I will hold my hands up, I am not the biggest basketball aficionado. I’ve only learnt who Steph Curry was in the last few months, and my knowledge beyond that basically extends to Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan (thanks Space Jam). But I love a good sports game, and I hear the NBA 2K series isn’t too shabby. So I thought I might take a total newcomer's look at NBA 2K17, for those who've played the odd basketball game but don't buy one religiously every year.
So the first thing I was pleased to see was a dedicated tutorial mode in there to teach you the basics. I’m told this is a new addition. I remember not knowing what a backboard was from a carry. No doubt a big reason I bounced off NBA 2K15 (I think it was 2K15 anyway) a couple of years ago. For a total newcomer this is a great way to pick up the basics and even get the rules down. It probably sounds alien to Stateside GD’ers, but there’s a lot of people out there who don’t fully understand the rules of basketball. Quite often sports games just expect you to know it all, so it’s nice to see NBA 2K17 ease new players in a bit. Not that I was shooting hoops like a 6’ 8” pro in a matter of minutes, but I was certainly familiar with the basic concepts and flow of play.
Once I’d got the fundamentals down pat, NBA 2K17 began to emerge as a very remarkable sports game. It’s a heck of a lot quicker than the football, golf and cricket games I’m most accustomed to, drilling things down to small moments of fast-paced skill and decision making. The actual feel of it all is super slick as well. Passes zip. Players swagger. You can just feel when a 3-pointer's heading in.
There’s quite a focus on physicality which I don’t remember from previous NBA 2K titles. Players jostle into one another and feel like they have genuine weight and impact. Bigger players can bully smaller ones off the ball. Height reigns supreme.
One thing I should definitely point out however is the extremely limited mouse & keyboard support. In short - don't bother. NBA 2K17 doesn't even tell you the keyboard controls anywhere. It's literally all Xbox 360 gamepad prompts. I spent a good 30 minutes with the keyboard trying to find the shoot button and I couldn't find it. If you're going to play NBA 2K17, make sure you invest in a decent gamepad first. It plays so much better with it and feels much more natural.
One of the standout features is undoubtedly the story mode. Last year it was a Spike Lee joint that was apparently an audacious effort than didn’t quite work. Well, I have to admit I’m loving the offering this time around. Charting a b-baller’s rise from high school to NBA pro, it’s ridiculously corny; like taking part in some low-budget soap opera where you get to shoot some hoops to settle the score. That’s a positive by the way, in case you couldn’t tell. I love it when a game takes itself overly seriously.
It’s certainly a mode that won’t be for everyone though. There’s some painfully large gaps between actually playing games of basketball. Unskippable conversations and training drills can form the bulk of any given session, so it perhaps pays to be forgiving. It’s got me pretty hyped for FIFA 17’s The Journey mode, truth be told.
For those looking to keep things a mite more realistic there’s also the new MyGM/Franchise mode. The NBA 2K17 version of Football Manager, this allows you to create your own team, complete with stadium, roster and name, before entering into the NBA draft. If you want to really get stuck in you can mess around with every facet of your team, fine-tuning it an effort to compete with the league’s greatest.
From an outsider looking in this is a heck of a good sports game. Full featured with heaps to do and gorgeous to look at. I can only imagine how fantastic NBA 2K17 is for true fans of the sport, but even for a newbie like me it's an entertaining and comprehensive package that contains heaps to do.