasional complexities, recent iterations of the series are able to satisfy my needs better than ever before. Whether 2K can hold my interest for the long haul remains to be seen, but I'll retain an appreciation for their brand of virtual basketball either way.