With the release of NBA 2K18, 2K Sports once again is the go-to for fans of basketball. Much like the iPhone, while we all know we’re going to buy it in the end. We want to be convinced we’re not just getting the same phone (game) every year.
Now, with the increased competition from the resurrected NBA Live 18, we look to see if 2K still sits atop the basketball genre with innovation and gameplay. Or, are they asleep at the wheel and opening their selves up to be overtaken down the line by the returning NBA Live?
The rebounding in NBA 2K18 needs a little bit of work. Now, don’t get me wrong. Muggsy Bogues isn’t out there grabbing five boards a game or anything. However, so far NBA 2K18 has a nasty tendency of letting one guy snatch an offensive board over multiple defenders. The lack of consistent boxing out by the AI further leads to higher than normal offensive rebound totals. A tweak here would be greatly appreciated.
On Ball Defense
Now regarding On Ball defense, I don’t know whether it’s good or bad. Attempting to play on ball feels like you’re trying to walk on ice. It’s that hard. What makes this worse is the ball handler’s ability to just blow by defenders. I’ve done it to my opponent and he’s done it to me consistently. I even flew right by a defender doing zero moves, backed up to where I started and did it again. There’s way too much effort needed to stay in front of the ball handler in NBA 2K18’s current stage. I don’t know whether I and all the guys I’ve played are just that trash at playing on ball defense and there’s a learning curve or that playing on ball will serve no purpose.
One of the best improvements in NBA 2K18 is the dribbling. Dribbling with Kyrie Irving is worlds different than dribbling with Jeremy Lin. While playing user defense is like trying to figure out advanced calculus, there’s never been so much freedom and enjoyment out of stringing together different dribble moves. It’s extremely rewarding to beat your opponent off the dribble. This is then boosted by the fact that it’s extremely hard to stay in front of the ball handler. However, even against the AI, a well-timed cross will have your defender reaching for air.
Pick and Roll
For my offline players, I was extremely impressed with the AI’s ability to switch up their pick and roll coverage on the ball handler depending on what happened the last time they used it and who they have on the court. It really became a chess match between me and the AI. It will be fun to play against the AI, especially in offline Franchise mode. When defending the pick and roll as a user defender, I loved that it’s truly dependent on how fast you run into the screen and how long your stuck on it. Be sure to practice up your pick avoiding skills people.
There’s new one-handed pump fakes and a few contact animations. Other than that, the post game is largely unchanged.
Aside from the dribbling, the Defensive AI is the biggest improvement. The AI is alive in NBA 2K18. Off ball players will attempt to prevent clean runs to the rim by players. Defenders will only deflect or intercept the ball if they’re looking directly at it. I’ve thrown some questionable passes that should’ve intercepted, but I went back to the footage to see the defender wasn’t looking, which is good. Most importantly is shot blockers make their presence known in the paint. Their alertness when you attempt to put up a shot, even remotely in their area, is impressive. It makes you think twice before you blindly drive to the paint with Hassan Whiteside waiting.
Play a few games and you will notice that the ball is its own entity. Once you lose the ball, there is no telling where it will go. Any contact against the defender with the ball and it’s hitting the floor. From there, it could literally go anywhere.
2K has never lacked in the presentation department and this year is no different. The commentary is top notch. I had a perfectly time block while the announcers were praising Durant. The stat overlays during the game are impressive, the new pregame timeout and halftime cut scenes are amusing as well.
NBA 2K18 introduced the most anticipated mode in this year’s The Neighborhood. The mode brings an open world style to NBA 2K18. It’s similar to one you would see in the Grand Theft Auto. It replaces the grinding of badges for a choose your path type of My Player building. The Neighborhood fully embraces the street style of basketball where many of us first fell in love with the game. It blends the MyCareer of old (while removing the collegial aspect of the game) with the neighborhood nicely.
The mode draws in the casual gamer. It has role-playing aesthetics that have you walking blocks and blocks to change your shoes or get a haircut in a literal race to see who can spend their VC the fastest. I feel the mode invites a new range of fans. At the same time, many longtime 2k fans will like it. There’s a chance it could alienate others who just want to play ball. The mode has potential that hasn’t been realized yet, but if it isn’t expanded on in future years, you’ll have to question whether the time they spent building this world would have been better served elsewhere.
I will point out that the whole no voices thing in the cut scenes kind of kills the immersion. The part that I like and found interesting was you’re controlling your MyPlayer (not some random guy or template) in his post career as the GM of whoever you set as your favorite team. Certain things will remain the same regardless of team. For example, the storyline; you’ll always have the option to move to a certain city every time you start up a new MyGm file.
It’s MyLeague with cut scenes. I’ll admit the cutscenes can get a bit tiresome after a while due to them seeming like they never end. Some you can’t skip but the tie in of MyCareer and MyGm being you’re playing days and post career is real smooth. There are major drawbacks like no custom rosters, contracts being out of control after the first year and Free Agents like Kevin Durant leaving after the first season that still need to be addressed. The mode is great and gives you a pretty decent representation of what it’s like to be the GM of an NBA Team.
In the end, 2K manages to innovate their most popular mode with the addition of The Neighborhood. It has a lot of potential and refines a lot of minor issues the game had like faster load times and now being able to see who your opponent is user controlling. Luckily most of the drawbacks and glitches that make modes like MyLeague unplayable as of right now can be patched.
Even if they don’t fix everything, the game is the best it’s been gameplay wise in years and the last time I’ve enjoyed a 2K game this much was the highly regarded NBA 2K11. All we can do is pray throughout the year they improve on it through patches and updates and not ruin an already great game.