NBA 2K18 by 2K sports hasn't had any problems making headlines ahead of the game's September 15 release.
Not only does 2K Sports have another mountain of hype on its hands because of the new features offered atop a strong base game, the Cleveland Cavaliers possibly trading Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics has the game's cover star in a state of flux.
Irving is one of three covers this year, with DeMar DeRozan gracing the Canadian edition and Shaquille O’Neal on the special editions. The marketing side of things going with three different cover boys is smooth and meshes well with all the new items the developers continue to throw atop the best basketball simulation on the market.
Actually, let's stick with the marketing side of things for a little while longer here, because the soundtrack—one of the game's most important new elements on an annual basis—looks great. Not only does it feature a wide range of genres, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers has two tracks on it.
As for actual new gameplay features, it is all about MyGM: The Next Chapter this year, and nothing else even comes close.
EA Sports just threw down the gauntlet in Madden 18 with Longshot mode, a story-based affair with real mo-capped actors. 2K Sports, arguably the original innovator in the story-driven arena for sports games, is at it once again.
This time users will control a former player six years removed from a career-ending injury who takes over a franchise. NBA 2K18 senior producer Erick Boenisch broke down the mode in depth on a Facebook post.
"With NBA 2K18, we are introducing an experience you won’t find in any other game; a narrative-driven story-based franchise experience that maintains all of the user control and team building aspects that you have grown to love from MyGM over the years," Boenisch wrote.
The distinctions here are both important and thrilling. MyGM: The Next Chapter is literally a story mode about a user acting as general manager negotiating deals behind the scenes. MyLEAGUE is still the usual franchise mode fans know and love with additional improvements. MyCAREER is back and once again strictly focused on a user's career on the court.
Other general new features mentioned by Boenisch include the new CBA and the "super max" contracts signed by guys like Chris Paul this offseason. Roster minimums, stashing players overseas, trading rights, stretch provisions, exceptions and so much more are now making their way into all modes.
MyLEAGUE deserves to be singled out on its own for improvements to online play in up to 30 players per league. Notable new oft-requested features there include team relocations, an actual player creator and more.
Speaking of mode-spanning improvements, the new Analytics Tool is something users will want to take a deep dive into given the sport's growing emphasis on advanced metrics:
On the court itself, the biggest change fans will notice right when they pick up the sticks is how players move.
In this regard, 2K Sports has decided to roll the dice on a new movement system, explained by the NBA 2K18 Gameplay Blog:
"Some of our top engineers spent the entire dev cycle working on a new motion engine and it turned out to be a huge game changer. To put it simply, movement is no longer driven by animations in NBA 2K18. Now, the stick input and a player’s attributes are the sole components driving how your character moves around the court."
A year-long process after years of the same animation-driven system means a more responsive product where the styles of different stars can stand out.
Elsewhere on the court, fans might notice a familiar voice during games:
So far, it seems 2K Sports walks a tightrope between risk taking and reaching for more accessibility in the same way Madden did.
The deepest simulation in sports game seems set to get even deeper this September, with new ways to go behind the scenes and better gameplay offering another total package seemingly set to trump the last.
Fans of the series can get their hands on it on September 15.