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NBA 2K16 – A Masterclass of the Ball Game



Published by: 2K Sports
Developed by: Visual Concepts
Platform(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Android, iOS
Genre(s): Sports Simulation
Mode(s): Single-Player, Multiplayer
Game Type: , , ,
90/ 100

User Rating
4 total ratings



AI Defense has vastly improved Production Values are top-notch Controls are improved Online Leagues!


MyCareer mode is enjoyable, but a bit jarring The presence of micro-transactions in the form of VCs

Posted October 27, 2015 by



Who could have imagined that the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors would end up being among the top dogs in the NBA Western Conference now? Ten, twenty years ago, people would’ve scoffed at the idea. Yet, here they are competing at a high level in the Western Conference with one hell of a bench to boot. By the time the game clock starts ticking, it’s showtime. Jordan beats Bogut in the tip-off. Griffin gets the ball and passes it to the one and only Chris Paul. Paul crosses the half-court line as Golden State starts locking down the paint. Pierce is trying to get past Barnes to get open in the three-point line. Curry closes in on Paul. Redick slashes the court to give Paul an offensive option. Flicking the right stick left and right, Paul plays the ball a bit as Griffin is triggered to set up a screen. Paul gets past the golden boy of the Warriors, but Thompson picks up where Curry left off. Two taps of the circle button and Paul does a fancy back pass to Redick. He proceeds to take a jump shot, but Draymond Green is suddenly in front of him. A quick tap of the X button and the ball is miraculously received by Jordan, who leaps and finished with a fury. This is the kind of experience that NBA2K16 aspires to give basketball fans. Complete with game analysis and gameplay depth like never before., thank the basketball it delivers all that and more.


For the past couple years, 2K Sports has remained to be the top dog in basketball simulation. Every year, it continues to add more flair and polish to it’s presentation. The soundtrack? AMAZING. Whoever thought up of having three different DJs curate the already varied soundtrack of past years has to be given a medal. And before we get started to it’s biggest overhaul and claim to fame, namely the Livin’ The Dream Mode, let’s go to where it shines brightest. That, my friends, is in your fundamental 5-on-5 basketball match. What? Just like basketball, it’s the basics that matter the most.


The moment you load up the disc on a console, you don’t get immediate access to all the features. Now, this may be a disappointment to some as it is becoming a familiar sight to see more and more games take ages to install before you actually get to the meat of the game. But whilst being installed, you get the chance to play a regular 10-minute per quarter game without all the bells and whistles of the game. So if you’re like me, and you really can’t wait to see how the new rosters of the NBA stack-up against each other, I played a standard pick-up game. Right off the bat, the advances in gameplay are immediately noticeable. Defense is tougher and tighter. Player rotation and how the AI cover up each player’s lapses are characteristically spot-on. Offense is already something 2K Sports perfected in previous games, but the upgrade in AI defense changes things up drastically. Forget all those defensive exploits and plays one can run to win a 2k15 match. The defense will adapt over time and will make you pay for the simplest passing mistake. At it’s highest difficulty, you’d have to use every tool available to you to get that golden opportunity to score.


Controls have changed a bit, so returning players may feel disoriented. Basic fundamentals (such as passing and shooting) are mapped to the same buttons, but the intricacies of setting up plays have been changed around. And personally? The game’s all the better for it. Passing is smoother, more intuitive. Want to set up an alley-oop? Press the triangle twice. Want to pull off a sneaky bounce pass? Press circle and point the right stick to the direction of the player you want to pass it to. When you run a pick-and-roll, not only you can choose whether the screener rolls or pops, but you can also decide which side of the defender gets screened. The use of the left trigger for post play truly makes the difference in banging bodies with post defenders. The changes in gameplay and AI both make a different experience from last year. Never before has calling screens, setting up plays, making the right rotations felt more important in a 2K match.

All this is possible through the over ten thousand animations added to the game. Every player has their own little quirks. Remember when 2K14 got Lebron’s pregame ritual pat down? Yeah. That’s completely a little footnote to what 2K16 brings to the table. Tony Parker‘s running floater is a killer. Stephen Curry chomping on his mouth-guard? Check. Players horsing around in the background as their fellow teammate gets interviewed? Hell yes. Want to see how T-Mac and Iverson stack up against Lebron? This is the closest as one can get as the game captures the looks and quirks of many great classic players. It’s scary accurate. The game feels realistic and it’s players are as smart as their real life counterparts.


Speaking of realism, the game’s realism also extends to the presentation of the game. Even though presentation has always been the bread and butter of 2K Sports, 2k16 one-ups it’s predecessors with its television-worthy pre-game, halftime, and post-game segments. Seeing Kenny “The Jet” Smith, Ernie Johnson, and Shaquille O’Neil banter is absolutely entertaining. Not even once did I press the skip button once a match was ready to play. It’s that nice. Joining Clark Kellogg and Kevin Harlan for game commentary is Gregg Anthony. Even if Anthony is no Steve Kerr, the game commentary remains to be enjoyable and Doris Burke returns as the go-to side reporter. It is a bit of a letdown to hear the same in-game comments from 2k14 and 2k15. It’s no deal-breaker, of course, but it would’ve been nicer to have something different for this year.


Now to the feature that separates 2K from the rest of its sports-simulation brethren, Livin’ The Dream. Written and directed by Spike Lee, MyCareer puts you in the driver’s seat of a rags-to-riches story of one high-schooler nicknamed Freq (short for Frequency Vibrations. It’s weird I know, but then I ain’t gangsta) as he goes through high school, picks his college, and ends up in the NBA draft. Joining your character is a host of colourful characters (all of whom are fully voiced and mo-capped) who bring drama, excitement, and various thrills to your career. When Spike Lee claimed that this is your movie, it is what it is. It plays out exactly like a soap opera.  Your first couple of hours are story-driven and it’s spent with characters praising you, clamoring for your attention, and so on and so forth.  Right after your rookie year finishes, the roller-coaster ride of a story wraps up and drops you off into the free-agency. You’re given completely free reign on where you want to take your player next. You can choose to build your character’s attributes by practising, hang out with fellow NBA players, and even sign new endorsement deals. The sky’s the limit.. The choices one has once you’re set loose in Free Agency and onwards is the most robust the franchise has ever been. It’s a highly ambitious effort to make the MyCareer a truly personal and immersive story. Does it succeed in doing so? Only partially.





My biggest problem with it is that, prior to your second year in the league, the script works against the notion of an immersive experience that you can call your own. I mean, playing from high school and the lead up to choosing your college is absolutely fantastic. Some characters you meet on the way are an absolute hoot in my opinion. The thing is, the gameplay mechanics get in the way of how the story is constructed and a disconnect is created in the process. For example, your TWIN sister will always be black no matter the race of your character. There’s no explanation for it. No Josh Trank-y explanation for race-bending the Storm siblings in the latest Fantastic Four film. It is what it is. Despite everyone in the game drumming you up as the best player in the league, you’ve actually got a character who has got one of the lowest ratings in the game. If only one could actually make choice that affect the story and could totally affect how your career unfolds down the line, then it would have succeeded in it’s goal. Instead, the player is left at the mercy of a script. It’s not a terrible one, mind you. But there are certain questionable plot lines that’ll genuinely make you go what the eff?

MyGM and MyTeam make a return. Best part, there are even more customization options this time around.  You can relocate teams (given that you have the approval of other GM owners). Hell, you can create a new arena, logo, and arena for your team. So for individuals who want to add Gilas 3.0 into the league and see how Castro, Clarkson, and Blatche would fare in the NBA, go nuts with it.



Speaking of going nuts, online leagues make a return! Not only one can intermingle classic teams and current-day squads in the online model, but you’ve got a proper league with rankings, statistics and championships similar to that of FIFA’s online seasons mode. Other multiplayer options are MyPark (where one can play streetball games), 2K Pro-Am, and MyTeam (NBA 2K‘s collectible card mode wherein you collect player cards that make up a part of your three-man team).

Very much like past games, Virtual Currency (or VCs for short) play quite a role in MyPlayer, MyCareer, MyTeam, and various online modes. It’s important to note that NBA 2K16 isn’t a pay-to-win game (as you can use your hard-earned cash to purchase VCs to keep you ahead of your online peers) as you can still earn VCs in-game. However, it’s just a sad to see how micro-transactions permeating the different aspects of the game.


With great production values (the soundtrack is one of the best in the industry right now)  and packed with content that’s sure to satisfy fans old and new, it’s basketball simulation at it’s finest. Will it get better? One can only hope. But for now, NBA 2K16 is an ambitious masterclass of the sport that has captured the heart and minds of millions of NBA fans around the world.

Neil Santiago

Neil Santiago is an actor and playwright by trade. Theatre is his passion and is not ashamed of unleashing his full anorak on all things geeky. When not busy acting or writing plays, he busies himself with either getting lost around the metro or getting fit with a RIP 60.


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