2K Sports
30 September 2016

Ang dami mong time,” (“You’ve got a lot of time on your hands.”) is something you’d say in 2016 to someone who can actually find the time to do a meme or pursue a certain hobby.

It’s also the type of thing you can say to someone who can fully explore NBA 2K17.

Over the years, 2K Sports has done its best to simulate the pro basketball experience for gamers everywhere. In fact, it’s done so to the point that to jump in and immerse yourself in the game would be akin to letting the game take over your life because of the sheer amount of man-hours required for each game mode.

The Legend Edition

I got the game’s Legend Edition, which was a pretty sweet deal given the physical and digital content that were available with it. Other than being able to play as the 1992 Dream Team in Quick Game mode, the best part of this pack is the 30,000 VC (Virtual Currency), which immediately lets you increase your MyPlayer rating by as much as 13 overall points. The Kobe outfits—from the Kobe-branded hoodie, to the #8 Mitchell and Ness jersey, to the Kobe XI sneakers—are a godsend because they’ll keep your MyPlayer from looking like a vagrant with only one shirt and one pair of jeans. That was honestly a problem I had in NBA 2K16, as I didn’t want to spend my hard-earned VC on clothes when I could upgrade my attributes instead.

The physical items that came with the game were also a nice touch. Kobe Bryant fans would definitely appreciate the Kobe poster, while the Black Mamba controller skin is a great way to break the monotony of my white PS4 controller. And then there are the Kobe trading cards from Panini, which are pretty sweet for gamers who also collect basketball cards.

Not really my career

MyCareer has been the highlight of the NBA 2K experience since this game mode debuted its first incarnation in 2K10. But since 2K16, 2K has turned the career simulation mode and turned it into an RPG, infusing it with a very long and detailed story to accompany your Create-A-Player’s rise through the pros. There are improvements on this year’s MyCareer story in that we no longer have the drama of a deadbeat best friend (Sorry, Victor Van Lier). However, there are still some characters built into the game, who—for better or worse—are part 0f the overall experience.

I get that the last two versions of MyCareer are trying their best to simulate what we generally think of as the experiences of the pro athlete. The archetypes of Coach Falls, Coach Brubaker, Bruce the Agent, and even your MyPlayer’s mother are typical ones you’d encounter when you read the stories of any pro athlete, regardless of how successful their careers turned out. 

What’s hard to reconcile for a non-American player like me is that I don’t necessarily identify with the experiences of an uber-athletic stud from the U.S., who only goes through one year of college, and has a mother who would rather see me make money now than finish my college education. This is supposed to be my career, not a cookie-cutter story that everybody absolutely has to follow. It doesn’t help that the cutscenes and practice sessions take too much time. To quote Hall of Famer Allen Iverson, we’re talking about practice, man. We’re not even talking about the actual game when it matters.

That being said, some of the little updates in MyCareer mode are worth praising like having ten universities to choose from this time around instead of five or six from last year. Plus, getting to choose how you want to reply to the other characters via text can be pretty funny, until you realize how much time it takes away from the actual gameplay. 

And then there’s Michael B. Jordan—the dude from Creed and that God-awful Fantastic Four reboot, not the G.O.A.T.—who plays the character Justice Young, which is actually a useful archetype in making you more sympathetic towards the other people in your simulated pro baller life. It’s just weird that it’s all framed in the context of a movie where everyone else is themselves, but Michael B. Jordan is clearly playing a character. 

Being a legit boss

MyGM mode is another exercise that—for someone who just doesn’t have enough time on their hands—can be pretty damn time-consuming. I tried taking over the San Antonio Spurs as the GM and started from the exact point that the Warriors-Cavaliers finals from last June ended. From that point alone, you can spend as much as four hours negotiating with incoming staff members, free agents, rookie draft picks, your current staff members, and your owner until you actually head into the season and start playing/simulating the real games. 

If you have the patience for it, it could be really enjoyable getting into the nitty-gritty of setting ticket and merchandise prices, dictating how much parking tickets cost, scheming with your staff and negotiating with players a la Survivor, and kissing your owner’s ass until you can finally buy the team off him. 

But if all you’re after is the experience of taking over a team and challenging the Warriors’ 73-9 record over the course of a regular season, you’re better off just sticking to the basics and going through Season mode. Somewhere, the 18-year-old version of me is sobbing because this expanded MyGM universe didn’t exist in 2008.

Where it really matters

What 2K17 ultimately excels at is the actual gameplay, which is by no means perfect, as evidenced by the 7GB update required to fix some bugs detected by players early on. But when it comes to bringing gamers into the actual NBA experience, 2K is able to do it by bringing in as much of the realistic elements as it can year after year. 

Playing defense is much easier in 2K17, especially when I compare it to when I first migrated onto the PS4 platform. I remember being flummoxed as a defender in 2K15, when I could barely get a grip on both individual and team defense. Now, the feel is much improved, as it’s easier to time your jump if you want to block a shot. Getting your hand in the passing lanes for a steal is also easier from the get-go this time around, which makes for a fun experience if you love the defensive end of the floor.

On the offensive side, I’ve always been more inclined towards a standard pick-and-roll offense, which is why I prefer to play teams whose players constantly move and can shoot from anywhere on the floor like the Spurs. But not the Warriors. Using the Warriors this year is just plain old cheating, kids.

Going back, using a standard PNR offense has actually become trickier, especially with slower point guards like Tony Parker. Gamers can really feel the difference between a much quicker guard like Isaiah Thomas using an Al Horford pick and someone like Parker navigating through a Gasol screen. It adds even more realism to the game, but it can be frustrating for players who use teams with older point guards but like to employ quick screens and explosive cuts to the rack on offense.

Timeouts are a bit of a chore, despite them being even more detailed than they ever were. Now, you can call for specific plays drawn out for one particular player. You can also adjust entire sets on both ends of the floor. All of that is possible on top of switching defensive assignments and adjusting your team’s tendencies on rebounding, defense, and tempo. The only things that are missing are being able to make substitutions during timeouts—something the new update from the game gets to fix, if you're able to download all 7+ GB of it by this week (looking at you, Philippine internet!)—and the actual coach drawing up a play. I mean, I’m playing as the Spurs, so I want to hear Pop’s ra-ra speeches, not Coach Brubaker’s. 

The arena experience is amplified, with every shot clock buzzer being different from arena to arena. Even the way the crowd erupts into cheers varies depending on which team’s home court you’re at. Sometimes, there are even team-specific chants, something I’ve been longing to hear in a sports sim for quite some time. What amazes me is the attention to detail, as even the sound of the ball being dribbled on the hardwood differs per arena. 

This year’s biggest improvement has to be the expanded commentary lineup, which now features Doris Burke, Brent Barry, Chris Webber, and Greg Anthony to add to the likes of Kevin Harlan and Clark Kellogg—the timeless NBA 2K commentary team. Having a different three-man lineup in every game reduces the predictability of the in-game commentary, while accurately reflecting the fact that in every NBA game in real life, you never know which commentary team you’re going to get, unless you’re in the late rounds of the Playoffs. David Aldridge joins the 2K Sports team for the first time as the courtside reporter, replacing Doris Burke from last year, and making me miss Craig Sager and his wildly colorful outfits even more.

The addition of the Australian Boomers from this year’s Olympics has to be one of the sneaky-good upgrades, as well. I found myself rooting for the Boomers during the Summer Games, and it would be interesting to play as Team Australia to see how they’d fare against Euroleague teams, or even against NBA teams from the past and present!

Speaking of NBA teams from the past, it’s always a treat to go back in time and play as teams like the 2005 Suns, the 1996 Bulls, the 1988 Lakers, or even the Bill Russell-era Celtics! The one downside that 2K hasn’t fixed this year is to actually complete these lineups. Imagine how awkward it was prior to 2K14 when you could play as the Bulls from the 90s without Michael Jordan. While 2K has remedied that, it would be nice to see MVP-era Steve Nash on the 2005 Suns, or 2004 Rasheed Wallace on the ‘04 Pistons, and to a lesser extent, James Posey on the ‘08 Celtics, Rafer Alston on the ‘08 Rockets, and so on.

*****

Overall, NBA 2K17 continues on its trend of turning sports sims into an RPG, which would have been completely ridiculous a decade ago. But with every generation of gamers, there’s always bound to be a subset who will be devoted to spending as much time as they can on the game. And that will always prove to be a viable market for the next phase in the evolution of the sports sim. 

That also means that for the rest of us who are getting older, and are struggling to juggle everything as we go about this thing called adulting, we have to be more strategic (read: choosy) with what we spend our time on. NBA 2K17 is still a great game, no doubt about it. Sometimes, though, we just have enough time for a literal quick game, and not for an entire Michael B. Jordan movie. 

If I could talk to the 18-year-old version of myself who could have explored the entire game in a week or two, I’d say, “Bro, ang dami mong time.”

Photos from 2K Sports