Words by Branden Peters
Basketball season is just over a month away in real life, but the virtual hoops can start now via NBA 2K 16. This year, the 2K Games team picked the young guns of the league to represent on the cover. Top 5 players, James Harden, Anthony Davis and reigning MVP and World Champion Stephen Curry each get their own covers. 2K has consistently been the best sports video game franchise for half-a-decade and the latest version continues that streak with tweaks to gameplay and improved modes. Here are just a few reasons why you should consider copping NBA 2K16.
The first thing you’ll notice when you crank up a regular 5-on-5 game is that the players appear bigger and move more realistically than in the past. This is due to 10,000 new player animations being added to the game, plus a brand new physics engine. So players don’t slide (as much) and a lumbering guy like Andrew Bogut will not ever move with the agility of a lighter more athletic player. This game is the closest a basketball video game has ever come to the real thing.
EA Sports doesn’t have the monopoly on the “Ultimate Team” thing, 2K’s MY Team mode essentially does the same thing with a twist. If you hoop, you probably grew up playing 3-on-3, with this mode, you can do it with the best players in the world. The Guantlet allows players to collect virtual cards to unlock players and compete online vs. other users teams. If you win, you collect awards, but if you take three L’s, it’s over for your team.
7. Spike Lee
“Livin Da Dream” takes the popular NBA 2K MyPLAYER mode to the next level with a completely new storyline and features courtesy of legendary director Spike Lee. Your created player starts as a NYC prep star and traverses through a series of games in high school and college before heading to the league. Although we don’t have NCAA video games anymore, there are a few teams included—Arizona, Georgetown, Kansas, Louisville, Michigan, Texas, UCONN, UCLA, Villanova and Wisconsin—on the created players journey. As with any Spike Lee joint, there is drama and a memorable character or two to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat. Other sports games should take this angle to add flavor to the sometimes-stale format.
6. Old School
One of the dope things about basketball games of yesteryear is the inclusion of classic teams. 2K Sports has brought back 12 good-to-great teams from back in the day. The teams include: ’07-’08 Boston Celtics, ’12-’13 Miami Heat, ’00-’01 Lakers, ’03-’04 Pistons, 2000 Raptors, 2008 Rockets, ’02-’03 Mavericks, ’99-’00 Trail Blazers, ’04-’05 Phoenix Suns, ’05-’06 Miami Heat, ’06-’07 Cavs & ’03-’04 Timberwolves. There are some teams that could have been left off of this list. Hopefully they will keep this going and include better squads next year.
5. Take Control
“My GM” has changed exponentially this year with a lot more control over your team’s affairs off the court. For players who like to get deep into what it’s like to run or manage a team this is the mode for you. In addition to hiring and firing staff, setting rotations, trading players (three team trades have finally been included), users can now relocate teams to different metro markets. Madden introduced this last year, but 2K has upped the ante like Lil Fame by adding stats like median income, TV households and more to the equation.
4. The Music
The slaps featured in NBA 2K16 are better than any terrestrial radio playlist today –and probably better than your Spotify playlist too. The one thing NBA Live had on 2K in recent years was the music—courtesy of Mick Boogie. That is no more. For this year’s game, they enlisted three of the hottest and/or most respected DJ’s and producers to curate the in-game listening experience. DJ Premier, DJ Khaled and DJ Mustard all picked 10 tracks for the game. Plus 2K added a Classics Mixtape and a World Music selection as well.
3. Step Your Game Up
When playing against online competition in any video game, it is almost guaranteed that a player will quit (when getting beaten badly) and/or utter insults that would never be said face-to-face–that’s just part of the game. 2K has implemented a new ranking system for online play that should kinda take care of the first problem. Win enough games in a given time period and the user will rise up from freshman level to varsity and eventually hall of fame, taking on better competition at each level. Hopefully 2K’s notoriously sketchy servers are able to handle the online traffic this year.
2. Star Power
Okay, this isn’t actually a selling point per se. Spike’s vignettes of Harden, Curry and Davis that dropped this summer made it feel like we would see career modes for these players a la what 2K did in the past with Magic and Jordan. Alas, we only get to hear these guys narrating the game tutorials. It would be great if 2K offered a “Road to the Finals” mode for Curry later down the line as DLC.
1. Don’t Watch Me, Watch TV
2K not only amped up the gameplay, they also reinvigorated the bits and pieces around the on-court action. Kenny Smith, Ernie and Shaq (no Barkley) from NBA on TNT do the pre and post-game analysis. Greg Anthony, Kevin Harlan and Clark Kellogg handle in game duties. Another cool addition is the halftime player vignettes, which make it feel like a true NBA broadcast.
Overall NBA 2K16 is a fantastic game. The learning curve is a bit steep for new users, but once neophytes get the hang of it, they will enjoy it like the rest of us that have been hooked on the game for years.