NBA 2K17 Review


Admittedly, I actually skipped last year’s NBA 2K16. Part of that stemmed from my unusually busy schedule, but it was also hard for me to get excited about the then-upcoming NBA season. At the time, it felt weird not to have Visual Concepts’ acclaimed franchise to play, but perhaps the year off did me some good. It allowed me to approach this year’s release, NBA 2K17, with a renewed interest in both the franchise and the sport. There’s still a good chance come June 2017 we’re watching Warriors/Cavaliers again, but at least I can change that outcome in the game.

Despite having no competition from NBA Live this year, Visual Concepts wasn’t interested in sitting on their laurels, and so the gameplay in NBA 2K17 has received several noticeable changes. With the exception of dunks, every shot you take in the game is now measured by a timing meter. From layups to buzzer-beating threes, all shots need to be timed accurately in order to drop. This gives shooting a more interactive presence than it has had in years past. The meter will also change depending on the skill level of your player and the shot you are taking. Going off my beloved Atlanta Hawks, Kyle Korver is going to be better at taking threes than Dwight Howard, but D12 holds the advantage in the paint.

Emphasis is also placed on giving players a greater degree of control with the analog stick this year. Visual Concepts has always welcomed the right analog stick into their control scheme, but it’s clear they want more people to use the Pro Stick than in years past. Shots can be aimed more accurately using the Pro Stick, which doesn’t necessarily give those who use the stick an advantage over those who don’t. If you mess up aiming your shot with the stick, you’ll have a greater chance of missing. There’s a greater degree of risk involved, but if you take the time to practice, you’ll become a more accurate shooter with it.

Ball-handling has also been tweaked this year, with greater significance given to those who can chain moves together. In years past, a flick of the Pro Stick would launch into your player giving a canned animation. Easy to use, yes, but it also took control away from you during a possession. In NBA 2K17, though, you’ll now need to manually string together different moves in order to juke defenders. It’s a really tricky system to get used to, particularly for someone like me, who has been out of the game for a little bit, or for new fans. It will be interesting to see if this change draws potential players away due to the greater level of skill needed to succeed.

I think what I appreciate most about the gameplay of NBA 2K17, though, is the fact that it embraces the grind. The slick shooting Warriors and clock-like precision of the Spurs may be the ideal, but basketball can be a fairly ugly game. Improvements made on the defensive side of the ball, as well as the post game, have given the game grit it previously didn’t have. Matches don’t feel as arcade-y as they have in the past, and while you’ll still get punished by sharpshooters, these improvements give big men more potential to impose their will. Athletes like Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis are as much of game-changers in the game as they are in real life.

While I didn’t play last year’s release, I heard plenty of thoughts regarding the Spike Lee-penned MyCareer. For NBA 2K17, though, Visual Concepts turned to Creed scribe Aaron Covington to develop a more traditional story. Your player, who gets saddled with the nickname of The President of Basketball/Pres, works his way through college before embarking on his career as the next hot NBA prospect. You’ll be joined by fellow rookie Justice Young (Michael B. Jordan), as the two of you develop a strong chemistry on and off the court. Together, you’ll experience the highs and lows that come from a burgeoning professional career.

For a storyline included in a sports game, the plot here is surprisingly decent. It does a great job of simulating the off-court life of the next great superstar. From signing contracts and advertising deals, to dealing with a tough loss or a statistical slump, it’s a well planned journey. The theme is that working hard will pay off, which is a nice theme, but is also taken a little too far here. You’ll spend a lot of time practicing off the court, which while realistic, isn’t that exciting. And you’ll need to do it, otherwise you won’t be able to have the skills to back the hype.

The other marquee mode in NBA 2K17, MyGM, has also been improved this year. The biggest addition is the fact that you can up the number of teams in the league from 30 to 36. The game will take care of scheduling and rostering, so all you need to worry about from the outset is what teams are being created. To further delve into realism, you can now work on transactions in the offseason, and even vote on rule changes with your fellow GMs. Much like MyCareer, MyGM is striving to bring the most accurate representation of running a team it can to wannabe-General Managers. It can be overwhelming at times, but as many can attest, nothing about running a team is easy.


Those two modes are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to NBA 2K17. Besides just regular games, gamers have modes such as the Madden Ultimate Team-styled MyTeam, online leagues, Pro-Am, Blacktop and several others. I think it can be said that this is arguably the deepest sports title out there, at least from a sheer content perspective. Every fan from the casual to the competitive can easily get lost in the amount of content provided by Visual Concepts.

The one thing that bothers me, and it specifically arises in MyCareer and MyTeam, is the fact that Visual Concepts seems hellbent on getting you to fork over additional cash. I know EA Sports’ assorted franchises have microtransactions, but it feels especially egregious here. In order to improve your stats in MyCareer or purchase new cards in MyTeam, you need to acquire virtual currency (VC). In order to do this, you can either grind your way through countless practices and quick games, or you can just bypass that and purchase it for real cash. If you want to avoid paying extra, get ready to slowly march through MyCareer as you plow through practice after practice just to scrounge up a few more coins. I understand why this system is in place, but I think it’s garbage, and I’m not looking forward to seeing how it can be pushed in the coming years.

Perhaps even more than other major sports franchises, NBA 2K17 really excels in the presentation department. Outside of Charles Barkely, the full Inside the NBA team has been brought over to realistically depict the televised side of the sport. Ernie Johnson Jr., Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal provide context before and during the game, while Chris Webber and David Aldridge do a solid commentary job. The only issue I have is that the non-player character models generally look terrible. They look like early-gen models, and the occasional clipping seen in the crowds doesn’t make them look better.

We’re living in a golden age of sports games, and NBA 2K17 is near the top of the pile. The gameplay continues to work on capturing the nuances of the sport, and the excellent presentation matches it. Furthermore, the plethora of modes found in the title will be more than enough to bring fans back to the title over the course of the upcoming season. Still, though, the microtransaction heavy approach to some of the modes remains a major turn off. This isn’t a cell phone game, it’s a full fledged console release. Ultimately, there’s enough here to look past that, but it does still concern me for the future of the series.

This review was based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with.

NBA 2K17

Top-notch presentation and stellar, realistic gameplay drive NBA 2K17 to All-Star status, even if the sometimes overbearing microtransactions set a dangerous precedent.

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