With its diverse array of deep game modes and strong gameplay, NBA 2K15 should have contended with FIFA for the sports game of the year. But constant server stability issues once again prevented eager fans from enjoying both offline and online modes, and this blue chip prospect found itself on the outside looking in. We won’t know if NBA 2K16 can address this crippling deficiency until the game tips off on Sept. 29, but Visual Concepts is pushing the boundaries of sports games with forwardlooking features.
On the court, NBA 2K16 is introducing several big ideas to enhance the gameplay experience. Visual Concepts is introducing new blending technology and a physics-based collision system to smooth out the player motion as they move in and out of animations and make body contact. Big bodies like LeBron have a better chance of muscling through small defenders. Revamped situational awareness should give A.I. teammates a better understanding of player intent so they can react on the fly, moving between creating an off-ball screen or cutting to the basket in a split second as the play evolves, for example. The low post and passing controls have been rebuilt as well to give the user more fidelity.
One of the more intriguing new concepts being pitched by Visual Concepts in NBA 2K16 is the adaptive coaching tactics. If you shut down an A.I.controlled team’s pick and roll offense or deny their big men the ball in the paint, the coaches will react accordingly and employ new tactics. This could pay big dividends for realism during the playoffs. Last year the Warriors won the championship by switching to a small-ball lineup. You could see that play out in NBA 2K16 as well.
Realism isn’t the only approach that pays dividends in sports games – sometimes empowering players to write their own fiction is equally rewarding. The MyGM and MyLeagues are both benefitting from this approach with the new team-relocation system. Want to move the Thunder or Lakers back to Seattle or Minneapolis, respectively? Go right ahead. Making the move is as simple as choosing a new location in MyLeague, but if you are playing MyGM you will need the blessing of 16 of the 30 franchise owners.
The relocation process doesn’t stop there. Users can then rebrand the team and design the arena and jerseys with user-generated logos or those created by 2K. The depth to the customization is impressive, especially in regards to the arena. You can tweak everything from the type of scorer’s table and jumbotron to the color of the basketball rims and sound effects that play when a player misses a free throw. Once you complete the move, the league may undergo realignment to make sensible divisions
Relocation is just one of the big decisions you can make during the offseason. The lottery and draft are both receiving facelifts to make them more entertaining to watch, and a new staff-hiring system gives each member of your coaching team his own sense of career goals. If a valued assistant takes off for a promotion elsewhere, you can poach a new upand-comer from another staff or grab one of the former head coaches that another team just fired. Scouts may have designs on becoming general managers, and some players could even move all the way up the executive ranks after they retire. A summer league and 2K Hoops Summit round out the offseason, giving you a chance to play with your young prospects and potential lottery picks before the regular season gets under way.
Expect stiffer competition from the A.I.-controlled teams when you are trying to build a contender thanks to the new advanced team-building logic driving their decision making. Each team falls into one of four categories: rebuilding, buying, selling, or contending. The GM will make decisions based on future projections of his roster. If a star like LeBron James is heading to free agency in a couple years and the team has a need for that position, it will begin to make moves to get into the bidding, including clearing salary space. Users can access a team intel screen to get a better understanding of where each team is at, which players on their roster are considered untouchable, and which players they may be targeting in free agency.
All of the new ideas being introduced in NBA 2K16 sound promising, but 2K still hasn’t talked about its plans to patch up its biggest problem. Should servers be stabilized, this franchise should find itself back in the limelight.