NBA 2K18 – Review
PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch
I am torn. Torn in two. On one hand, I am in love, head over heels. On the other hand, there is hate, a burning fire of resentment and rage that cannot be quenched. Split between these two emotions and with no middle ground, I soldier on, not sure what to do or where to turn. I have been riding the ups and downs of this relationship for some time now and there seems to be no end to this split, no comfortable mid-point. It is one extreme to another. This is what I am living with, this is my life with NBA 2k18.
I want to start with the good and make no mistake there is a lot to love in the latest NBA game from 2K. 2K has been the dominant force in basketball gaming for a while now and the gameplay from 2k18 shows why. Basketball is represented beautifully. The thrill and spectacle of the game is wonderfully paired with the technical and skill-based aspects that hardcore basketball fans expect. The gameplay is smooth and responsive and while newcomers can expect a bit of a learning curve, there is immense satisfaction in mastering the controls. Things that thrill real world basketballers, like getting the “and one” play or sinking a buzzer beater are just as thrilling in this virtual recreation. I had to earn these plays through skill and the payoff is more than worth the hard work.
The other thing that NBA2K does better than any other sports game out there is presentation. From the episodes of 2K TV to the recreation of NBA stadiums to the very solid player likenesses this is a game the looks, feels and sounds great. In fact, the best aspect of all the presentation is the in-game commentary. I don’t know how they do it but whatever black magic they use to make the commentary sound so real is worth the effort. This year it is even more impressive because not only are there the usual three commentators interacting but there are now special guests like Kobe Bryant that join in flawlessly. It is honestly one of the most impressive feats in gaming and 99% of the time you could swear that these people were in the TV studio conversing and not just part of a game using pre-recorded lines of dialogue.
My Career, the meat and potatoes of the NBA 2k series, is where my hate begins to rise. Things start off fine, my created character is a high school balling prodigy that gave it all up to be a DJ (which, conveniently is his in-game nickname) and is now trying to get back into basketball through a street tournament. Not the traditional story but hey, I can dig it. Where things start to go downhill is the supporting cast of characters. DJ himself is pretty likeable bloke but he has, for unknown reasons, surrounded himself with characters that at best are annoying, at worst had me contemplating murder. The worst part of it all is that every game there is a cutscene with these characters that has no bearing on the story, yet is unskippable. I don’t care what Boo Boo the security guard had for dinner, I don’t give two hoots about the janitor and frankly, I would happily sell my soul to Satan if it meant I never had to hear DJ’s best friend “B-Fresh” ever again. The fact is that these poorly written characters and the stupidly dense development choice to make them unavoidable almost single-handedly destroyed my time with the My Career mode.
This year also marks the year that 2K went into super aggressive levels of micro transactions within the game. Personally, this doesn’t affect me that much, but for people that like to customise their characters extensively, this is likely to get you hot under the collar. VC, the in-game currency is required for almost everything, from haircuts to tattoos to new clothes. This a departure from previous entries and a money hungry one at that. There is barely a menu available that doesn’t push the idea of purchasing VC with real-world money, it is almost as bad as a mobile game and for a $90 AAA title it is pretty unacceptable. This also leads to the very annoying hub area called “The Neighbourhood”. Think the farm from Destiny 2 but for basketball. It is a great idea in theory but in practice, it just means that getting anything done takes forever because I had to run my player to each different store or location to achieve my goals. Pointless time wasting is the best thing that can be said about it.
So with all that in mind you can see why I am torn. On one hand, I have the smoothest basketball gameplay that money can buy, on the other a toxic story mode that makes me want to throw it in the trash. Usually there is enough in a game make me lean towards the good or bad side of the scale, but in this case, they are perfectly balanced. With that in mind it is my honest opinion that if it is good basketball you are after, grab NBA2k17 instead. It will be cheaper, the story mode is much better and difference in gameplay between the two is minimal. Hopefully, 2K improves these problems next year because if I have to put up with another season of B-Fresh and her “sick improv skillz” I will probably stab someone.