Review: ‘NBA 2K16’ plays above the rim

Gaming’s finest hoops franchise continues to shine. “NBA 2K16” makes the right adjustments after a solid yet unspectacular edition of …

Gaming’s finest hoops franchise continues to shine. “NBA 2K16” makes the right adjustments after a solid yet unspectacular edition of 2K Sports’ NBA game a year ago.

Chief among said changes is an improved career mode. “Be the story” is the game’s tagline this fall, highlighting Spike Lee’s involvement in crafting a narrative into career mode, a story called “Livin’ Da Dream.”

Players can still craft their custom player for the mode and use whatever name they choose, but for story purposes you’ll play as Freq, a kid from Harlem pursuing his NBA dreams and dealing with the distractions friends and family bring along with success.

Over the course of more than a dozen games, you’ll play as Freq in high school, college (you’ll choose from a bunch of schools who recruit you) and during his NBA rookie season. In terms of quality in Lee’s storytelling here, it’s not “Do The Right Thing” or even “He Got Game.” It’s pretty bad, actually. But I admire the ambition here, and at least Freq isn’t the whiner at the center of last year’s MyCareer mode. Get your popcorn ready, though, as cutscenes can drag longer than you’re likely to care about watching them.

After Freq’s rookie year, the story wraps up and career mode expands to the familiar, full-season slate with which series fans are familiar. To break up the monotony of game after game after game, player development also comes in the form of practice drills and image-building activities. All this is the steak and potatoes of the MyCareer.

Outside the marquee mode, the same tried and true modes return as strong as ever, including GM mode. Navigating the menus also feels smoother this year, which was a welcome fix.

Revamped gameplay makes for a subtle, improved experience on the court. The post game feels more realistic, and more diverse passing controls go a long way. Otherwise, there was very little broken about this experience a year ago, or even two years ago.

One of last year’s features that feels much better this time is the ability to scan one’s face into the game for a MyCareer player. Last year, my face looked a little melty and weird — my face isn’t usually that bad. The results this year were much smoother. It may not have truly looked like me, but it blended in better with the rest of the players this time.

“2K16” is worth your time, especially if it’s been a year or two since you’ve picked up the latest edition.

“NBA 2K16,” from developer Visual Concepts and publisher 2K Sports, is out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows PC.

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