The NBA 2K franchise returns with some of the franchise’s best new features yet in NBA 2K18
For years now the NBA 2K franchise has been pushing the entire sports genre forward with its cutting-edge AI, wide array of modes, and new concepts. Even though the game has been uncontested for the past two years, games in the series such as NBA 2K16 introduced a cinematic career mode and NBA 2K17 fine-tuned most of the game’s aspects.
This year with the return of NBA Live, 2K Sports ups the ante with NBA 2K18 by overhauling and streamlining some of its most popular modes, while introducing new gameplay and features into the mix. How do these new features hold up? Let’s find out!
Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+)
MyTeam returns with two big new features
MyTeam returns and it is just as addictive as ever. New this year to MyTeam is Pack and Playoffs, and Super Max modes. Pack and Playoffs is all about skill and chance, where chance plays a major role in this mode. You start fresh with a random pack of five different players and coach them through a kind of draft, where you open packs and select certain cards from them.
There are times when you get a team with one, two or even more superstars on your squad. And, there are times when you end up with five low-tier players. Skill also comes into play because regardless of who you have on your team, you going to need the skills to take your team as far as you can.
However, the biggest addition to MyTeam is SuperMax. It puts a figurative salary cap on the teams you can put together. This means that players new to the mode won’t have to face teams that are filled with diamond and Ruby-Carded players. It gives everyone a fair chance.
MyCareer introduces open world fun with The Neighborhood
Essentially, The Neighborhood is a social hub where you can play basketball in many different ways. You can start up a Pro Am team with four other players, enter a dunking or scoring contest, and you can even play arcade basketball at the 2K store.
One of the gripes I’ve had with previous games in the series are their weak MyCareer modes. While they have slowly been improving, they are generally weak in telling your story and filled with old hat basketball tropes. Luckily, this year’s MyCareer is a big improvement in almost every way over its predecessors.
This year MyCareer is an open world environment where you can freely roam and explore the Neighborhood. You play as DJ, who enters a basketball tournament. Coincidently, a talent scout for whatever team you choose at the begging of the game as your favourite is at the tournament. Impressed by your skills, you end up getting to try out for the team and an spot on the NBA.
It’s clear to see that this revamped MyCareer mode is meant to draw casual basketball players in. You can get a haircut, buy NBA apparel from the NBA Store, get a new tattoo and even get some new shoes. It’s all about having fun while playing the game.
Additionally, you can train at the gym or run drills at the basketball academy. The goal is to make you way up to level 99. To do this you’ll need to work hard and win games. You can spend VC that you either earn in the game or purchase with real money to upgrade your character. This does raise concerns, as those who shell out the money for VC can quickly rise to the top.
MyGM gets a story mode
This year MyGM has a story mode, which is fairly decent. In theory it sounds pretty cool, you play as your MyPlayer character six years after your basketball career has ended due to injury. Basically, its MyLeague with cut scenes.
Though, where it struggles are the cut scenes. When you meet up with the owner or are chatting with players, there is absolutely no voice acting whatsoever. Just walls and walls of text—it kills the immersion and storytelling instantly.
Overall, it’s a fairly decent representation of what its like to be a general manager in the NBA. Aside from the storytelling presentation, my only concerns are that there are no custom rosters and contracts get out of control after the first year. Its not uncommon from Free Agents to leave after the first season.
Dribbling and the Defensive AI see the biggest gameplay improvements
One of the best and biggest improvements in NBA 2K18’s gameplay is without a doubt dribbling. Each player dribbles different based upon their real-life counterparts. Additionally, while playing user defense, NBA 2K18 gives you so much freedom and enjoyment from stringing together different dribble moves.
In it’s own right, staying in front of the ball handler is difficult. So, when you beat your opponent off the dribble, it makes it that much more exciting. Though watch out, as a well-timed cross will have your defender reaching for air, even against the game’s AI.
The second biggest improvement in NBA 2K18’s gameplay over its predecessors is the Defensive AI. The AI in NBA 2K18 is no slouch, you can count on that. Players who don’t have the ball wont think twice about trying to prevent clean runs to the rim.
Shot blockers in this year’s game make their presence known in a major way. I was thoroughly impressed with how alert they are. Anytime when you try to shoot even remotely in their area, they are there. It really makes you think before taking a shot.
A visually incredible recreation of the NBA experience
When it comes down to visuals, NBA 2K18 can’t be beat. It’s truly amazing how well Visual Concepts have captured not only the look of the players but also their movement and mannerisms. Seeing the game in action is simply remarkable. Regardless of which console you play on, NBA 2K18 runs smooth. Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One run at 60fps and the Switch runs at 30fps.
Our favourite pre-game analysis crew of Ernie, Kenny, and Shaq return, and they are just as funny as they are in real life. During breaks there is a whole range of recorded player interviews, and Dave Aldridge is back on the sidelines for added realism.
There are a variety of different colour commentators for each game, so you don’t get tired of hearing the same voices while you are playing. Though, what really shocked me was how accurate and current the in-game commentary was. It hasn’t been that long since the Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving trade and within a mere matter of moments while playing the season opening between the Celtics and Cavs, the trade was being discussed.
When it comes to creating a realistic basketball simulation, NBA 2K18 is the best in the series yet. It has some of the biggest changes for an annual sports title to date. MyCareer now has more freedom than ever before and MyTeam is a great standalone experience with two new big features.
Although I could have done without the text-based storytelling in MyGM, it was nice to see that it ties in nicely with MyCareer. Finally, I was impressed at how much the AI has been improved—it offers up a legitimate challenge. NBA 2K18 has something for everyone that both newcomers and long time veterans will enjoy.
+ Some of the biggest changes in franchise history
+ AI has been improved
+ Stunning graphics
+ MyTeam is a great standalone experience
– Text-based storytelling in MyGM
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4.5/5
Overall Rating 4.3/5 (86%)
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