There are plenty of factors to point to when explaining why NBA 2K17 is a high point in the series' history. Chief among them may be the level of customization it affords its players.
Even with all the time and energy Visual Concepts and 2K Sports put into each team and player—including ratings, appearances, rotations, game plans, playbooks and more—the option to rework all of it is available.
And on top of that, the MyCareer mode and its accompanying facial-scan technology have been revamped for more accuracy.
The depth to which players can go to make this game their own is staggering. We'll explain why by breaking down the customization tools available in a number of different modes throughout 2K17.
As it has for a few years now, 2K starts with the MyPlayer mode. Users can take control of an individual created player and walk him through an NBA career as one might take an adventurer through a role-playing game.
The big difference in this year's iteration is the new method for scanning one's face into the game. Players can now download the My NBA 2K17 app to their phone, which takes a series of pictures that are then uploaded to the game.
The on-screen instructions in the app are easy to follow, though sometimes difficult to execute. It took four or five attempts before a workable mock-up of my face was available for use. And even then, there were some glitches attached to my player:
However, these issues weren't persistent and didn't affect the meat of the game mode.
Once you have your face uploaded to the game, you can tweak just about every contour imaginable of your player's head and face. Height and weight are obviously adjustable, as well as position and playing style. And there are plenty of hairstyle, facial hair and accessory combinations to play around with.
In the past, one thing you didn't have a ton of control over in MyCareer was your player's attributes (unless you sprang for VC Points). But 2K even has that covered this year. Brian Mazique of Forbes Magazine broke down the new method for building up your player's skill level:
It’s called Doin’ Work and it is my favorite new aspect of MyCareer. Back before the single-player concept had its name changed from 24/7 to MyCareer, grinding in practice and pick-up games was a part of improving your guys’ stats.
It felt like that aspect of the player development and skill sustenance was being ignored. Doin’ Work encompasses live practices, drills like weight lifting, squats, vertical leap drills and more.
It’s basically all of the things real players have to do to stay on top of their game. The best part of the new feature is the meter. Gamers always pay attention to meters because it serves as a constant barometer for success, and it defines your goals.
When the Doin’ Work meter fills up, you’ll then be able to obtain the upgrades and attribute points to raise your game. Tracking progress is the key to engagement in any endeavor.
Gaming is no different.
This, as well as the ability to go to the park or hang out on off days, is where the role-playing element of the game comes in. To improve your player's abilities, you have to earn VC points, which can then be used to buy attribute upgrades. If you want to play it straight (and not pay extra money), this can be a painstaking process.
But hey, it's not like improving at real basketball is that easy either.
If you're at all like me, you pridefully think you know best when it comes to player ratings. Fortunately, the people over at Visual Concepts seem a bit more humble and allow for complete customization of those ratings.
From the options menu, you can access the Roster Creator. There, you're allowed to tweak any player's vitals, body, shoes, gear, accessories, attributes, tendencies, hot zones, signature shots and moves or contract—in a word: everything.
Additionally, you can easily assign players to different teams, edit and assign plays, rework game plans and switch up coaching staffs. There's seemingly no stone you can't turn over.
Also found within the Roster Creator submenu is the option to create a draft class, as well as the classic create-a-player option. For rosters and draft classes, you have the ability to upload your creation and give the masses access to your genius.
Once I feel I've sufficiently tweaked the roster to my liking, I take it to a franchise mode. Here again, 2K has increased the level of customization.
There are now six different season modes (for lack of a better term).
With MyGM, you have the role-playing aspect of MyCareer, only this time you're an executive. Be prepared to deal with coaches, scouts, ownership and fans as you try to steer your organization to championships.
For the 2K control freak, there's the MyLEAGUE mode. Here, you're still allowed to make adjustments to players after the franchise mode has started. So, if you simulate a month and don't like what you see in terms of stats and records, you can fix the attributes and tendencies of any player.
MyLEAGUE Online allows all of the same, but in an online format where you can compete with friends from your Xbox or PlayStation network.
The Start Today mode allows you to "Play with your favorite team as you continue the NBA season from today's date using all of the real NBA stats, standings, and injuries." This will be a nice option if you feel like starting up a virtual season in the middle of the real one.
Finally, single season and playoff modes are pretty self-explanatory. One fun option there is starting a playoff mode with a friend that features a fantasy draft. You can then have your teams match up in the first round for a seven-game series.
Overall, there's nothing to complain about in terms of customization with NBA 2K17. The potential for glitches with face scans is there, but it's something Visual Concepts can iron out over time through updates.
Gameplay and presentation have been critical in this series' rise in the gaming landscape, but 2K wouldn't be what it is without the control it gives to its players.
Customization Rating: 10/10