Also On: PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Visual Concepts
On some level, I may be the absolute worst person to be reviewing NBA 2K17. After all, I seldom play multiplayer, whether local or via Xbox Live. I'm indifferent to MyGM and MyLeague, wherein you manage a team and a league, respectively. And words cannot express how disinterested I am in MyTeam, the game's version of Ultimate Team.
No, when it comes to NBA 2K17, my focus is almost entirely on the game's single-player MyCareer mode. And thankfully, in that area, NBA 2K17 knocks it out of the park. Or, uh, is a slam dunk, or whatever you'd consider the basketball equivalent of that analogy to be.
However you want to describe it, NBA 2K17's MyCareer mode is exceptional, even by the franchise's own high standards. While last year's edition was interesting because of the fact that Spike Lee was involved (and because it featured some pretty impressive voice acting), when you got down to it, it didn't have much more meat to it than "kid from the streets makes good, has to choose between his future and his past". This year's story, by contrast, was written by Creed writer Aaron Covington, and it does a nice job of balancing plot with actual gameplay. In 2K16, the story progressed no matter how you were doing on the court, and (if memory serves) only allowed you to play certain points. This time around, you have to play through the grind of an NBA season on top of the story, and you get punished if you don't. It adds a nice layer of realism to everything, and it makes it feel like you really are impacting what goes on.
Calling it a "grind", though, implies that there's something bad or painful about playing through the season, when that couldn't be further from the truth. Sure, it may be a little annoying trying to pick between different endorsement deals, or to balance promotional appearances with team practices, but it's a fun kind of annoying. And, of course, there are the games themselves, which flow as smoothly and seem as real as any sports game out there.
And speaking of real: NBA 2K17 excels not just because it looks fantastic — which is pretty much expected at this point — but because it gets the little things right, too. Whether it's arena sounds taken directly from each NBA arena, or announcers that authentically react to what's happening on screen, or even the way fans start bringing Big Heads to your games as you morph into a superstar, this game really makes an effort to reflect the real thing.
Which isn't to say there aren't some minor — very, very minor — goofs along the way. There are moments here and there when tiny little glitches remind you that you are playing a game: things like a floor flickering in and out of existence during a cutscene, or a player's legs suddenly detaching from his body. Similarly, NBA 2K17 doesn't quite nail people's expressions: when Ernie Johnson welcomes you to the pre-game show, Shaquille O'Neal and Kenny Smith just sort of stare off lifelessly into the distance. They're not dealbreakers by any means, however, and they also highlight just how much this game gets right.
I know that I'm not saying anything new here. The NBA 2K has been the gold standard of sports games for a few years now, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that the latest installment continues in this tradition. Nonetheless, NBA 2K17 shows that even if the game may be on top, it's not content to rest on its laurels.