It’s become an annual question: Do you splurge on the newest edition of NBA 2K?
In years past it’s been a harder sell, with upgrades ranging from simple graphic improvements to slight tweaks to modes you know and love. This year, however, the changes are plentiful and exciting, easily justifying the purchase. The hoop heads out there have probably already ordered the game; casual fans would be wise to follow suit.
Any discussion of NBA 2K18 starts with MyCareer mode. A staple of the game since 2K10, MyCareer is bigger than ever this year. You’re no longer locked into a linear storyline for your created baller; instead, your character is dropped into an open world with myriad activities (barber, sneaker store, pick-up games, team training facility, etc.). For the time-constrained, bigger will not necessarily be better as it’s easy to get lost in the vast “Neighborhood” setting. But for others, the “Neighborhood” is a welcome progression. Other tweaks (such as the ability to seamlessly go from one game to another without leaving the mode) are minor, but appeal to die-hard fans of the mode.
2K has looked to the past in previous editions, integrating the Jordan Challenge in 2K11 and various other legends in 2K12, but 2K18 is like a non-stop marathon of Hardwood Classics. In addition to the classic squads you saw in years past, 2K integrated all-time teams for every roster—the OKC roster includes Sonics players, which is a crime to the Emerald City—and a handful of teams from recent memory (We Believe Warriors anybody?). Catering to fans young and old is a great decision, and leads to some legendary all-time matchups.
For my vantage point, the biggest upgrade is the portability of the game on Nintendo Switch. We’ve seen portable versions of games in the past, on platforms like GameBoy or PlayStation Vita, but those were shadows of the real game. NBA 2K18 on Nintendo Switch is the full version of the game, one you can play in the car or at the beach. It’s especially great for modes like MyCareer, which you can play in five to 10 minute bursts wherever, whenever. Full games are just as entertaining on a smaller screen, and it was liberating to start a game in my living room and finish it on the subway on my way to work.
The Switch version is not without sacrifices. The graphics don’t measure up to Playstation or Xbox (the graphics on both of those platforms, especially the player likeness, is incredible), but they’re more than passable. It’s also a hefty download—whether you buy a physical copy or not, so be sure to have a microSD card handy.
It’s almost not worth mentioning, because, at this point, it’s just a given here, but 2K18’s gameplay is great. Animations are smooth, A.I. is seemingly sharper than ever and overall it’s just a treat to play.
Every few years, a sports game will come along and redefine a franchise. 2K18 is one of those games. The GTA-style open-world MyCareer mode, the grab-and-go version on Switch, the depth of history—2K will have a hard time topping this one.