2K Games presents its next installment in the nearly 2-decade long successful franchise of NBA games. With an early start free-to-play of the MyCareer mode, titled The Prelude, you can begin your journey immediately. The full game will have refined many core elements of the game, making an overhaul of many presentations, MyCareer story, fan details and arena involvements, basketball team inclusions from the past, commentary rotations, and more. The full NBA 2K17 game releases on the PlayStation Store, Xbox Marketplace, and Steam on September 20, 2016, and will be marked with a price tag of $59.99. Pre-ordering will allow early access on September 16, 2016, before the standard release date, but you can get an even better head start with The Prelude, which can be carried over upon full release, today on PlayStation Store or Xbox Marketplace.
The MyCareer begins after an introduction from Kobe Bryant and movie star actor Michael Jordan, presenting the tone of it by looking back on Kobe's career, the good and the bad. Opening into a cutscene immediately after is your created player as he dominates the high school scene through the screen of the coaches computer, on what could only be assumed is Youtube, and boasts over 1 million views. Shooting around with the coach sub-narrates that you are an All-American player, number 1 prospect of your graduating class, with the next big chapter nearing; which college do you sign with (Kansas University, Georgetown, Arizona, Louisville, UConn, Illinois, Oklahoma University, Georgia Tech, Michigan State, or Wake Forest).
You'll play 5 games (assuming you make it to the championship game, if not then 4) in total for the college career, each one consisting of 2 6-minute halves, and one of them is the preseason team scrimmage. Very similar to the way MyCareer started in NBA 2k16, just without having played in high school, which while was pretty cool on paper, carried no significance regarding the college career. The college atmosphere is accurately presented with dorm room gaming, a phone call with mom from back home (where you'll learn the harsh past of the characters father), dozing off in classes, and awkward flirting with the group project partner (who, as it turns out, is the daughter of a former star of the university basketball team). After every game, your draft lottery predictions will either rise or fall. Where will you be drafted to, and how successful will your career end up being?
Just as you would expect from the NBA 2K franchise, the game runs incredibly smooth and with great fluidity as it operates the many animations. But the animations themselves, while are still as smooth as they should be, didn't offer much change from NBA 2K16; crossovers have the same lag if they don't catch the defender slipping, spin cycles through the key are up in the air regarding distance, double clutch and leaning layups, and defensive movements. They feel more refined, and not that it is necessarily a bad thing it was decided to remain the same, but extended diversity is not really found. Personal perspective regarding the better or worse of those same animations are to be expected, but luckily for all parties involved, shooting has received a lot of refinements.
Almost every shot in 2K16 felt like a moving shot, but in this year's edition I felt I took a dozen or so set shots for every moving one, and it resulted in much better conversion rates. The shooting is measured under the player's circle, where a bar that takes up half of it will fill up. Having a larger bar means much easier shot release timings as opposed to last years smaller one. In regards to MyCareer, the way the gameplay of all players on the court works allowed for you no longer have to rely solely on creating your own shots (explained below). Fatigue is found on the top half of the circle, and when depleted to nothing, will flash white.
The flow of gameplay traffic on the court was another thing that grasped my attention quickly. When out of defensive position, teammates rotate to help at more realistic speeds but don't make the team suffer by a dramatically wide open shot that the help defenses' man receives. The whole team shifts for help, not just one randomly selected person (or at times in 2K16, nobody). Offense moves with the same fluidity as defense now; the players will make smarter and fewer amounts of sloppy passes, they will shoot when they know they have a great shot, run off ball screens, and even after rebounding, they refuse to hold it in the paint and risk 3 second violations and are quick to outlet back to the three if they cannot score. Rebounding is fast paced and is more controlled by the big men as they will not simply be called off because you, if playing as a guard, press the rebound action. Players have minds and perceptions of their owns, creating a living atmosphere on the court instead of constant feeling you are simply playing a basketball video game.
Presentation, sound, and Graphics
Immediately, when preparing to play a game, you'll notice a major overhaul to the way pregames are presented. The trending 3D court show looks fantastic and a greatly appreciated addition in order to feel the real-life basketball world in its living embodiment. Crowds provide an intense atmosphere with their synchronized and unique celebrations and pump up songs/chants, and most importantly, diversity (I scanned the audience for a moment and failed to see any two people looking the exact same anywhere near each other). The players carry a role in pregame hype both in the tunnel and on the court, it will be extremely interesting to see how the professional league of the NBA allows them to operate.
Commentary aspects bring back Kevin Harlan and Greg Anthony, while constantly rotating the involvements from Chris Webber, Doris Burke, Steve Smith, Brent Barry, and Clark Kellogg. Shaq and Kenny are said to also be included in other ways, while the David Aldridge holds the mic on a court. Arena sounds are full and you can hear the gasps and cheers as you take that clutch shot or raise up to deliver a dunk in traffic.
The graphics feel like a much better fit, with hues and saturation of courts, jerseys, player skin colors, arena lights, and perhaps most importantly, overall character models and designs. They've cut back on making every player look as muscularly built as Lebron James or Russell Westbrook, and overall present a much more realistic appearance to everything. One immersive addition was the fix to camera flashes throughout the audience; no longer will there be masses of untimed flashes everyone, but Cutscenes have received a blessing; in NBA 2K16, I felt my MyCareer player was looking more and more like a mix between Conan and The Joker, with his incredibly awkward smile and teeth, and weirdly animated facial expressions. Everything looks more attended to and refined in this aspect. Tattoos make a comeback but are not visible in The Prelude. Hairstyles all remain the same when customizing a player, but tend to look much better for the other players in-game than before.
Character customization this year looks to be much more balanced. No "demigods," and a greater emphasis on strengths and weaknesses regarding core physical builds and skill specifics. Each position has its basically standard suits of strength and weaknesses, but when changing the height, weight, arm length, etc., you'll constantly see an increase or decrease to the list of statistics that are targeted. When some go up, the rest will fall, forcing you to favor one set over the others, or find a happy balance.
Everyone who kept updated on last year's edition in regards to the face scanning technology knows how horrifying many scans were coming out (it competed with Fallout 4s face creation system). This year, with the inclusion of the mobile app My NBA 2K17, players can now use the camera on their phones and tablets to scan their faces. You'll sign into your PSN account, XBL account, or Steam account, and be asked to take a series of pictures by turning your head slowly from left to right in order to collect images of multiple angles. From here, everything is uploaded to your respected gaming account, and can be accessed within the games player creation mode "Scan Your Face." I was able to get as far as the "building character head" part in the game but had many troubles getting it to ever extend past 40% loaded. It'll be exciting to see how it works in the future, perhaps with the full retail release.
From what I've experienced in The Prelude, I can say I am very excited to see what is in store for the remaining game and the player community involved. While not a completely new experience in terms of gameplay, and the controls remaining nearly exactly the same (the animations not much different), I believe it has effectually eliminated many problems players had in the last installment regarding stagnant and dumbfound teammates and opponents. Online will be an interesting endeavor, and only time will tell if that lives up to be an improvement as well.
The character creation holds steady, with not much difference outside of the adjusted balancing and explanation of skills and abilities based on physical stature. But thankfully we are receiving what already appears to be a much better storyline (sorry Spike Lee). While there isn't a freight load of new additions, it certainly hasn't had the many amazing concepts from the previous title removed.
The provided preview and impression is a representation of NBA 2K17: The Prelude and the changes it shows in comparison to NBA 2K16. This should not be confused with a review of the final NBA 2K17 game in its entirety, which releases September 20, 2016.