STAFF REVIEW of NBA 2K18 (Xbox One)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017.
by John Elliott

NBA 2K18 Box art It has been quite some time since I've played a basketball game on a console, probably going as far back as the 90's with NCAA Basketball for the SNES which launched in 1992. It was a great title making you feel as though you were a real player on the court and offering a 3D perspective that was so much better than the competition was offering at the time. Sadly, there have been some b-bal games that have been released over the years haven't really built on this and some have been somewhat disastrous, but there has been one series that has been on top of the virtual NBA world, and that is the NBA 2K series. Regardless of his history though, I was not ot sure whether or not to expect a hit or a flop when I went into this review, but I was hopeful NBA 2K18 would ignite that same flame of excitement I had all those years ago.

First off, the game looks great. The visuals are stunning and it could almost pass for a real basketball game on the television if you didn't know any better. The designers did some great work on the up close and personal details, the sweat dripping down the players faces, the likeness to the players in real life and even the beautiful team courts. The player animations are also quite smooth and watching them as the action unfold on-screen is pretty impressive.

This level of detail extends to the custom player mode as well with plenty of options to create the 'baller' of your choice, but, only when this player is actually playing in game. In the career mode, outside the court, your custom player looks awkward and sticks to a whole plethora of stock animations that even some of the NPC's use. Its pretty awkward when the NPC and your player are doing the exact same thing at the same time. With so much good, there seems to always be a little bad and in this game, and I found that this was in the lack of effort that went into the design and appearance of the background and spectators. Understandably this area doesn't get much attention but it is noticeable should you take a close look.

In the music department, you'll be blown away by the soundtrack that has been curated for NBA 2K18. There are tracks from artists like Busta Rhymes, Def Leppard, Outkast, Notorious B.I.G., Panic at the Disco and Kendrick Lamar. Eclectic is the best way to describe it and it does its job in getting you motivated for game day. Commentators join the sound mix with Kevin Harlan giving the play by play which is pretty good even though at times it can become repetitive, which is to be expected in a video game setting when you play a full season of games.

If this doesn't eventually drive you bonkers you are sure to love the addition of TNT's Inside which features Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal and Kenny Johnson. Sit back and enjoy some fantastic, but unemotional, pre-loaded dialogue that was plugged into the game for what I can only imagine to be filler because it did little else for me. That being said, it does give you the TV-like experience of watching a game from the comfort of your couch, and adds a bit to the whole NBA experience. Sadly, the voice acting in career mode seems to be where the effort was lacking (if you can believe it). It just didn't work well here as the lines were bland and it felt somewhat off.

Now, voice work is all fine and dandy but lets talk about what is really important about any sports game: the controls. As someone who has been sitting on the sidelines for awhile when it comes to sports games, I found the controls intuitive and very easy to understand allowing me to get the basics of passing, shooting and dribbling up the court. Even though you can find some some success with these basic controls, take the time to look into the settings to see what else you can do.

You should find find yourself blown away, like I was, at the depth of moves that were available combined with the abilities to call out plays to score some points against teams with great defense. There were things like picking a bounce pass, an alley oop, calling pick and rolls or even highlighting players that you're going to pass the ball to in motion so they can get in the right spot to score some easy points. If I went into it all this would turn into more of a 'how-to' manual, so take it from me and check this section out to really get the most out of this game, especially if you want to win.

Apart from the standalone single player or online matches, the game offers some modes that put you in charge of the teams directly, and they are MyGM and MyLeague. These let you get into the nitty gritty of basketball operations, developing a team into a contender and hopefully a champion. MyGM offers more of a simulator experience that offers a story mode which is called “The Next Chapter” and draws comparisons to MyCareer, except this time it's a story mode for those budding GM's out in the world. MyLeague allows you to create more of a fantasy world for you to control rather than manage a simulation experience that some players prefer.

Most will probably start out by selecting MyCareer, which lets you plan as an up and coming player as he makes his way up into the league. Its fun until you make it then after a few games but it can get boring. It is a steady path of playing games to gain game experience and boost your stats, going to practice to earn perks to help your game and doing mundane tasks to get lucrative sponsorship deals. What I found extremely odd is not having the ability to play as a female player considering there is the WNBA to build a whole other league for all gamers to enjoy.

All of the game modes in NBA 2K18 are all integrated into a hub world called Neighborhoods, which is a virtual world that includes shops, your agent, your apartment and a whole lot of other players that are online at the same time. Personally, I wasn't a fan of this feature of the game as it equated to my character walking to a lot and wasting a butt load of time going from one menu option to another, but for the diehard b-baller, and those who are fans of the NBA 2K series, I can see the attraction for those who fall in these groups.

Along for the ride is the MyTeam mode which allows you to build your own basketball team, be it filled with the best of the best or your all time favourite players. This is all done through a virtual trading card system where you purchase the cards with Virtual Currency (VC) which can be earned by just playing the game, or if you just want to get what you want right away without hours of game play you can of course purchase more VC via micro transactions, Keep in mind that all of these card packs are randomized and it will take quite a few purchases to get the exact team that you want.

When I was checking out all the features in the menus I found it quite odd that the Online Mode didn't jump out at me and I had to do some investigating as there are options in the Play Now. You can also take your MyTeam online as well to play against opponents. The main online mode where you may want to put most of my attention would be in MyLeague Online where you can make your own league with friends to compete against each other to see who would reign supreme. Playing a few matches online I quickly learned that I am horrible against other people, but what I did learn from playing online is how to play better in general. There is nothing as humbling as getting your butt whooped, and I did indeed get whooped in style, but I sure learned quite a bit too. Definitely take your time learning the controls in and out before you pop online if you're a total noob like I was.

There is some hits and misses in NBA 2K18 with some amazing graphics, stellar controls and a decent online experience that holds the core of the game together. However, there needs to be some work done in the custom experiences along with some coaching for the sportscasters to sound a lot more realistic and sincere rather than reading from a script. In the end though the core gameplay experience is superb and I can see why this series has been the go-to basketball game for quite sometime. NBA 2K18 will no doubt entertain and delight basketball fans and sports fans alike.

Overall: 8.2 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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