Whether it’s football, soccer or wrestling, the breadth of sports video games strive for authenticity. Likewise, every game aims to remain fun at its core. Mastering this balance is the key to keeping franchises like NBA 2K successful. Despite their success in such arenas, this year 2K refuses to sit on their thumbs. Like their WWE 2K franchise, 2K is pushing massive change in the form of gameplay improvements to NBA 2K18.

Breaking Down the Gameplay Improvements

The majority of the details come from Matt Bertz of Game Informer, who recently visited Visual Concepts’ Novato, California headquarters to get a glimpse into NBA 2K18.

Enhanced Player Accuracy

Being demoed on the PlayStation 4 Pro, NBA 2K18 looks stunning. According to Bertz, this year’s game has incredible graphical fidelity in addition to great attention to detail. Lighting has also taken a massive leap forward. NBA 2K18 features a deeper scope of colors. You can see the comparison in the screenshot below from Operation Sports’ Steve Noah. However, the most noteworthy changes come in the player likeness. NBA 2K18 features a much wider spectrum of body types and skin tones over its predecessors.

Revamped Player Motion

To combat some of the pitfalls from previous games, Visual Concepts created a new physics-focused system that always accounts for a player’s size, acceleration, and speed before committing contextual animations. This ultimately reduces the amount of random animations that fire when a player navigates the court. This year, 2K promises players will be able to feel like they’re in control and not a slave to the animations. The improvements don’t stop there. Bertz mentions that players seem to lose less momentum when committing to a fastbreak then receiving a pass. Elite players like Russell Westbrook can blow past defenders. However, some like Jimmy Butler may prove to be a more difficult feat. The important thing to note is that this year, what animation you happen to get will not make or break victory.

Smarter Shooting

When it comes to sinking a shot, timing is still a huge factor but it’s not everything. Visual Concepts claims it will be better balanced across the board in terms of getting the appropriate outcomes. They’ve implemented a new shooting feedback system. After shooting, NBA 2K18 will display a stat bar at the top of the screen that tells you how good your release was and how contested the shot was. Bertz admits the system still needs some minor work but overall is a great addition. Furthermore, he mentions the shot meter now appears over the shooter’s head.

 Deeper Passing Controls

2K aims to rectify issues when comes to passing to near or far players in a particular direction. This is done by gauging how long you hold the basic passing button. Tapping passes it to the nearest player while holding it attempts a long pass. While this mechanic is great, Bertz warns players to be smart about who they pass the ball with and how far. The passing skill plays a significant part here and can set you up for a quick steal if you’re not careful.

Dirtier Paint Play

In NBA 2K18, mismatches during your pick and roll can be punishing. Strength matters this year. In addition, the new motion controls offer a lot of variety in terms of footwork for the big men like faking a shot then stepping through.

Freer Ball Physics

Visual Concepts has revamped their free ball game. Not only are there improved circumstances when the ball pops free, there are a host of new contextual reactions that happen as the ball roams free. This includes things like loose ball fouls and chains of guys diving for the rock.

Better Defensive Coordination

This year’s game features a Defensive Communication setting. With it turned on, players on defense engage in chatter that calls out who they take on in fastbreaks and other defensive scenarios. In an actual game, a huge part of playing defense is communication and NBA 2K18 looks to replicate that.

Coaches Matter More Than Ever

In a bid to add to their authenticity, Visual Concepts looked to make coaches matter in NBA 2K18. This year, a new menu called System Proficiency is being introduced. There are many systems involved like defense, triangle and perimeter that come with their own set of bonuses and detractors. These will be based on how well coaches run that system and how well the players fit into that system. All the information like effectiveness will be indicated through the UI in a series of star ratings and color schemes. 2K polled coaches, players and league managers to make sure the systems fit real-world schemes.


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Kevin Finley
Kevin Finley currently lives in North Hollywood, California where he juggles becoming a pro wrestler and game writer. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Game Art and specializes in narrative design. Although an avid player of Role-playing games Kevin regularly mixes it up in first person shooters and sports titles. Kevin is no stranger to sports, cooking, debating and when all else is unavailable a good book.