Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
Platforms: PS4 (Version Reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: September 29, 2015
NBA 2K16 is a gratifying accomplishment in minimalization and simplification. 2K Sports and Visual Concepts make a ton of minor tweaks and changes to the formula, while keeping the whole of the concept of NBA 2K as a franchise intact for an extremely refined experience for basketball players this console generation.
Playing as certain players feel great. Steph Curry feels unstoppable from the three point line. Kevin Durant’s length causes huge issues. Playing against Anthony Davis on defense is a nightmare and takes a ton of concentration. Did I mention that Lebron passes at a level he never has in games before? Well, he does. The best part is the controls are so much simpler now you can do it too.
Throw a lob pass? There is a button for that. Throw a bounce pass? There is a button for that. Throw a pass fake? There is a button for that. They are
different buttons from last year, though, which can cause a real new learning curve for this new game. You should be able to get it, and the new post move controls down relatively quickly though. A few games in and you will love the much more easily facilitated nature of these moves, which are so much a part of the game in real life.
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Livin’ Da Dream & MyCareer
The career mode is even deeper than last year, which was already the deepest sports career mode to date. Spike Lee provides a bit of a struggling narrative, which among the quality of the rest of the experience sticks out like a sore thumb in both good and bad ways. “Livin’ Da Dream” provides so much more of a basis for the rest of your career than previous MyCareer modes. Your family and your friends are referenced in the game by the announcers. The rest of your career is fraught with references to what you did during your rookie year and how those influences around you shaped where you ended up.
The drawback of “Livin’ Da Dream” is it is mainly about how dreams can easily become nightmares and not everyone will always be able to come along on the ride with you, whether you want them to or not. The game spends an unrealistic amount of time making you seem like you are worth the trouble. The problem is you are not nearly good enough as a player on the court for what the team complains about. Your rookie year is eight games, and you spend about as much time in cutscenes as you do on the court. It is fun, it provides context, but it ultimately can feel really out of place.
Outside of “Da Dream,” MyCareer in NBA 2K16 is much more connected. Connect with other players in the NBA, connect with more endorsement deal events, and connect with fans on your off days. Connect with your teammates in practice and drills. Moving one step further to that promised land of playing against other MyPlayers on other teams during the MyCareer mode, you have your own court to invite others to play on to connect with them there too. Please be sympathetic to your friends who just started, though; it’s a rough ride to the top, and you start out pretty bad compared to other players.
If you all manage a good enough rhythm, take your starting five onto the court for the 2K Pro-Am, the dedicated 5v5 league presented inside of NBA 2K. You can be a walk on with your player, or you can go with a crew. Represent and rise through the ranks. If you are not up to pace, you will get left behind. These are playground rules. Hit your shots and slow down your guy and you will stay on the court.
Speaking of rising through the ranks, you also have a tiered online competitive league now when you play online. No more will you get on the sticks and
just dominate players at every turn, unless you are really good. The online component of NBA 2K16 is a lot better implemented this year. You begin at a lower tier, and as you play more games, you accrue wins. Play a tougher team? This win is worth 2 or 3x as much. It greatly leans towards rewarding skill, but even if you use the top level teams, NBA 2K16 still rewards you for playing the game while presenting you with a greater challenge if you want it by picking those worse teams. Go with the Timberwolves and surprise some people with the W, and do it while you jump out of the gym.
You will want to keep playing the game. Whether it be in the online against random opponents chosen for you, or in the now actually returning online franchise mode, you will keep coming back. The gameplay is immensely satisfying. Older players are slower to recover on crossovers if they make the wrong move. Sure Kobe is Kobe but he’s also 37, hit him with a step back crossover and you’ve got a wide open shot. Younger players are prone to more mistakes. Throw a couple pass fakes and hesitations while you welcome them to the NBA with a dagger in his face.
Difficulty & Presentation
This game is incredibly hard to play at a high level without immense concentration. Hall of Fame is not for the faint of heart. My general rule with NBA 2K games at this point is if you want a challenge but still want to have fun, play on All-Star. If you want a challenge and the satisfactions of some difficult wins, play on Superstar. If you are a masochist and want to become a well-oiled machine like the Spurs so you can demolish all your friends when you play, then play on Hall of Fame.
Last year, I said the cheerleaders were a bit lifeless because you saw them so much, and they did the same routine each time. Now, it looks like they actually have different hair and more faces and dances to choose from. Shaq and Ernie were sometimes a bit heavily leaning towards one direction with Shaq’s clowning and Ernie as a straight man. Now we have Kenny to provide another perspective without having to listen to Shaq’s lines so many times. Collision animations are better put together. There are pre-recorded interviews that happen during timeouts. Kevin Harlan and Greg Anthony, a new addition, add great perspective to the game as you play. It is not NBA 2K15, which I consider having the better presentation in terms of introductions and spectacle, but it is still playing on the same grand scale.
MyGM and MyLeague are better than ever with an immense focus on the players in the new MyGM mode. MyTeam is reworked this year to make creating a team from a sample of cards more exciting than it ever was previous. You can design your uniforms and your own court for your players if you get advanced enough. VC is ever present for this game as well, especially in modes like MyTeam. As usual, it is a gift and a curse. It is by far the most ever-present form of DLC in a game, but it also allows you to do more than ever this year. Still for the fourth year in a row the game annoyingly separates online and offline saves, and it is impossible to separate the arrival of this annoyance from the inception of VC as well.
At this point, these yearly editions of NBA 2K could be treated as free throws for 2K Sports and Visual Concepts. It is far and away the biggest NBA sports entity in video games. Yet, they still keep showing up with highlights. Last year, NBA 2K15 was a slam dunk. Rough and in your face with just how brazen they would be with content overload. While NBA 2K16 is still loaded with much of the content from last year, there is a subtlety to some of the changes that make the game very different from its predecessor, in mostly good ways. This year, representative of the most popular athlete on the cover, NBA 2K16 is a fast break 3 pointer putting the game out of reach. Swish.
A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.
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