So seeing that this is a site where the tagline is: The place for nerdy opinions, you might be wondering why I’m reviewing a sports game. The quickest answer is that I play the sports games almost every year. As the new Madden, FIFA, and 2K comes out, I buy it and play it and yell and develop my love hate relationship with sports games (except FIFA, I never get mad at FIFA). This year I really needed a sports game because September didn’t have any games I wanted to play (with exception to Ys VIII, but I remembered that game way too late and already bought NBA 2K18).
I guess I should admit, before getting into this review, that this game was not what I intended to play, I actually wanted to buy NBA Live 18 because A) It was $40.15. B) I played the demo and enjoyed it. C) I enjoyed the gameplay a bit better. Unfortunately I accidentally bought the wrong game, but before NBA Live 18 I had been a player of 2K, so I just kept it.
With sports games I never really play online, because I play nothing online, so I mainly play career mode. My review will mainly be about that. So when you start out in career mode, you play the Proving Grounds sequence. Your character is undrafted, and is playing a street ball tournament. This section of the game is so misleading. Your character is super good at basketball at this point in the game and it kind of shows you how your character will be in the future. You hit excellent releases with ease, you’re faster, the game legit feels better during proving grounds, but then you get signed to a team of your choice (rather than being drafted to a random team based off of your skill).
2K wanted to implement this feature into career mode called, Road to 99, and your character starts at an overall 60. Now while I understand that your characters start at 60 in order to show you your real progress, the problem that I’ve always had with that starting point is that other rookies have better overalls than you and that starting at 60 is never a real reflection of how basketball is. Why are you being signed to a team, undrafted, if your overall is 60? Once you start your real NBA games, you realize that Proving Grounds was a lie. You’re not hitting excellent releases. Your character is slower and not as skilled, and I get that due to the atmosphere of being around pros the skill level is different, but don’t make our characters seem so good in the first section if it’s all going to go away (yes this is a practice in JRPGs, but it usually makes narrative sense in that genre rather than in sports games). So your character is a scrub and the only way to increase your overall skill level is by using VC (virtual currency). The only way to get VC is to do endorsements and play well in games. The only way to get endorsements and play well in games is to not be a scrub. For me, it’s by getting a lot of assists. But the game starts you in an awkward standpoint where you can’t get much VC, because your character’s a scrub, and you’ll take a long time suffering through games in order to get better. And it’s not like getting better through VC is easy, because you have to spend a lot of VC to get better.
One way, besides playing games, to get VC is by paying for microtransactions, which are bullshit. Microtransactions are a plague upon gaming. It’s a scummy move. It’s a way of saying, yes you can suffer through this game, but we added an alternative way to get through it that deals with spending money, and if you think about it, 2K probably made the skill level ups so expensive so that players would feel the need to use microtransactions. And I just don’t agree with it. I had money in my PS4 wallet that wasn’t going to be used, so yes, I did some microtransactions and really, that doesn’t even help that much. The game wants a lot of money out of you if you want to get better quicker.
Another problem I have with the game is that after a while it feels impossible to feel control. In a game where your numerical skill overrides shot release in the game, you start to feel helpless. As a friend who’s also playing this game once said, “It’s either excellent release or it’s bricks.” And that’s true. This game doesn’t understand what good release means. Most of my releases are “good” releases rather than slightly late or early and the shot rarely goes in because your numerical skill matters more than your shot release. So at early stages you have to get excellent or your shot will probably not sink. It’s all a bit flawed. And I know that it sounds like me whining, but the problem is just that I want the game to be fun and for people (not just me) to actually enjoy it. If you’re making a game where microtransactions are the best way to get through it, then you’re not making an enjoyable game.
Outside of the whole microtransaction dilemma, there’s the story of the career mode. The dialogue in the game is kind of bad. It tries to be too hip with the audience and make jokes that don’t always land. We’re given our zany characters and sometimes they’re too over the top (though it’s always fun when you get a text from Lavar Ball). Then there’s the point that the cutscenes, for the most part, are unskippable. What 2K needs to understand is that we appreciate that you put work into making a narrative (a not all that fluid narrative, but a narrative nonetheless) into your game, but sometimes people want to play the game and hear forced jokes and “whacky” characters. Allow us to skip.
The neighborhood, a feature just for career mode, is also problematic mainly because there’s no mini-map. Which leads me back to VC and microtransactions because everything you want to buy, not just upgrades to your skill, are through VC. Hats, shoes, hairstyles, shirts—it’s all bought through VC. The game, it sometimes feels, is trying to fleece you and that’s unfortunate. But due to my love hate relationship with sports games, I’ll keep trucking through, at least until Dragon’s Dogma Dark Arisen for PS4 comes out in five days. I leave you with a video about microtransactions. Luckily this site isn’t popular, because if it were I’d be getting some nasty emails from a certain company soon. Later days.