As a basketball telecast simulation, NBA 2K18 is a pretty great. As an actual game…not so much.
I’ve been waiting for non-Mario sports games to return to Nintendo hardware for years now, so I jumped for joy at the news that NBA 2K18 would not only be coming to the console, but would have feature parity with its non-Nintendo counterparts. No longer would Switch players be forced to endure watered-down versions of the games they enjoy! I had to wait an extra month for a physical copy of the game (a wise decision, given the buggy state the game was originally released in), and…well, for better or worse, this thing feels more like an interactive TV broadcast than a game.
My specific thoughts are as follows:
- What was that about the Switch’s inferior hardware? Because for my money, NBA 2K18 looks amazingly good on the console. The players, arenas, and even fans are surprisingly detailed, and while some of the faces aren’t terribly expressive (see Coach Steve Kerr above), the game hits way more often than it misses in this department.
- I tried a few online matches, and while I was completely outclassed by my opponents, the infrastructure itself seemed solid and I only had a few isolated issues with lag.
- If I had to describe the gameplay in one word, it would be sloooooooooow. The game strives to be a realistic simulation of an televised game, complete with halftime shows, mascot/cheerleader interludes, city skyline shots, player interviews, replays, players emoting after good and bad plays, and long, drawn-out sequences whenever the ball goes out of bounds or a player has to shoot a free throw. I can’t count how many time I’ve shouted “Just give me the @#$% ball!” at the game as I spam the A button trying to fast-forward through these animations. I understand that such sequences are part of real games, but I’m here to play a game, not watch it, and all of this extra fluff just feels like wasted time to me.
- The game advertises a thorough set of controls that give you precise control of your player’s movement. While hardcore NBA 2K players appreciate the granularity, I’d settle for a simple “shoot” button instead of having to time my press and release. The players also feel a bit sluggish as they’re running down the court, even when holding the “sprint” button. The game has lots of control, but not the tight, responsive, Mario-esque ones I’m looking for.
- Microtransactions don’t bother me that much, but having to give a game a lot of personal information does. Nba 2K18 demands your birthday and email account (the latter through the clunkiest interface possible) the moment you start the game, which feels really prying and unnecessary if you’re not interested in buying extra stuff. You can enjoy the game just fine without having to spend an additional cent, so demanding information in such a pushy manner makes a really bad first impression.
I realized pretty quickly that despite my fandom, I was not part of NBA 2K18‘s target audience. That’s fine, and hardcore players who enjoy watching the game and demand finicky control of their player’s movements will find a lot of good in this game. Game-centric players like myself, however, are going to wind up more frustrated by this title than they should, and given that a most sports gamers have already migrated to different consoles, NBA 2K18 doesn’t feel like a good match for the Switch’s user base.
I recommend a try-before-you-buy approach: Rent or borrow the game, hit the hardwood for a few matches, and see whether or not you enjoy the experience. Pick the game up if you do, and avoid it if you don’t.