One of the most highly anticipated video games of 2015, NBA 2K16, hits stores Friday—and while the classic hardcourt action will instantly feel familiar to veteran gamers, it definitely boasts some new features that help the new installment stand apart.
First among them is MyCAREER mode (also known as “Live da’ Dream”), which makes its first appearance in Visual Concepts’ immensely successful basketball franchise. MyCAREER mode puts the user in the shoes of a top-flight NBA talent named as Frequency Vibrations (yes, you read that correctly). “Freq,” as he’s known—the name can be changed in-game—is on a path to stardom, but his journey is complicated by moral dilemmas like hiring agents and cutting off friends who just want a free ride.
“These guys see a meal ticket. They’ve got family and friends,” said MyCAREER producer and Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Spike Lee at the NBA 2K16 Uncensored Release Party in NYC. “Everyone wants to ride as long as they can. Many guys are broke now.”
In usual rags-to-riches fashion, the player encounters a number of obstacles on his way to NBA stardom, like deciding between attending college or foregoing classes and entering the NBA Draft. It’s one of the strongest integrations of storytelling and gameplay yet in such a flagship sports franchise.
At the release party, reigning MVP Stephen Curry and four-time NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal spoke candidly about their version of the climb, like the college recruiting process and the reasoning behind the agents they selected.
“Those guys who brought over gifts, those are the ones you want to watch out for,” O’Neal said. “I went with one who had just one client. He didn’t bring anything. I wanted to be recruited by Georgetown, but coach John Thompson never sent me a letter.”
Curry empathized. “I went with the agent my dad [longtime NBA veteran Dell Curry] had,” said Curry. “William & Mary was all over me. My vision was high D-I, but I didn’t get any billboards. Recruiting was kind of dry.”
Once MyCAREER mode shuttles a player to the NBA, picking up sponsorships and building relationships with fellow players and teammates is of the utmost importance—just like in the real world. It all helps weave together a player’s image and off-the-court brand.
Aside from the emotionally driven narrative—arguably the first of its kind in an NBA video game—is a completely customizable player and in-game environment complete with modes from MyCOURT to MyTEAM. MyCOURT, which acts as a hub or bridge to the games’ online 2K-Pro Am mode, allows players to switch color schemes on the hardwood, walls and backboard.
MyTEAM and MyGM are similar modes that both allow you to build a team from the ground up.
But whereas MyGM is more linear—you’re the sole person responsible for overseeing player contracts, trades and arena upgrades for a specific franchise— MyTEAM is better for those looking to build a dominant fantasy team comprised of the very best players (both past and present) and guiding them against both the computer and online players.
This latest edition into the NBA 2K series not only carries a personal touch to it, but also the signature 2K gameplay that fans around the globe have come to know and love. “Chef Curry” performers crossover with an uncanny resemblance to his real-life play style, while big men such as Joakim Noah or Marc Gasol set efficient screens and bully defenders aiming to fight through them.
The game even sounds like an NBA game, with NBA/TNT talent Ernie Johnson, O’Neal and new addition Kenny Smith narrating the game in real time.
NBA 2K16 is available for purchase on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and 4.