This year’s installment revamps much of its gameplay with an online flair, but the updated shooting mechanics and the heavy push on microtransactions and commercialism hold it back from being perfect. Tons of content are frequently stuffed into NBA 2K games, and this year is no different, with essentially three games’ worth of content spread across the MyTeam, MyGM, and MyCareer modes. MyGM puts an interesting spin on the format by making the player a former NBA star who gets injured and returns to the league years later in a front office position. It’s a new take on helming your favorite squad, because your players will try to connect to you with the shared experience of being in the league when negotiating for larger contracts or talking to coaches, while the owner will expect varying levels of success based on your team. It doesn’t have the same number of cut-scenes as MyCareer, but it gives more flavor to this traditionally dry mode. MyCareer, on the other hand, gets a whole new facelift with the online focus of The Neighborhood, an NBA-meets-Destiny styled hub. Here, you can meet up with other players and hop into pickup games on the virtual blacktop, play Pro-Am matches, or improve your created player, DJ, as he tries to make a name for himself from the street court to the NBA. There are even mini-games like dunk contests, accuracy games, and a workout gym to give you endurance boosts. While the hub is still a bit limited right now with player interaction (you’ll see a lot of players just standing around instead of heading somewhere, which just looks odd), it’s clearly the building blocks for what the game’s community could be evolving into, which is great.
But some gameplay elements have been made a bit worse, like the shooting meter, which now takes into account both the timing of your shot and how covered you are by a defender. While this eliminates the arcade-like scoring runs from previous games, some missed shots defy belief. For example, the meter will say you’re lightly contested or smothered even when a defender is multiple steps away from the shooter. As a result, you’ll default to a low-post or mid-range game instead. There’s also a heavy push for products and microtransactions. Previous games showed off logos before, but this year’s game thrusts them on virtually every single corner. While that’s a minor issue, the microtransaction push is a larger problem. Players can arguably play and grind their way to success through multiple games, very slowly accumulating the in-game currency they need to boost their stats or unlock new cards in MyTeam. But a major element of MyCareer is called “Road to 99,” which parcels out locked elements of the gameplay when you reach certain player rating levels. Add to this the fact that every customizable option, from stats to clothes to haircuts, costs in-game currency, and the push for spending real cash can be extremely overwhelming. All this being said, if you can overlook the big push for microtransactions, the tons of ads, and the hit or miss shooting mechanic, the sheer amount of content in NBA 2K18 will appeal to basketball fans of all types.