This week has seen the release of the best sports game of 2016: NBA 2K17. Though the financial advantage might fall to Electronic Arts’s Madden franchise, 2K’s basketball title has long been the best sports series running. Period.
Year after year, NBA 2K continues to assert its dominance by listening to their players, prizing innovation, and maintaining an indomitable level of quality.
Even Spike Lee’s Biggest Flop Couldn’t Keep NBA 2K Down
Spike Lee may have righteously earned a spot in filmmaking history with electric films like Do the Right Thing, but his contribution to NBA 2K16’s MyCareer mode was a muddled mess of awful. Even that failure couldn’t keep the overall product from earning rave reviews. Players could sit through some of Spike Lee’s pontification in order to get at the core NBA 2K experience.
The series’s fine tuned gameplay is intuitive to the point of them omitting an actual tutorial or training lessons. The expectation is that you can pick up the game and know what you’re doing without instruction.
Even the absence of a well-executed story mode doesn’t do much to dull the appeal of the NBA 2K series. What’s more, the series responded to last year’s fan disappointment by drafting Hannibal Buress and Michael B. Jordan to star in this year’s story and adding an entirely new facet to the MyCareer gameplay.
In NBA 2K You’re a Player, Not a Controller
Creating your own character is a fixture in pretty much every sports title. Leading your avatar to the top of whatever rankings apply to your favorite sport is a kind of wish fulfillment that’s almost necessary to get players hooked. However, it’s NBA 2K’s MyCareer mode that stands above the rest.
MyCareer distinguishes itself by forcing players to control only a single player on the court. Where other team-based sports titles give players god-like control over the entire team, NBA 2K personalizes its approach to the story mode and forces players to succeed as part of a mostly AI-controlled team.
In another title, MyCareer might feel lonely and clumsy, but thanks to NBA 2K’s top notch AI, the result is an incredibly immersive gameplay experience. As one part of a team, you’ll find yourself rooting for your teammates, throwing tantrums when they fail, and wanting to high-five the lot when you pull in a last minute win.
Where every other sports game on the planet essentially puts players in the coach’s shoes, NBA 2K puts players on the team itself.
‘NBA 2K’ Crushes Its Opponents Without a Bank Account
If you look at victory in terms of straight sales, then, okay, NBA 2K comes up short. In 2015 (just like every year), Madden 16 was the second highest selling game of the year, while NBA 2K16 was sixth. Of course, those figures may be misleading since Madden has zero competition.
As most gamers know, EA has secured a lucrative deal with the NFL that gives the video game franchise sole access to team names and stadiums. In other words, no other developer can make a football game with real NFL teams or real athletes. Try competing with a big league football game when you’re trying to get a player to root for the San Antonio Dragons led by star quarterback Dirk Guy.
Meanwhile, NBA 2K is so good that, even with competition from EA’s NBA Live series, its sales are still basically unaffected.
NBA 2K is so good it actually put NBA Live out of commission for three years. You might argue EA did that to themselves when they released an abysmal demo for the canned-before-release NBA Elite 11, but the studio’s decision to reboot the NBA Live series as something more, well, elite, was due almost entirely to the fact the basketball series was getting creamed by NBA 2K on both a critical and consumer level.
Everyone Else is Still Playing Catch Up
Is NBA 2K a perfect title? Absolutely not, but NBA 2K is one of those series where the sum of its parts adds up to something much more special. Even if you’re not a sports fan, the annual series offers some addictive, fast-paced, and truly strategic gameplay (seriously, I challenge XCOM fans to not fall in love).
For those video game players looking to live your hoop dreams, there’s no better title on the planet.