As many people are well aware of the complete mess that followed the release of No Man’s Sky, I am going to explain why it isn’t the worse game release this year. That dubious title belongs to NBA2K17. To be fair, I’m ONLY referring to the MyCareer game mode in 2K. I have no experience with online games with other users, but from what I’ve gathered from players who do play online with other humans the problems there are just as troublesome.
For those not fully aware of the situation with No Man’s Sky, I suggest you look up all the nastiness surrounding the game. For me, I didn’t find the game to be all that entertaining. There simply wasn’t enough accomplishment to justify all the grinding to reach accomplishments. A vicious cycle of bad, bad, bad. For many other gamers who had followed the extended timeline of NMS (all along their expectations growing exponentially with each video release) the game failed miserably to meet perceived promises. Many consumers of NMS railed endlessly about how they believed the game was falsely advertised. Again, I wasn’t aboard the hype-train so I can’t make a reasonable comment about the game being guilty of false advertisement. In addition to the “false advertisement” the game dropped with several glitches and bugs, some involved the pre-order goodies. And as the world bore down on NMS, the game developers went dark. This only fueled the fire and suddenly it seemed as though the purchasers of No Man’s Sky were on a witch-hunt. But...there is a game release that has been far worse.
I’ll share some of my gaming experience with the NBA2K franchise so you all can get a better feel, and ultimately decide if I have the qualifications to explain all that has been and is wrong with NBA2K17.
I started playing the NBA2K franchise with the NBA2K16 release. I picked up 2K16 a month or two before the release of 2K17 to get a feel for the game. The storyline in 2K16 was terrible but the gameplay seemed to be good. Buying the game late, I didn’t have to suffer with all the glitches and bugs that apparently hampered the game upon it’s release. Now, hold onto that statement as you are about to see a pattern develop. Anyway, I enjoyed 2K16 enough to download 2K17 Prelude, which was an enormous waste of time—thankfully it was free. And 2K17 had some significant changes over the previous year’s release. A new shot meter and new player archetypes, which I’ll discuss a bit later. Some new play-calling functions that aren’t even worth the effort to figure out. And a new storyline, which up to that point, was far better than the 2K16 release. So, overall a step forward. But then the other shoe drops.
And this is where shit gets real.
I’ll begin with the new player archetypes. Now again, this review relates to the MyCareer mode. When starting a new MyCareer you are prompted to pick a player position, point guard, small forward, center, whatever. Then you are forced to pick an archetype. And at first blush it seems like a good idea. I can pick a playmaker point guard or a slasher small forward. Maybe a post up power forward. But this initially great idea quickly turns into a player who ends up constrained to the archetype. I’ll use the slasher archetype as an example. According to 2K a slasher is a player who excels at making layups and dunks, can shoot off the dribble, and has some reasonable skill as a post player. A slasher can’t shoot threes, can’t make plays for others, and is only a marginal midrange shooter. Now, I’m not sure how they came up with the qualities for each archetype but they obviously never watched Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen play. Yes, Jordan was a drive-the-lane first player, but he was excellent off the dribble and in the midrange. And he proved in the finals he could shoot the three by making ten in a game. And although Pippen wasn’t as consistent a scorer as Jordan, he was a great player with all of Jordan’s abilities plus a great playmaker. And the slasher archetype isn’t a top flight defender. Again, I refer to Jordan and Pippen. There are several archetypes available and I could easily find players who clearly fit the mold but are also excellent at the positions 2K believes they aren’t. Flaw number one, but only a minor annoyance.
The real trouble, and a major annoyance, is the game play. It’s supposedly smoother and allows for more user control, specifically for dribble moves. In previous versions the dribble moves were animations the game picked for you based on a series of circumstances. But I can assure you the gameplay, if it is indeed smoother, is bogged way down by animation locks. It constantly feels like the player is locked into an animation. And some of the animations don’t even look right. Often players appear to be “skating” to a spot or “skating” instead of dribbling. Skating as in on ice. But those are things you can get used to with a little gritting of the teeth. But the actual gameplay isn’t something that can be ignored…
Upon release the game default during transition offense was to rebound and give it to any player to start the break. This seldom happens in the NBA. You have a point guard for a reason. But that never mattered because the AI doesn’t know how to run transition offense. The basic premise of fastbreak offense is to get quick, easy baskets from high-percentage shots. How is this done? Start backward from the rim. It’s well documented that the closer to the basket you are the higher the chances of scoring points. But I’ll allow for leeway here and go with taking shots within the paint—twelve-foot shots or less. But at the launch of 2K17 all shooters not with the ball went straight to the corner three shooting area. This negates the high-percentage shot. It also prevents an outnumbered situation, which is also a major factor in transition offense. Easy buckets, high-percentage shots, outnumbered situations, and/or mismatches. So if you are on a 3 on 2 break and two guys set up at the three point line the fastbreak is squashed because it’s now a 2 on 1 transition defense situation. Sure you could dish it out and hope someone drains an open three but the odds are slim. And the longer the shot, the longer the rebound, and suddenly you went from a fastbreak to poor transition defense. Of course the thought is to put more threes in the the game because that’s the way the NBA game is shifting. And yes that’s true, but not in a fastbreak scenario. If there is an outnumbered situation in the painted area, that’s where the ball will go. If it’s a 2 on 2 in the paint and a trailer on the three point line you may see a kick out to the shooter. As a player, I wouldn’t have ever done that. Take your chances near the basket.
And there’s more. This game flaw pertains to both set offense and transition offense. The AI simply isn’t coded well enough to understand the player position on the court or mismatches. I can’t count how many times my big man is in perfect position at the rim, the defender under the basket, and upon receiving a pass for an easy score, the big man passes back out. This leads to the extremely flawed offensive three-second violation. Of course there is more going on within the painted area to cause a three-second violation. The AI is coded to prevent the player from traveling through the paint. This includes apparent holding from the defender. In one game I played during a baseline inbound play, the screener for the offense stayed inside the paint for 7 seconds. No call. A similar situation occurs during transition offense. It appears that the code is written in a way that once a certain amount of time has elapsed transition offense becomes set-offense, and this is accurate for the most part. When it isn’t accurate is during a wide open, uncontested shot being passed out. The AI simply doesn't take advantage of the opportunity. Instead it goes into set-offense mode, which can lead to a three-second call.
Still more. The shot-meter and Relentless Finisher bug. When the game was released it came with another bug or two. For some players the shot meter wouldn’t complete its cycle, forcing missed shots. The Relentless Finisher badge, which was designed to help boost the chances of making contested shots going to the basket, was also buggy. This badge was especially important to the slashers since layups and dunks were the main offensive attribute. See, the game grades you on you shot selection and shot timing. I’m sure you can deduce where this is going. If your shot meter doesn’t work, your shot timing will be off. The Relentless Finisher fuck-up would charge layups with poor shot choice. Poor shot selections impact your teammate score, which affects your game salary. At this point I’m certain that the game developers have never played basketball or watched basketball, or didn’t send the game to game testers who played or watched basketball.
Let’s go to the hot fixes. These were small patches designed to improve gameplay a little bit. Something they could download while you were playing the game. So, the braintrust at 2K decided that the best way to help players enjoy their fucked-up game was to apply a bandaid. Instead of actually fixing the shot meter issue, they made three-pointers easier. So somehow boosting three-point success percentage to the 80 plus-make mark was going to repair the disgruntled consumers. Of course it was two months later before they finally got around to fixing the Relentless Finisher badge. And when they did that they also “fixed” the fast break offense. Sure, they went from three pointers to no transition offense at all. And they practically patched the three pointer out of the game unless your player archetype is designed to shoot threes.
And these aren’t even all the problems. How about the magnetic defense or the player speed issue or the servers or the moving screen or that every patch and hot-fix isn’t an adjustment, it’s a complete one-eighty. I could go on and on but this post is already too long.
The most disturbing part of this is that developer Visual Concepts has been making this game for seventeen years. How the hell do these major game issues fall through the cracks? Visual Concepts and 2K Sports aren’t Hello Games. A person can expect an indie game to have flaws, but a big-time institution like 2K? Give me a break.