Game Review: NBA 2K18
A comprehensive breakdown of the premier sports franchise’s newest release
I commend 2K for continuing to take chances with their industry-leading sports gaming franchise. 2K’s willingness to innovate what we see and how we play a sports game is something that Madden has been trying to catch up with for some time. And it’s not that Madden isn’t a good game, but 2K forges ideas that EA Sports tends to implement 3 years later.
I’d rather criticize 2K’s new content than being forced to say, “same game, new year.” (Madden finally added their own cinematic story experience for ‘18 which I’ve heard good and bad about.)
Ever since creating your own superstar became a hit in sports gaming in the late 2000’s, Madden, MLB: The Show, FIFA, and NBA 2K among most other sports franchises, have been working to maximize the experience of creating your own player. It’s a dreamland egomania trip for casual and hardcore sports gamers.
MLB: The Show has always felt the most realistic, whereas EA Sports could care less, and NBA 2K has moved toward making a virtual entertainment experience. 2K has decided that they’re the authors of the story, rather than letting the story play out naturally, which doles out many problems that I will detail. But alas, the 2K MyCareer experience is always one with potential that’s being tinkered with from year to year.
Since Spike Lee’s disastrous, Livin Da Dream storyline, 2K knows there’s a selling point in the theatrics of having a cinematic MyPlayer experience. Reducing your MyPlayer’s rookie season to 8 games, while telling an awful story, was not the way to go about it. 2K17 backed off the cinematic experience likely due to the backlash, yet tried to figure out what type of cutscenes could work.
For 2K18, the MyCareer theme is: Run the Neighborhood. Your own created player is put in an MMO environment where you can play against other online players or stick to the NBA grind. I have so far stuck with the latter.
2K18 is back in on the narrative, but staying away from infringing on the gameplay. That’s a could base rule 2K learned from 2016. Now we have to assess the narrative itself, and that’s where 2K is back off the ledge again.
Your MyCareer is given a backstory, your player has his own ego and attitude, and also has the most annoying character in all of gaming as a best friend/moocher.
The backstory of being a DJ almost has a charm to it, if it wasn’t so preposterous that DJ gets signed due to a scout offering you an open tryout after he saw you play against scrubs. The charm 2K is so desperately trying to create in its goofy backstory is lost because your character is a complete nimrod. This is driven home exponentially by the fact that DJ’s best friend, B-Fresh, is the worst thing I’ve experienced playing a video game.
I can see what 2K18 was going for with MyCareer, I really do. I give the benefit of the doubt to 2K because they’re trying to script a game for millions of people of all ages. They wanted to appear culturally in tune and rather failed to create any competent likable characters. Spike Lee’s joint took itself too seriously, whilst the DJ chronicles never takes itself serious enough to reach the first iota.
The result of 2K18’s DJ story being a complete wash makes just about every cutscene a waste of my precious time. You can’t skip any cutscenes, god forbid you are to miss any of the wondrous dialogue between yourself and the weird janitor guy.
My personal theme of 2K18’s MyCareer is: An Exercise in Waiting…
- Waiting for this garbage cutscene to end
- Waiting for the game to load
- Waiting for your player to run the entire neighborhood just to get to the barbershop
- Waiting for the barbershop to load
- Waiting for your player to run the entire length of the tunnel to the court, waiting for your player to make himself a bagel and cream cheese, take 20 selfies, dap up a member of the crowd, tie his shoe, and then wait until you can skip the pregame animations!
There’s a little bit of hyperbole in there, but you get the drift. 2K18 would be VASTLY improved with a skip button. Can I skip all the bullshit please? The waiting wouldn’t be a problem if I wasn’t forced to wait for bullshit.
Running out onto the court is fun the first one or two times, and then it gets old. Why can’t there be a menu where I can just go straight to the Foot Locker store? Time is valuable, and 2K18 doesn’t understand this in the least.
Speaking of time, here’s something I’m bothered by that happens time and time again. I broke down how SIE San Diego for a short time mastered the art of the sports broadcast in MLB: The Show. MLB: The Show got the most out of its commentary team with Matt Vasgersian, Rex Hudler, and Dave Campbell.
The lone bright spot of sports commentary in gamingmedium.com
While commentary can’t be limitless in a video game, the fact that I’ve watched MyCareer cutscenes two times in a row is a bit puzzling to me. 2K commentary hasn’t improved upon any of the aspects it continues to struggle on. Bland is the operative word.
I will say, bringing in Kobe and Kevin Garnett to talk for two-quarters of the broadcast is pretty cool. It’s another thing that after you hear it for the fourth or fifth time loses its novelty.
David Aldridge asked my superstar for the fourth time today the same halftime question and I’ve delivered him alternating responses each time. I wondered if DA was catching on to my Jekyll and Hyde act…
And before I move on from my commentary soap box, the analysis in 2K is what I always find to be the most underwhelming. I’ll admit, it’s extremely difficult in a video game to create an authentic broadcast with limited material, but 2K goes all out with several broadcast teams. I never thought Clark Kellogg was all that great in previous iterations of 2K, but I haven’t heard any of his ridiculous exclamations like, “MUCH IN THE CLUTCH”. The other commentators I remember are, boring white guy, and, not the NFL player Steve Smith.
I’m taking one paragraph out for some Doris Burke slander. I don’t think she’s a good commentator in real life, she’s just as awful in 2K. After Steph Curry got an assist, she claimed Steph’s passing is on par with his shooting. Ms. Burke, Steph Curry isn’t even near Rondo’s level… Anyways…
On the positive, I marvel at the production effort that goes into 2K every year. Having a weekly 2K TV segment where a pretty blonde girl talks to NBA stars could not have been cheap. I have yet to pay attention to a single interview.
I can’t imagine the amount of painstaking animating work that goes into creating lifelike players, faces, and movements. We’re truly in a spoiled generation of video game graphics. I don’t get the perfect graphical experience because I play on a laptop, but even still, the look of the game is incredible.
There’s nothing more important to me a sports game than fluidity. How the players move in relation to the pace of the game to what is seen on television is critical. I think 2K18 is the best version I’ve seen yet. I hear a lot of complaints about how 2K18 is an animated driven game, which I get to an extent, but I would contend that how the players move and react mostly makes sense. The game looks so real so we expect the actual movement to be real, and I imagine that’s a bit more complicated than us fans understand.
I notice a lot of 2K critics love to bash the game on a couple illogical plays or moments, but I’ve played an estimate of 100+ games in MyCareer and MyGM, and I’m pleased with the results.
BUT… It did take a while before I got the game to where I wanted it to. Allow me to quickly break down and assess some default deficiencies.
Game speed at 50 is SOOOO SLOOOOOWWW. Friends of mine play at 70–75 which is a bit too fast. I play at a nice even 65. I believe that’s the most realistic.
I play on Hall of Fame difficulty, but I had to do A LOT of minor tweaks to the sliders. I found that the CPU sliders are very touch and go and a couple edits can take the CPU from too good to absolute trash. It took me a long time until I found the right settings where the game felt fair both ways.
It’s very difficult, at least for me, to get the game to allow variability in performance, but let teams perform based on their strengths and weaknesses.
Once I found the right settings, 2K’s MyLeague mode is a constant good time.
I played MyGM twice. MyGM and MyLeague are similar except that MyGM gives your first year a cinematic exposition as you take over a GM role in the Association. Just like MyCareer, the dialogue is absolute poppycock. In my second go-round, I skipped through a lot of the meaningless words my owner, coach, assistant coach, scout, and assistant GM would bother me with. Getting a shut up button for your owner or scout would’ve been pristine.
Once again, I get the lighthearted tone, but unless Hannibal Buress is helping write the script, there are no comedians on the 2K writing staff.
Both of my MyGM seasons took the same trajectory, which was probably my fault for the choices I made, but I was disappointed in the lack of variability.
In my first run, there was a cutscene where I fired the assistant GM, yet he still remained on the staff… (The owner makes the assistant GM his son and he did a last minute trade for Shane Larkin whom I immediately cut.)
My overall take on MyGM is another mode with potential, but unless there’s significant improvements in future games, MyLeague is the move for me. MyLeague is just classic, take control of a team and lead them to glory. I really enjoy the simplicity of it. I don’t mind having options, but MyLeague is my calm within the storm of the occasional meaningless rubbish 2K throws around.
And the perfect segway for meaningless rubbish is MyTeam. This is a personal vendetta of mine. I hate card collecting modes in all sports games. I think it’s a worthless waste of my time and hard drive space. I played MyTeam a couple times seeing if 2K18 could get me hooked.
I was given Giannis to start off with, and after buying him some new contracts, he disappeared from my team one game later for reasons unbeknownst to me. Now obviously I’m the idiot for not understanding how the mode actually works, but that doesn’t mean I take anything away from my initial opinion. MyTeam is trash. If you find enjoyment in it, that’s fine. The appeal is not there for me.
Now that I’m done beating up on MyTeam, I’m going to return to praising MyLeague.
My favorite MyLeague feature is the ability to create expansion teams. In every sports game, I love taking an under-performing team and crafting a roster for a run at greatness. Expansion teams allow you to start from scratch. Building a team from the ground up is ridiculously fun. You’re allowed to start right before the season drafting NBA scrubs and bench-warmers, or start in the offseason and try to sign a key superstar. The expansion team feature was added in 2K17 and I enjoyed it then. I believe it’s a mode that combined with MyGM has really great cinematic potential if 2K was to go that route in future years.
This wouldn’t be a gamer review by the casual rambler himself without a super hot take generated from the depths of hell (that’s why I’m burying it all the way at the end HAHA!).
Passing in 2K18 is pretty good. Maybe this isn’t a hot take? Can we get a majority opinion on this?… Probably not.
I’ve been victim to my player passing to a guy shrouded by three members of the opposing team for a stupid turnover when I meant to pass to a guy wide open seven feet away from me. The 2K passing system has been under scrutiny for many years. I’ve been satisfied enough so far that when I point my analog stick and the pass the ball, it usually directs the pass to the guy I intended to throw it to. It certainly feels more accurate than 15 and 16 where players seemed to have a mind of their on who they decided to pass to.
Should I complete this review here without complaining about microtransactions?
Nahhh. I haven’t gotten to bash video game publishers for this microtransaction nonsense.
I loathe microtransactions to the very core. NBA 2K18 has been highly criticized for its use of virtual currency and rightly so.
I’ve spent no money on 2K18 outside of the retail price. I’ve never succumbed to buying any microtransaction items in any game I’ve played. I’ve only ever bought DLC if it’s bundled in a game on sale.
The virtual currency wouldn’t be as bothersome as it is, if it wasn’t for the fact that every freaking thing in MyCareer costs a stupid amount of VC. I’ve stuck mostly to improving my players’ attributes. Because of this, I can’t buy new shoes, shirts, pants, hairstyles, tattoos, in-game boosters or anything that requires a VC unlock.
Come the f*ck on 2K this is absurd! I’ve put 136 hours into the game and my player has been wearing the same pink shirt for a solid 80 of those hours. Do you understand how unsanitary that is?
Hyperbole aside, 2K is doing everything in its power to influence its players to use real money to pay for virtual money. Aint that some shit? Video games are nickel and diming their players the same way airlines do. That’s such a scummy move.
Separating the business tactics from the game, the actual game still reigns supreme as the best sports simulation experience.
There’s no visit the White House offseason cutscene this year. What a shame…