NBA 2K18 sets off this year to create the biggest and best NBA game ever. With several different gameplay modes there’s something for everyone including an in-depth MyCareer mode where you can do everything right down to visiting a barber or creating a new t-shirt. With an all-star cast line-up of NBA legends like Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and more narrating each game either via the pre-game show or in-game commentary, and interviews with dozens of current NBA stars keeping you involved as you play, NBA 2K18 is a massive package of NBA goodness that no basketball fan or even sports fan should ignore.
From the main menu, NBA 2K18 has a few choices that will satisfy any NBA fan. Play Now lets you jump straight into a game with your conditions, your teams and your style. MyCareer mode is where you’ll probably spend most of your time. A challenging lengthy 2K18 career where you create your own basketball player and set out to become the best there is. MyTeam mode allows you to create your own dream team using the superstars of NBA, and then play a type of trading card game. Microtransactions feature fairly heavily in MyTeam mode, so we found it was probably the least enjoyable part of NBA 2K18. MyGM/MyLeague mode puts you in control of a team, letting you manage and trade your players throughout the NBA 2K18 season.
Finally, there’s 2KTV where you can stream all the latest NBA videos direct from 2K if you don’t feel like having a break from the action. The Options and Features menu also deserves a mention, because like all sports games these days this is where you can adjust the game to play exactly how you want it to. The customisation in NBA 2K18 is plentiful, which means you’ll never get bored of how you’re playing the game.
The MyCareer mode in NBA 2K18 is nothing short of a fully immersive NBA experience. You begin by creating your own custom basketball player and then after a quick visit to the Michael Jordan Proving Grounds you’re quickly scouted by a NBA team and an agent because of your impressive on-court talent. This is where the story really takes off with your sidekick room mate/biggest fan, your agent, as well as the assistant coach and social media manager of the NBA team you play for. These characters create an unforgettable experience which elevates NBA 2K18 to new heights. By having a story where you can choose your actions and even choose dialogue in certain parts, NBA 2K18 becomes more than just a basketball game.
For those unfamiliar with how the NBA 2K MyCareer mode works, you begin at level 60 OVR (Overall Rating) and work your way up to 99 OVR. Milestones as you level will unlock both cosmetic and gameplay perks, making you better and more unique as you go. The fastest way to level is via microtransactions, using the VC (Virtual Currency) to boost your attributes, however this is not necessary. Given the MyCareer mode minimum difficulty is set at Pro though, it may be a good idea for some to top up their VC bank account to get ahead.
As you play each game in MyCareer you’re given a live updating grade. Beginning the game at C, you can end up in the abysmal D’s and E’s and even an F, or you can progress working your way up to a C+, B- or maybe all the way into the A’s. For the first few (quite a few) games though you’re simply not given enough time on the court to get a good grade in the game, as the coaches will only have you on court for about 3 or 4 minutes in each game when you’re a rookie. Once you start making a name for yourself, and get a starter position, you’ll find it’s a lot easier to get a better grade and in turn get more VC and more experience towards your OVR.
This year’s MyCareer mode introduces the Neighbourhood. Once you complete the first section of MyCareer you’re placed in the Neighbourhood, a fully open-world environment with other players where you can chill or participate in several different activities. You’ll find a gym where you actually have to wait for someone else to finish using the equipment before you can (*cough cough* could have used a second sprint lane, 2K!) as well as clothing stores, a barber, tattoo parlour, a 2K arcade where you can shoot hoops in an Arcade Basketball game or participate in trivia, and there are also numerous parts of the Neighbourhood where you can play basketball.
Head back to the proving grounds and you’ll find several online casual games that you can join, or you can also play ranked games in the MyPark, as well as the ProAm game mode. Most things you do in MyCareer mode will award you with experience used to level up and unlock new cosmetic aspects of the game – a must for any die-hard basketball player that wants to look better than the rest and have the full range of Nike shoes (which you can conveniently display in your apartment). The new Neighbourhood feature is not for everyone and some might not enjoy running around outside of the game of basketball itself, but luckily for those people you can use your in-game phone and navigation menu to access basically every non-cosmetic feature of your career, particularly the calendar of games, allowing you to quickly progress through your season if you so choose.
The fun doesn’t stop there though, with several NBA teams from past eras being brought into the modern game. Most notably the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls are present, featuring the infamous Michael Jordan among other legendary basketball players. All up there are 19 teams from past eras, as well as unique teams from each franchise which have the best players throughout history. This can make for some absolutely epic battles in Play Now mode, as you put LeBron against Shaq, or Jordan against Durant. The only downside about having these teams is the faces of the old school players simply don’t line up with the modern day stars, so quite a few of them look a bit off such as Australian Luc Longley.
Controls in NBA 2K18 are much the same from previous games, being fully customisable and capable of changing the way you play to how you want to. The interactive tutorials are great for newcomers, as the game provides you with tips and tricks for you to become a better overall player. The overall mechanics of the NBA 2K series have been the same for quite a few iterations now however, so it will be interesting to see how long 2K Games holds onto the current system. An overhaul can’t be too far away, and we’re thinking maybe at NBA 2K20.
For many players, the real action is in the multiplayer where NBA 2K18 becomes something completely different. No longer are you able to plan based around what you expect the AI to do, and often when you’re playing with a mate on the couch or jumping online you’ll be flabbergasted by the ball movement. With only a few minor changes in gameplay since NBA 2K17, there isn’t much else to discuss in the multiplayer, but 2K Games are definitely trying to promote a full MMO experience with the Neighbourhood and online courts where you can simply jump on and play, or watch.
The graphics in NBA 2K18 are jaw-dropping. The stadiums and arenas are fully immersive and you actually feel like you’re there. The camera angles used, combined with the active commentary, interviews, halftime shows and pre-game show with Shaquille O’Neal creates an atmosphere anybody can get absorbed in. The accuracy of movement on-court, with unexpected character animations constantly happening around you makes for the most realistic NBA experience to date. Just don’t look too closely at the faces and facial animations, because they’re still just a little bit creepy. A fully licenced soundtrack of 49 funky songs gives NBA 2K18 the appropriate backing music that you would expect, and further provides to the realism of the atmosphere.
NBA 2K18 is a solid package that appeals to not only NBA fans, not only sports fans, but all gamers that like a character progression game. You don’t have to be that good at sports games to jump into the MyCareer mode, but if you play through to the end then you will definitely learn a thing or two about basketball, while enjoying a fantastic rags-to-riches underdog style story. While the micro-transactions somewhat tarnish the early stages of MyCareer, it can also be said that 2K Games don’t intend you to finish the game’s career mode in a weekend, and instead want it to last weeks if not months. If you do however choose to purchase the in-game currency then you can speed things up, but there’s nothing pay-to-win here, but rather pay-to-progress-faster. When you put all of the modes in NBA 2K18 together, it becomes a great addition to anyone’s sports games library so if you haven’t picked up or played a basketball game in a while, NBA 2K18 is a great time to get back into it.
We reviewed NBA 2K18 on a PlayStation 4 Pro, however it can also be purchased on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Windows PC and Nintendo Switch.
- Immersive MyCareer mode with memorable characters and plenty of side content
- Amazing graphics with near-real player faces and fully involving stadiums
- Several ways to play with something for everyone
- New sounds coming from built-in DualShock 4 speaker such as the buzzer at the start and end of each quarter gives you more immersiveness.
- Off-court character movement feels a bit stiff
- MyCareer mode difficulty starts at Pro making it no walk in the park
- MyGM/MyLeague mode could use some more love.