NBA2K18 is more of the same formula we’re used to by now. 2K Games and Visual Concepts deliver a great NBA basketball experience that’s slightly marred by the microtransactions and minor hiccups that make themselves known quite quickly. The game features an all new story to follow starring none other than you, the player, and is really fun to pick up and play. It’s just such a letdown that a lot of the game’s better aspects, such as the rather extensive player customisation, are locked behind a paywall.
NBA2K18 features the standard list of gameplay modes such as MyCareer and MyGM. Players can take to the courts in the MyCareer mode and step into the shoes of their very own character. Nicknamed DJ, you’ll be the star of the show and after being scouted by an agent, you’ll soon be playing for your favourite NBA team. The MyCareer mode doesn’t take itself too seriously though and is clearly all about the fun and experience of being an upcoming NBA star. The little RPG-esque questions the MyCareer mode throws at you sweeten the deal and make it really feel as if you’ve created your own star in the game. Your agent even has an over the top “Eat what you kill” motto and while the in-game characters don’t really know what that means, they roll with it. The MyCareer mode cutscenes actually feel way less cringe-worthy this time around and DJ’s friends encourage and support him in his endeavours.
Playing as DJ, you’ll soon unlock an area of the game where you can run around and visit various stores or take part in casual matchups on the blacktop courts. 2K and Visual Concepts have created a watered down MMO hub where players can see other players and interact with their environment. This might seem cool at first but soon enough the reality sinks in that it’s just a glorified menu that takes up far more time than it should. Having to run across the map to visit the barbershop just to change your hairstyle can get annoying in the long term. The amount of in-game advertising is also slightly off-putting with JBL, Adidas, Nike and Jordan clearly having paid for prime in-game mentions. An example of this is when you first visit the barbershop and DJ’s friends gift him a set of the “brand new JBLs” so he can listen to music and focus.
Players will be able to earn VC or Virtual Currency in game by playing matches but the grind to earn more VC to buy new upgrades quickly sours the experience. On the gameplay side of things, NBA 2K18 delivers a stellar performance. Players will be able to control their selected NBA star with ease. Using the analog sticks to both move and direct shots and dunks is incredibly easy. Literally anyone will be able to pick up the game and play and it’s super fun. You don’t need to be a pro-gamer to enjoy NBA 2k18 and that’s the best part about it. Timing is however key to scoring some points since button bashing or holding down the shoot button for too long will most certainly result in missed hoops. There also seems to be a problem with players really struggling with layups as the opposition grabs possession away and goes on to score almost uncontested by your own AI players.
For those that prefer the management aspect of the NBA, the MyGM mode this year caters to you a lot better than ever before. Players will be introduced to the job of managing their favourite team after a crippling knee injury ends their actual playing career. Transitioning from player to general manager of an NBA team is no easy task though. Everything from which players to scout, overriding decisions made by your coach, how you respond to media questions and which days to train and rest your players is up to you to handle. In between all of this, various cutscenes play out and these influence the way your team will perform. Building player trust, coach trust and pleasing management while still upholding a good team reputation is a balancing act you’ll have to perform. Thankfully though, the game offers plenty of guidance and even allows you to let the decisions be made automatically should you want to take a break.
Graphically, NBA 2K18 is the best looking NBA2K title yet. This year’s character models are quite significantly improved upon over last year’s and the facial expressions and voice acting match up a lot better. The halftime commentary segments and timeout cheerleading sections might still seem a bit weird and forced but they are certainly getting better, ever so slightly, every year. The neighbourhood DJ can explore has a very downtown urban aesthetic that just works for the type of character he is. On the court, the player’s movements and control of the ball is on point. Even if you’re not playing, the game’s “demo mode”, which features the CPU facing off against itself, is rather satisfying to watch.
The soundtrack in NBA 2K18 has a large selection of tracks and features enough variation to keep you entertained while you explore the neighbourhood or navigate the menus. The online experience however is where NBA 2K18 really falters as a result of the VC dilemma. If you don’t spend money to buy more VC to upgrade and customize your player, you won’t stand a chance against people that do. The VC issue is a blight on an otherwise really fun game and it’s a downright shame that 2K Games and Visual Concepts have gone down this route. One can only hope that this is resolved in next year’s iteration of the game.
Overall NBA 2K18 is a basketball game that lives up to the reputation of its predecessors and improves upon them in some aspects and fails to deliver on others. If you’re looking for a fun basketball game to pick up and play and not have to invest too much time into, the game’s MyCareer mode and quick play modes are for you. MyGM is a fun experience too. Should you want to sink multiple hours into the title though and play against others, be warned that the microtransactions and VC issues are unfortunately rather prevalent and sour the experience.