Run the Neighbourhood:
Sports games aren’t usually my jam, and when they come up for review I like to defer to my colleague Ian to tackle the onslaught of Fifas and Maddens. But when I saw NBA2K18s trailer depicting their deep campaign mode called ‘The Neighbourhood’ I got worryingly excited.
Friends and loved ones showed genuine concern as I talked excitedly about it. I’m here today to present to you a complete novice’s experience with one of the deepest and most accomplished sports games out there. I mean, I assume. I really have no frame of reference, but I’d be amazed if any of them come close to the level of polish and depth NBA 2K18 displays in every aspect of its huge suite.
The aforementioned Neighbourhood mode is what drew me into NBA in a big way. Pitched as a simulated experience of a fresh-faced up and comer in the world of Basketball, you take your avatar through a scouting session on the streets all the way to the big leagues, with a slew of non-basketball distractions to get up to on the street you call home. During your ascent you’re treated to an incredibly cheesy, cliché storyline that attempts to give you some semblance of narrative choice and the threat of failure having an actual impact on your career.
As a complete noob, I failed a LOT, but the story chugged along regardless without too much to say about my shortcomings. I blew the games a scout attended but he still signed me, I sucked so bad at the try-outs for the LA Lakers the coach told me it’d take a miracle to get a callback – an incredibly violent miracle that would maim my competition – but cheerily called me the next day and told me I had the right stuff. Most players will be more familiar with the game and probably do a lot better than myself during these opening hours, and have a more rewarding experience because of it, but for me the illusion was kind of shattered when I was honestly the worst baller in the neighbourhood and I was still the most sought after commodity since Kobe.
Despite all of the above, the fact that there’s a story at all in a sports game is still refreshing, and I’m intrigued to try Madden’s Longshot and Fifa’s the Journey after such an enjoyable initiation here. It’s goofy, and the characters are a little too wacky, and they all seemed to sugarcoat the fact that I was a hot mess on the court, but I dug it all regardless.
It’s an understatement to simply call 2K18 a game. It’s an entire platform that promises to entertain for a year, and it has the scope and vision to do just that. When you boot up the game for the first time, you’re treated to a slew of options and game modes that could easily intimidate the unitiated. Thankfully, 2K have a smart and easy to understand UI that hides its mountains of content in smart sections and allows you to make your way through it at your own pace.
The fully interactive tutorial (named 2KU) allows you to play a non-stop, non-scored game whilst mastering the basics of basketball. During the game easily digestible tooltips will appear and point you in the right direction, and I really appreciated the intuitive nature of learning here. It wasn’t just out of context lessons to complete and promptly forget about once you’ve ticked them off, but little nudges and tips that improve your game whilst playing an actual match. As a complete newcomer (and someone who had been put-off by the inaccessible nature of previous titles) I really appreciated this inclusion.
The Neighbourhood is a great mode that’s as fun as I’d hoped it would be, with an interactive hub world to walk (or skate) around in full of other player’s avatars. You can play minigames or train at the gym, participate in matches on the street or work your way up through the game’s career proper. The heart of this game mode is improvement, with wins on the court earning your character upgrades and cosmetic unlocks. It’s a great gameplay loop that is dragged down by some pretty aggressive microtransactions, taunting and tempting you to lay down some real-world cash for a quicker race to the level cap. There’s a meta feature called ‘Road to 99’ which further goads you into splurging for quick upgrades, and the game feels miserly in its naturally-earnt rewards. If you put this out of your mind though – and the slew of real-world advertising that is rife within the title – you can have a perfectly enjoyable, but longwinded, road to the top.
- 1 2