A new NBA season is upon us, which means another NBA 2K game. One of the most successful sports game franchises has to constantly live up to the expectations gamers place on it and they always pass with flying colors. Will 2K17 be more of the same? Let’s find out.

Presentation

You get Kevin Harlan and Greg Anthony returning as two of the members of the 2K17 announcer team, but there’s a 3rd chair between a crew of Clark Kellogg, Chris Webber, Steve Smith, Doris Burke and Brent Barry, which gives us everybody’s favorite option variety.

They’ve also added more player specific dialogue to the commentary to strengthen the immersion level and TNT’s own David Aldridge is now the sideline reporter for 2K17 further cementing the whole NBA on TNT vibe the series has been steering towards.

There’s new stat overlays, a new scoreboard, pre-game cutscenes and halftime entertainment to make you feel like you’re watching an NBA presentation. And last but not least, the graphics. It’s amazing how each year 2K pushes the boundary of realism. Plenty of  familiar faces got updated face scans as well, and some players benefited from this more than others.

Gameplay

On the court, there’s a new shot meter this year that you will use to shoot jumpers, layups and free throws. Yes, there is a visible meter to complete your layups now adding another thing to think about as you’re driving to the hole. The thing is, it’s easier to get green or close to green this year, because all you’re doing is letting go before the meter fills up.

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All new dribbling controls make getting past defenders a more rewarding experience.

When you’re driving or rolling to the hoop, if you run into a defender the new collision animations will pretty much nerf any forward momentum you had. But if you do get cleanly into the lane, the host of new double clutch layup animations are nice to look at and effective against incoming shot blockers. Dribble moves are harder to pull off, as you have to chain moves together with the stick, instead of pushing up and triggering a size up move like in years past, so they feel a lot more earned.

More rebounding animations, as players can fight for the board and you will even see a guy tip the ball back out to the perimeter now. But the most important improvement I’ve found is the Computer A.I. as a whole. When guarding the computer, they will attempt to, and often successfully, take you off the dribble. They will chain together step back jumpers and pull ups as if you’re playing a real human and when they drive they’ll finish completely or pull up for the shot depending on how close you are to them at that point.

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The graphics have improved yearly to the point where reality and virtual reality are blurred.

On defense, the players are a lot more alive, defense help comes over at appropriate times to respond to offensive threats, and if the ball is passed anywhere in a defenders area he will attempt to deflect it, eliminating easy passes defenders wouldn’t react to or the ones that went right through our hands last year.

Game Modes

In MyCareer Mode, you begin by selecting your position and the type of player you want to be at that position and from there depending on your height and weight determines how high certain stats can be. So a 290 lb players max speed won’t be as fast as say a 245 pounder.

You start off as the top high schooler in the country where you can select from 10 real colleges to take your talents. Considering 2K hasn’t made a college game in nearly 10 years, you wouldn’t know it. They nail that college atmosphere in its short appearance. The story actually gets you attached to the people involved in your my player’s life, and with the addition of the Olympic team in the game you might get a call from a certain somebody inviting you to represent your country.

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With the new collision animations, successfully getting a clean look at the basket is an impressive feat.

The one surprise I had was that it jumps you right into the draft straight after the Olympics are done. I would assume there would be a few cut scenes leading up to it, but before you can blink, the 76ers are selecting Ben Simmons #1. Once you’ve been drafted, you’re shown your MyCareer player hub, where from here you can do a bunch of activities.

Continue the day to day grind of being an NBA player going to practices, you can answer your text messages from a variety of different character or skip it all to jump right into your first NBA game on your way to becoming an NBA Superstar.

In MyLeague, you can add up to six expansion teams to the NBA that you can create yourself or use some pre-built ones. From there you can control 1 or every team to run your league. A nice addition for those who do control every team is it’s a seamless transition to switch between teams in the menu. They’ve also added the ability for franchises to retire players’ jerseys adding a nice splash of depth to the mode.

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With the improved defensive A.I., the battle in the post just got a lot tougher.

Now the negatives in 2K17 aren’t backbreaking, although some are annoying. The muscularly-challenged NBA Players are way too skinny. Kevin Durant’s player model takes stickman to a whole new level. My Team doesn’t have a Madden inspired Draft Champions mode. The new shot meter is easy to get a green shot or close to it — I wish it was a bit harder — and lastly, the substitution system is beyond clunky. It will devote your entire attention away from the action if you attempt to sub in somebody during live play and while I like the ability to change your sets and strategy during timeouts, much like the substitution system, the way it’s presented is way too awkward and inefficient.

Verdict

In the end the NBA 2K series is the gold standard of basketball simulation. From the gameplay, presentation, and various modes to play, if you’re a basketball fan there is something in this game for you. The amount of customization is endless and despite the numerous basketball games made over the years, there’s a reason only 2K remains.

Final Score: 9.5/10