To be perfectly honest, I have hardly any prior experience with the NBA 2k series. I have played it at friends’ houses over the years, and understood that it was the widely accepted exemplar of the yearly basketball game releases (the competition being EA’s NBA Live series), but that was pretty much it. Much like my interest in the sport of basketball itself, I’ll watch it if it’s on, but I’ll rarely seek it out.
Upon seeing the trailer for NBA 2k17, though, something intrigued me. Not only was it a chance to get into a new sports series, but it was also widely anticipated to be the deepest and most well-polished sports game of the year. So I went into the game with an open mind and healthy expectations – and was not disappointed. The entry from the 2K Sports publishing house strived to provide the deepest sports simulation in recent memory and, for all intents and purposes, achieved it.
NBA 2k17 is more than just a basketball game; rather, it’s an all-around interactive experience for all things NBA. Every angle is covered, from a story mode based around rising to stardom from your college days to the pros, to MyGM and MyLeague modes that let you play with and manage all of the inner workings of the NBA including expansion teams and the yearly draft, to a trading card-esque Ultimate Team mode, to good old fashioned Blacktop gameplay and PvP mode. Starting off with the story mode, I was blown away with the slim but well-polished narrative, proving that not only can sports games have stories, but good ones that are both entertaining and involving. You start off looking back on your high school team days, before picking which college to attend to play basketball there, and finally being drafted into an NBA team to play in the pros. Throughout the story, you navigate the ins-and –outs of your career, with pressures to succeed both on the court and off. The story not only serves as a decent narrative, but also gradually ups the ante on the skills you need to succeed, the challenge starting in college and continuing to grow in the NBA. The voice acting by Michael B. Jordan and Hannibal Buress is great, and the story makes for an all-around satisfying experience.
The most touted new feature in NBA 2k17 though is of course the MyGM and MyLeauge modes, which have slightly differing goals but equally impressive execution. MyGM is focused on running the day-to-day operations of an NBA team, handling the draft, managing players, dealing with other teams, impressing the owner and ultimately building a championship-worthy team. MyLeague however, offers you total control of the entire NBA, giving a range of customization options unheard of in any sports game I’ve ever seen. Not only can you manage the day-to-day operations of the league, but you can also create expansion teams, allowing you to create up to 6 new teams in the United States and Canada, with a wide range of cities to choose from. Then, you can design every part of those new teams, like the name, logo, stadium type, court design, uniforms, and even different sound effects to be played in the stadium during games. This part in particular blew me away, becoming nearly as fun as the basketball itself. The level of control and customization present in these two modes is immense, and designing different expansion teams especially promise hours upon hours of customizing fun.
But NBA 2k17 hardly stops there. The level of detail in usually mundane modes such as one-off matchups against teams is impressive, as not only can you play as NBA teams but also Euro League and historical teams (such as the ’95-’96 Bulls), but every detail, including the pregame show and commentary featuring the likes of Shaquille O’Neil and Chris Webber are present and polished as well. Ultimate Team is a fun, if not exactly revolutionary take on the old card-trading mix-and-match style game mode one would usually find in games like Madden NFL, and playing with your handmade character on the blacktop or in the arena is always a fun 1 on 1 with friends. The visuals are crisp and clear, and the music does a good job of setting the tone. If god is in the details, then NBA 2k17 has every base covered.
And all of that really is a testament to just how much this game brings to the table. I came in cautiously optimistic, with only tepid levels of interest in the series and the sport it is based around, and the and now it’s one of my most thoroughly enjoyed games of the year. The story is well thought out, MyGM and MyLeague offer all of the customization and traditional NBA antics you could want, and all of the smaller modes bring something to the table where they could just as easily faded into the background. NBA 2k17 delivered on its promise to be the deepest sports game of the year, and I think it sets a strong example that other sports title developers (*cough* EA *cough*) could and should follow.