NBA 2K18

NBA 2K18
 
 

Oh 2K Sports, you were so close, yet so far from creating a masterpiece with NBA 2K18. There are many changes in place; some are fine-tunings, and other modes were demoed and rebuilt. While a majority of the adjustments improve the game, the most egregious changes stop it from improving upon its predecessor.

With NBA Live 18 now firmly in their rear-view mirror, the revamped MyPlayer mode and microtransactions aren’t 2K’s best moves for countering EA.

 
Ad FeedbackAdvertisement

Of course, they’re still the best at what they do. The moment the pre-game show ended in a Warriors-Cavs quickplay game, I mistook the pre tip-off footage as the real thing. The players are photo-realistic, and at times it's hard to distinguish the rendered models from their real-life counterparts. Little ticks players have – like Steph Curry exposing his mouthguard during free throws, or LeBron James’ stanky-face after a poster dunk – are all captured in the game.

Gameplay-wise, it’s unbelievably polished – I genuinely couldn't find any flaws. The developers have dotted every i and crossed every t to ensure NBA 2K18 is as authentic as possible. Players protect the ball when they gather for a lay-up, make an attempt at stripping the ball defensively, scramble for loose balls reactively; they all occur organically. There's no pre-canned animations that kick into place, like a line of code with certain parameters. It doesn't feel like a basketball game. It feels like watching a game of basketball.

The flow of the sport is captured perfectly, too. Previously I found the substitution pattern to be systematic and wholesale, but in 2K18 they’re more accurate; no more four to five player substitutions, and a more accurate substitution pattern aligned with the real game is in place. Playing a 48 minute match in All-Star difficulty level (the same duration as an actual game) results in similar scores to the real thing. Previously I would score 80 to 100 points in a half, but now it’s a lot more challenging to rain down threes with 15 seconds left on the shot clock. The A.I. adjusts to your playstyle, forcing you to vary your offense in order to score points – much like the NBA.

Minor additions like the ball receiver overlay (where an icon pops up under the intended receiver’s feet to reduce errant passes), and A.I. calling out switches during screens makes the gameplay a lot easier to digest.

Even the commentary sounds authentic: no forced colour commentary that cuts in amongst play-by-play calls, and enough dialogue to not repeat itself in every game. Their roster of now nine announcers (adding Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett) also means a continually fresh rotation of commentary teams.

Still, some of the footage designed to immerse you – like the national anthem, and interviews with rendered players – look out of place, especially when they talk out of sync with their audio. Extra gimmicks, like t-shirt parachute drops during time-outs that continue to fall during play, take you out of the game at times.

The unique selling point of the NBA 2K franchise has been the MyPlayer mode, which allows you to create a custom athlete, letting you play out a hall-of-fame career. It has had misses due to the story (thanks, Spike Lee), but this time around it's a blank canvas.

Other than (unskippable!) cutscenes that carry your player into the league, there isn't really a story to tell. Instead, the focus is on your freedom to choose what to do daily. Choices that are presented to you in cutscenes are insignificant, and the MacGuffin is chasing the “Road to 99” overall rating. It isn't without its problems: your best friend, who is designed as comic relief, is as tacky as they come, and some design decisions vary from head-scratching to completely egregious.

The team at 2K has introduced a new feature called The Neighborhood, which is designed to give you the experience of exploring a small open world with various activities and shops. You get to see other players online, visit stores, and participate in activities by entering facilities. The different modes you can hop in (league, pro-am and MyPark) all contribute to your rating. The open world design is a neat idea, but unlike GTA Online, the activities are limited.

This brings up my biggest gripe with NBA 2K18: microtransactions. No, they aren't overly invasive, but it feels like we are venturing past pay-to-win, and into a territory where consumers have to pay to just experience 100-percent of the game. In previous iterations, players could customise some of their look, free of charge. Now, they have to walk into a barbershop and pay an amount of Virtual Currency (VC) to change their hair, without the ability to preview the choices. 2K Sports are well aware of this situation, surfacing an “add coins” option on each transaction screen. This means you’re dividing the VC you spend between customising your player and upgrading them – leaving you not much choice than to spend real money.

I received the Legendary Edition of the game, with bonus VC included. However I chose not to use the it, just to see how someone who purchased the standard edition would cope. The results are staggering: the progression curve is much, much, steeper than before – a grind akin to the original Destiny. While it adds longevity to the singleplayer, if you’re mostly playing online and you didn't get VC bonuses beforehand, you're shit out of luck.

If like me you prefer a narrative, then MyGM mode might pique your interest. Playing as a former player who suffered a career-ending injury, you are a newly hired GM with the team of your choosing. You control everything, from coaching, player changes, to parking prices at the arena. It’s a part-basketball, part-business, part-Telltale sim. Your answers to the media, owner, and your team will affect how your managerial-ship plays out. Although not as polished as MyPlayer, it’s still worth a look.

The MyLeague mode is still as deep as ever: On top of a standard league setup online or offline, it also allows for expansions of up to 36 teams. I'm still hankering for a custom league setup that utilizes ladders, à la NRL or the English Premier League.

MyTeam has had a minor addition called Super Max mode. Think of it as the salary-cap implementation to the card-collecting game, where valuable players eat up more of your salary, so it's a matter of juggling highly paid stars and undervalued players.

Visual Concepts have again made good on their name, developing a visually stunning game. The changes to some of the modes are beneficial, but the overhaul to an open-world MyPlayer feels pointless. The dependency on Virtual Currency and the ease of spending them compared to the challenge of earning them makes for a longer singleplayer experience, but greatly hampers the multiplayer. Hopefully 2K Sports reins it in, because if this continues, they will find resistance.


Tony received a physical copy of NBA 2K18 from 2K for review.


NBA 2K18
"Open world NBA is all flash, no substance – a dampener on an otherwise great game."
- NBA 2K18
8.6
Great
 
Follow Own it? Rating: G   Difficulty: Easy   Learning Curve: 15 Min


 

Relevant Articles

 

Comments Comments (7)

 
Posted by that_black_guy
On Tuesday 24 Oct 2017 5:18 PM
2
The worst thing is the neighborhood is flooded with pay to win players.... and almost none of them will join a pug queue with a lower rated player, so the online side of my player is almost inaccessible to players like myself.

On the plus side, gameplay wise it probably is the best 2k I've played
 
 
 
Posted by NZBuc
On Tuesday 24 Oct 2017 11:17 PM
1
I find the lag in the neighbourhood the toughest - makes me wonder if other people get better response than me.

As for VC - iv almost maxed my guy out, with no real $ spent - mynba2k app each day (600} and I summed to end of first season in mycareer to take the best paying/lowest minutes contract, and get as much VC in minimal t8me that way (was even better when the 1 minute quarter length glitch worked)

Fair review though - it is great to play!
 
 
 
Posted by dsinnz
On Wednesday 25 Oct 2017 8:04 AM
3
How about those micro transactions ?
 
 
 
Posted by SpawnSeekSlay
On Wednesday 25 Oct 2017 11:19 AM
3
I didnt pick it up when I heard it had microtranactions thrown in your face for everything , including MyCareer. You say it isnt invasive but it seems like it sort of is, I thought they were overused years ago where MyTeam was basically impossible (ie take many games (hours) to earn enough for just 1 pack), to now sounding like MyCareer is getting closer to going down the same track.
I think 2k are pushing it beyond what a premium priced game should be, so voted with my wallet this year.
 
 
 
Posted by toner
On Wednesday 25 Oct 2017 3:41 PM
1
25 October 2017, 11:19 AM Reply to SpawnSeekSlay
I didnt pick it up when I heard it had microtranactions thrown in your face for everything , including MyCareer. You say it isnt invasive but it seems like it sort of is, I thought they were overused years ago where MyTeam was basically impossible (ie take many games (hours) to earn enough for just 1 pack), to now sounding like MyCareer is getting closer to going down the same track.
I think 2k are pushing it beyond what a premium priced game should be, so voted with my wallet this year.
Here are the pros and cons:

Pros - If you play MyCareer as a single-player experience, it gives you plenty of legs because you don't become a superstar before the end of the season like previously.

Cons - If you play online, unless you've made the grind or purchased VC to match those who have, you gonna get your ass kicked.

So in short, single player - MT non-invasive, multiplayer - you'll need lots of VC to keep up
 
 
 
Posted by SpawnSeekSlay
On Thursday 26 Oct 2017 3:27 PM
-
25 October 2017, 03:41 PM Reply to toner
Here are the pros and cons:

Pros - If you play MyCareer as a single-player experience, it gives you plenty of legs because you don't become a superstar before the end of the season like previously.

Cons - If you play online, unless you've made the grind or purchased VC to match those who have, you gonna get your ass kicked.

So in short, single player - MT non-invasive, multiplayer - you'll need lots of VC to keep up
Basically sounds the same as previous years just worse. The problem is there are too many hard-outs where NBA2k is their main game each year and so throw the cash at it in lump sums, which them just allows the publishers to push it to the next level again.
See when I buy NBA2k, I mainly want it for MyCareer, but I also want to play Park and MyTeam too but I feel Im just shut out of those modes because of VC.
I feel NBA2k is one of those games where the in-game currency is too hard and grindy to earn to allow you to play in other modes, so you're pushed to buy VC. And I dont think there really has been any backlash to them for it (till now slightly), most other franchises trying this have been slammed in reviews and critics. Hell I think NBA2k is 10x worse than what Shadow of War has done and got slammed for.
 
 
 
Posted by that_black_guy
On Thursday 26 Oct 2017 5:20 PM
-
I largely feel the same... except the grind is much larger this year than previous years. Especially when you're forced to spend VC on things like haircuts (which you cant preview). But like you say, they largely get away with it and even worse, a lot of ppl are forking out for it