It was the summer of 2000, when I first played the original NBA2K on my beloved Dreamcast . My girlfriend at the time, was spending the weekend away, which meant I had the chance to spend the next two days without being disturbed.
Popping the disc into the machine, I was to be given a lesson on just how good a sport game could be, and ever since that day, my love for the NBA2K games has stayed with me for 14 years now. Back then it was astonishing to seem and to play just how realistic a sports game could really be. EA Sports games while often fun to play, never seemed to capture the true realism of any of the sports they covered but NBA2K was different, it not only looked almost lifelike but played like a true sim but was still so much fun to play.
I must also add the other 2K games were amazing as well, especially their NFL franchise, and even today NFL2K5 is still often rated by, including myself as the greatest NFL game there has ever been. Sadly this just proves how crap EA Sport’s Madden games have been, but that rant is for another day.
Firstly or should I say from tip off, as is common with most modern sport titles, on the main menu screen you are hit with a vast array of game modes to play. From NBA Today where you play a single game against the AI, though in this game even this mode goes beyond a simple exhibition match. NBA Today is updated daily and downloads automatically when you load the game, player rosters are updated, the way the players look; yes in this game if your favourite player has a hair cut or changes the trainers he wears, this will be reflected the next time you control him ,and also players ratings will go up and down according to how they preforming during the season. It even adds some new commentary that reflects the ongoing NBA season and all players stats for the season are kept up to date as well. This level of detail is just one of the many things that this game does so well and is just another reason why it stands out among other sports games.
Other modes include, the MyGM mode where you take control of a NBA franchise and control every aspect from staff recruitment, player trading and then last but not least getting on the court and playing the games. The popular MyCareer mode where you control a single player of your creation or a current NBA player throughout his career, MyTeam mode, which is similar to the Ultimate Team mode from EA’s sport title’s and there are also loads of different options for playing online as well.
So what’s the actual game like once you put your feet on the court and handle the ball. Well I can’t say I was disappointed ,and in some ways the gameplay has been hugely improved on from previous iterations. It has also amazed me just how realistic they manage to make this series feel and look, and honestly if you squint just a little bit, it is almost like you are watching a game on TV, instead of playing a video game, and It’s all in the little details that makes it so special. From the way every single player looks like they do in real life, the way they shoot, pass and dribble like their human counterpart’s, to the impressive AI that makes all 30 NBA teams play differently in correspondence to real life. Also the commentary, that can fall a little flat at times, is still the best of its class when it comes to sport titles.
The graphics are quite frankly amazing, player models are now so life like at times it’s almost eerily scary how realistic they look, and now its seems with the added power of the next gen consoles, it finally means that white players don’t look a little creepy as they had previously done and now look just as good as their black teammates. Hair and especially beards are particularly impressive, with some such as the one James Harden sports, look good enough to run your hands through.
As well the as graphics being top notch, thankfully gameplay matches it in almost every way. For the first time in a long while for this series, it is now possible to run successful fast break plays with ease. These often end in spectacular dunks, which by the way get automatically saved to your video clips, saving you the hassle of pressing the share button on your controller when you finish off a breathtaking play. Physics have also been vastly improved, battles in the paint now look far more natural, and it is very rare to see any clipping of players limbs and bodies. Other thing’s like the spacing on the court to get a open shot, and the lack of players just barging their way though their opponents to the hoop also help add to the experience of a game, that is getting as close to real basketball as a video game possibly can be.
I should add a little quick note about the sound track and the sound in general. The former track is okay, it does have Public Enemy on it, which is never a bad thing, but there are some odd choices, I will blame Pharrell Williams for that as he supposedly chose the songs. Everything else sound wise is more or less spot on, apart from sometimes music doesn’t start immediately when you go to the main menu.
The only real complaint I have for this game and really its been at the same for a while for this series, is that for newcomers, the simulation style of gameplay can be a little daunting and the controls can also take a while to master. In fact I don’t even think I know all the moves and I have been playing the series for 14 years now, you can though adjust the sliders to make it more arcady, but really doing that sort of takes away what makes this game so damn good. Other small niggles include the passing is still a little woolly and occasionally passes don’t go to the player you intend them to go to. It can also be a little hard to play defence at times, especially if you are trying to stay in front of a star player such as Kevin Durant, but then it shouldn’t really be easy trying to guard some of the greatest athletes in the world.
Overall 2K have done it once again, I really wish other sports games were even close to being this great, and I am sure even non fans of the sport with a little patience would get an awful lot of enjoyment, and would soon lose whole weekends, just like I often have, playing a video game that is not only realistic but full of long term depth and quite frankly is a joy to play.