2K Games has been the king of creating basketball games for the last decade. While other developers have tried to bring down this franchise, the fact that NBA 2K16 was so anticipated by fans proves no one else has managed it. Like any other annual release, the team behind this entry has to straddle that line between giving the game a slight facelift or updating the roster and making wholesale changes to the formula.
Even from a cursory glance, it is clear 2K put a lot of work into making NBA 2K16 the best basketball game they have made. The most obvious way to see this is in the MyCareer Mode. It has been given a huge boost compared to what players got in previous years. The story itself is called Livin’ Da Dream and has a significant amount of input from director Spike Lee.
Thanks to a deal with the NCAA, the career mode even allows you to advance from high school through college and then to the NBA. Along the way, you’ll have to make choices about where you want to play, deal with family and friends, and interact with both fans and players to land those huge sponsorship deals. There is a lot to keep track of. It makes it seem like you have really invested your time in NBA 2K16 as your player develops and you advance through your career. Ultimately, you get to decide what type of NBA star you want to be through your actions and choices, which is something very few games nail.
Outside of the career mode, there have been improvements across the board. The franchise’s version of Ultimate Team returns, but now MyTeam doesn’t seem as focused on getting you to part with your money. It is easy enough to sink dozens of hours into this as you try to collect the right cards and assemble your ideal team. There have also been some minor enhancements to MyGM and MyLeague that help them run a bit smoother.
Although the best feature in both is the SimCast Live feature. This allows you to change up your tactics and make game-changing decisions even when simulating a match. Giving you more control over this aspect of the game is a very welcome addition, as simulating matches in the past kind of felt like you were handing the responsibility over. Now, you can remain the guy calling the shots, even if you don’t want to play every single game.
The online components of NBA 2K16 have also seen much improvement. Whereas the previous installment had a whole host of issues when it came to playing multiplayer over the internet, this release has eradicated most of the problems. Matches tend to not suffer from lag, while finding and connecting to other players is far more effective than it was. MyPark now works as it was supposed to because of this, even if the 2K Pro-Am mode does still have a few problems with features not working as intended.
Audio and Visuals
This is all topped off by the excellent presentation on offer in NBA 2K16. Whether it is the detailed player models or the silky smooth animation, the visuals on show are truly spectacular. Players move around the court in a realistic manner, and the TV spots featuring the likes of Shaquille O’Neal in post-match interviews add a new depth to the game. At this point, the series has effectively become the equivalent of a real-life game.
In terms of audio, NBA 2K16 continues to excel. You can genuinely hear the atmosphere inside the virtual basketball arena grow and fade as the action on court unfolds. The commentary is exactly what you have come to expect from this series. There aren’t too many repetitions, and the commentary team manages to reflect what is actually happening most of the time. NBA 2K16 also features a great soundtrack that makes browsing through the menus a joy.
When it comes to the actual gameplay, NBA 2K16 takes something of an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude. The controls have been fine-tuned, so they appear to be a bit more responsive, allowing you to pull off more complex moves. You’ll still see the AI making the odd bizarre decision or just fumbling for no reason. This has been an issue for several years and can draw you out of the immersion when the CPU misses a shot or pass that even an amateur player would have made.
Those playing the game for the first time could very well be overcome with getting to grips with the controls and gameplay. There isn’t a tutorial to teach you the ropes. Instead, beginners will have to jump into the training modes where they can experiment and learn without any guidance. Some of the online functionality still doesn’t run perfectly, especially the uploads. These can take an absolute age to complete, keeping you out of the action necessarily.
These are just small gripes, though, and it is clear that NBA 2K16 has taken everything the developers learned from the previous year’s title to make a far better game this time around. The sheer amount of time you can spend in the different game modes makes it an amazing value for money. If you love basketball, then you can do no better than this title.