The latest edition of the NBA 2K series was released to much anticipation on the 19th of September 2017. In what is the 19th instalment in this series, NBA 2K18 didn’t fail to live up to the hype of a game series which has all but cemented itself as a fan favourite among gamers and basketball fans alike. There is one glaring issue with this game around the added focus on microtransactions, but more on that later.
As with many sports titles, NBA 2K18 looks to provide users with a realistic experience that rewards real-life knowledge of players, playing styles, tactics and the sport in general. It is quite evident when you pick up the controller and immerse yourself in the world of NBA 2K18 that the game has managed to deliver on the above points.
The gameplay is focused on differentiating players based on their strengths and weaknesses, as a result, each player handles differently and offers an experience which allows players to take full advantage of their real-world NBA knowledge. The one area that the gameplay does fall slightly short is that of the A.I players who struggle to mark their man… this leads to a few defensive glitches but on the other hand clear improvements have been made in the offensive playing styles of A.I players again with an emphasis on differentiating players based on their traits.
Improvements have also been made in long-term technical issues around fast breaks and rebounds. The issue with fast breaks saw defending players manage to get back and produce a block when they really should never have been able to catch the attacking player, this is now more realistic and instead of a block, your player is able to produce a smashing dunk to secure the 2 points. One issue that still persists in the fast break scenarios is that the players still don’t keep their attacking lines and spaces, this results in an uneven attacking formation of player which could ultimately see the attack break down.
The rebounds have also seen an interesting update which has seen them get a diversification with an interesting mix of loose ball animations and tip in rebounds. Something that was again apparent in the rebound gameplay is the focus on player traits and strengths.
My Team/online play
The My Team section of the game allows players the opportunity to build their own teams and take on other gamers from all around the world. In getting started with the Packs and Playoffs you have to choose which type of playing style you would like your team to have, you then get 6 packs which give you randomised players for your team within that specific style. These players will be the base of your side and then as you play more, you will be able to trade and upgrade your side with new players and new extras.
In another interesting improvement, NBA 2K18 has done away with the linear loading/waiting time in between games. Instead, they have replaced it by combining My Pack and Pro-am to create the Neighborhood. This allows players to let loose in an open environment which helps hide the dreaded waiting times in between games.
This now brings us to the microtransaction dilemma, which arises in this edition of the game. Players will face the choice of whether to use their money to buy NBA tokens, which allow you to upgrade your team, or spend hours of game time accumulating these tokens. As these tokens are used to buy everything, and I mean everything from players to sneakers, it creates an uneven balance between those who spend the money and thus create powerful teams and those who don’t.
My General Manager
The My GM mode is a new text driven story mode on NBA 2K18. I must admit I like the idea but the fact that it is text driven is a little off-putting. There is a lot of reading, and I mean a lot. It seems more logical to have a real interaction with a combination of audio and text but maybe that is just me.
In this mode, the story is styled as a choose-your-own-adventure book. Another criticism is that the cut scenes are pretty simple, again with a lot of reading, and the few decisions you get to make don’t really feel like they have an impact. For example, you may make the decision to keep a coach in charge just to have the owners’ son fire him behind your back. I feel like this mode will see improvements in future editions of the series.
The My League mode is quite possibly my favourite part of NBA 2K18. Here you can forget about the story elements, forget about having to accumulate tokens and just simply enjoy immersing yourself in the world of NBA. This mode offers a deeper analytical perspective of running a franchise and allows you to enjoy the experience of playing with your selected team.
In an interesting addition, a new analytics tool has been implemented allowing players to search across a variety of selected attributes to pinpoint the perfect player to add to their roster.
NBA 2K18 has taken a step forward in many regards. The gameplay has seen some fantastic improvements which were needed and that has resulted in an all-around great addition to the series. The added focus on player traits has seen a more realistic version which rewards players for real-life knowledge of the NBA. The fusion of the different modes into the Neighbourhood is also a clever and welcomed addition which helps mask those pesky waiting periods. It is also worth mentioning the quality graphics and sound that is apparent throughout the game.
As mentioned before, this title is walking a tightrope with the microtransaction for the online modes but this could be pointing towards a future trend which could become commonplace in gaming. The My GM story mode, while an interesting edition, does need a few improvements and I fully expect these to come in future games.
Overall NBA 2K18 is yet another quality addition to a game franchise which only seems to grow year by year. A must play for all NBA/basketball fans and lovers of the series.