As a basketball fan, I love playing any sort of basketball-related game. In the 2000s, I was a huge fan of the NBA Live series. I remember having almost every game, with NBA Live 2004 being one of my all-time favorite basketball games.
Whether it was the gameplay, soundtrack or just nostalgia, I will always remember the good times I had with NBA Live 2004 and the series in general.
Since 2010, I have strictly been an NBA 2K gamer, though not by choice.
Although I enjoy the games for the most part, as the years have gone by, I have noticed one thing: the latest installments of NBA 2K are made primarily for basketball watchers, not actual players.
Now, this distinction might seem confusing, so I will clarify: “watchers” refer to gamers who play NBA 2K but do not actually play basketball on a consistent basis while “players” refer to gamers who play NBA 2K and actual basketball, be it on a team and such.
That being said, as someone who knows and plays basketball with other people who know and play the sport, the recent iterations of NBA 2K is not meant for people like us. Rather, they are meant for those who simply enjoy watching.
Let me explain.
For starters, recent NBA 2K games rely too heavily on animations. What this means is that if a player were to go for a layup, instead of going up for a regular layup like someone who has played basketball before, the game will force the character to go into a flashy animation. If said player is playing online, it can cause them to get blocked.
Additionally, because of 2K’s reliance on animations, the game forces players to move in a way they wouldn’t in an actual game. For instance, on a fast break, if a player gets the ball in transition, instead of doing a simple dunk or layup, the character could try a between-the-legs dunk, leading to yet another block.
What’s more, this overreliance on flashy – or otherwise – animations makes regular plays almost impossible to execute. As an example, if a big man has the ball down on the block, instead of actually dunking the ball – like an actual NBA player would – the game will force them to shoot a layup.
Also, because the low post is where most contact takes place, characters will often get bumped and miss shots, even though they are taller than their defender simply because the animation forced them to miss. Again, in an actual situation, a player will find a way to make a layup since it is arguably one of the easiest shots in basketball.
Another egregious example of 2K’s heavy emphasis on animations are bailouts. Essentially, if a real player were to take a shot but decided to pass it off instead, typically, the player could still accurately pass.
However, in 2K, the game will force them into a weird contorted animation, causing them to errantly throw the pass even if the receiver is less than five feet away. Screens are also a big issue as, instead of forcing their way through or going over or under the screen – as you would in real life – players will get stuck in an animation, essentially hugging the screener and leaving the shooter open.
There are many more examples of 2K’s dependency on animations, which have been lampooned all over the internet by frustrated gamers who actually know how to play basketball.
(NOTE: 2K seemingly has no concept of momentum, as instead of using the momentum to go for a layup after a pass, characters will stop to lay it in, interrupting animations and causing the player to miss.)
As a result, online games in the Neighborhood – 2K’s player hub where they can play against other gamers – almost always contain high-level players who are a specific archetype with identical animations. What this means is, more often than not, there will be a multitude of high-level players with the same flashy jumpshot, layup or dunk animations which are essentially unmissable and unblockable.
As someone who plays basketball, this makes the game incredibly frustrating and unfair for players who do not have the time to invest in fully upgrading their character, which could take days of religiously playing. It does not help that the game also relies heavily on badges, rather than player attributes.
In layman’s terms, badges – which range from bronze, silver, gold and “Hall of Fame” – are essential for success in 2K. If a 3-point shooter does not have any of the badges above, they will miss almost all of the time. Case in point, if a 7-foot center does not have the appropriate badges, they will miss easy layups and dunks.
Even if the player’s overall is in the 90’s, if they do not have any badges, they will be nigh-unplayable in the Neighborhood. The combination of high-level players having unblockable jumpshots, layups/dunks and similar archetypes along with the same badges makes 2K a game lacking originality.
Summing it up, NBA 2K caters to players who watch basketball and doesn’t really understand the nuances of the game. Instead of relying on skill – which the actual game needs – some players can watch basketball, choose the same animations and badges and become almost unbeatable.
It takes the fun out of the game because everyone is essentially the same player, albeit with cosmetic differences. Plus, the badges and animations force players to do things they just would not do in real life.
Don’t get me wrong; NBA 2K is a fun game when there is a variety of player types. But as it stands, with everyone playing very similarly to one another, it is very quickly becoming stale.
That is why there have been many videos on YouTube highlighting how players who are very good at the game can’t actually play basketball in real life. The aforementioned issues have gotten so egregious that players simply just call it “2K Logic,” meaning whenever a player does something head-scratching, it’s just “2K Logic.”
As someone who plays basketball and NBA 2K, I’ve realized that the games aren’t necessarily meant for me. They are meant for casual players who can have a good time, and that’s not a bad thing.
Will I keep playing? Sure, but not by choice. I won’t play against any players, though, because I already know what to expect; a lot of frustration and more sweat than a sauna.
It’s discouraging to know that the only basketball simulation game on the market is catering to basketball watchers and not those who play the game. Until another basketball sim releases, this is how it is seemingly going to be.
Here’s hoping a game for basketball players comes out soon.