Game Reviews

‘NBA 2K18’ Review: The Road to 99

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Quick Take: You can run the Neighborhood in 'NBA 2K18's revamped MyCareer, but don't expect much of an upgrade in its other game modes.

The NBA season is right around the corner, but fans are able to get some NBA action before it gets here with 2K Sports’ annual basketball simulator, NBA 2K18, and this year’s title packs a bit more of a punch. The animation system was overhauled in a big way to reflect players stats more accurately than ever and this year’s MyCareer mode is more interactive than ever with the Neighborhood, an all new open area that integrates the Park, Pro-Am and player upgrades into a giant, interactive city block.

In addition to these major overhauls, the MyGM mode also received a slight upgrade with an actual story and dialogue. Unfortunately, no voice acting was done for the MyGM story, so it feels like a weaker attempt to upgrade a less popular game mode. MyLeague also made a comeback, but it remains largely unchanged from previous titles. The card collecting mode falls short, though, of the ever-popular and constantly changing MyCareer mode and all of its trappings.

The “Road to 99” in NBA 2k18 starts out with a few pick up games in a street ball tournament, so the Park aspect of the MyCareer mode is given emphasis early on in the campaign. After the final match you’re approached by a scout from the team of your choice, asking you to come try out for the team. From there you get your agent, get your contract, and you’re off to the Neighborhood to do whatever you want.

The “Road to 99” is long and, this time, you can’t just buy your way to the top. Sure, the virtual currency in the game is still used to upgrade your attributes and you can buy VC with real money if you want to. It will certainly give you a boost in the early game, but your player’s rating will cap at 85 at the beginning, regardless of the archetype you choose. The only way to make up the remaining 14 points is through playing with your character in the various modes available in MyCareer mode. A combination of skill level cap breakers (yes, they’ve made a comeback) and various badges will help you on your voyage to the top spot in the league.

To help in this endeavor, NBA 2K18 brings in a new practice gym that gives you the opportunity to perform drills that specifically target certain badges. From team scrimmages to pick-and-roll drills, the practice gym is an easy spot to get those experience points. Unfortunately, you can only perform three drills before every NBA game, so you have to be selective with which badges you want to work on. After hitting the practice gym, you can head toward the Gatorade training facility to replenish your energy for the rest of the game by performing menial mini games that simulate exercises like running on the treadmill and curling dumbbells. It’s boring, but it gives you an energy boost in NBA games and a few of the exercises give you experience toward certain badges.

NBA 2K18‘s Neighborhood also offers shops that sell a variety of clothing and accessories for all occasions. Unfortunately, items have to be unlocked first before you can buy them. These are unlocked by reaching milestones in your player’s overall rating. From 60 to 90, every five points gained in your rating will unlock something new. After reaching level 90, you’ll receive those milestones with every single bump in your rating. Most accessories are unlocked fairly early in your career, but even then you still have to buy them with VC. So if you’re more concerned with the way your player looks than his actual skills, you won’t have to wait long.

While the actual gameplay in NBA 2K18 remains relatively unchanged (other than a few tweaks to the animation system), It’s clear 2K Sports is making a concerted effort to draw in more players with the engrossing story and interactive Neighborhood found in its MyCareer mode. Unless you really have an interest in managing your own team or trading cards, the other game modes are going to serve as only a way to earn more VC for your player in MyCareer. While putting so much emphasis on the most popular game mode isn’t a bad thing, it does leave players hanging who actually enjoy the other modes and want to see improvements in them. MyGM has a story, yes, but it’s nowhere near as engaging as the story found in even NBA 2K17‘s MyCareer mode. If I had one suggestion for next year’s title, give MyGM the effort it deserves and at least record a few lines of dialogue for it.

NBA 2K18 is available now for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, This review is based off of an Xbox One copy purchased by the reviewer.

SCORE: 4.0 out of 5

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