Since 1999, developer 2K have released their basketball simulator, NBA 2K every single year. With NBA 2K16, they’ve raised the stakes by involving legendary film maker Spike Lee for the MyCareer mode. It’s a massive gamble for the developer, and for Spike Lee, but…does it pay off?
Gameplay’s certainly strong here. The controls feel fluid and responsive, although there’s some minor tweaks to the control scheme that may frustrate returning players at first. To be honest though, that’s less of an issue than anyone new coming to this game. If you’ve not played a basketball game for a while you might be in trouble here. There’s no gameplay tutorials, other than a few videos hidden in the options menu covering the most basic of basics. It’s a shame, as the gameplay’s great but many new to the franchise might be alienated by the lack of help they’re given in getting up to speed.
It’s worth making the effort though as, once you do, the experience is a rewarding and exhilarating one – the pace of basketball lends itself to enjoyable gaming anyway, but the control system here enhances your ability to recreate the excitement of a real game. It looks good too. Not just the players themselves, but the assortment of people on the sidelines – individual photographers, team staff or mascots all have their own clear individual personalities and animations. Whilst this might not have any direct bearing on the gameplay, it certainly helps the whole thing feel more realistic and adds to the fun.
Of course, we need to talk about the MyCareer mode and, we’re sorry to say, it’s not great news. Whilst the journey itself in the game, going from college hopeful to NBA superstar is well thought out and enjoyable, Spike Lee’s “Livin Da’ Dream” is at best slightly amusing and, at worst, cringeworthy. That being said, if you look past the superficial issues of its presentation, there’s a rich and rewarding adventure to embark upon.
And, of course, it’s not the only way to play the game. 2K have done a great job of creating a huge range of ways to shoot hoops, to suit everyone’s preferences. If you want to REALLY put yourselves in the shoes of your favourite player or team, you can compete in real world match-ups on the day they take place. Alternatively, you can setup your own heavily-customisable league, allowing you to embark on anything from a single season to an 80 year franchise, without Spike’s narrative getting in the way of the gameplay. If you want to go deeper into the managerial aspects of the sport, the MyGM mode will let you tinker with everything from players and club staff, to every element of the team’s finances. It’ll even let you make strategic calls from the sidelines whilst you watch the game – although, of course, many of you will want to still play the games as well yourself which, thankfully, you can.
And, of course, as with pretty much every sports game these days, there’s the customary ‘collect-em-up’ sticker mode. In NBA 2K16 it’s called MyTeam and it’s got all the usual things we’ve come to expect from this sub genre, from special packs you can blow real money on, to a virtually endless list of challenges you can take on with the random team you’ve managed to cobble together from what the game gave you. We’re being facetious – we love these modes in other games like FIFA and Madden, and 2K do an equally good job with the model here, albeit with less of the satisfying sheen EA manage to sprinkle on their titles.
Overall, it’s another strong instalment in the long running NBA 2K series although, as we said earlier, it’s a shame that Spike Lee’s involvement didn’t quite raise things to the next level many had hoped it might. Luckily though, that doesn’t matter. Regardless of whether you’re a fan of basketball or not, this is a great looking game with fast-paced satisfying gameplay – once you’ve worked out what all the buttons do.