The NBA 2K franchise—and I say this without hyperbole—is beyond reproach among basketball video games. Though NBA Live took a brief hiatus, leaving 2K as the only option for a few years, even with both competitors back at it 2K still reigns supreme. It’s not just the ease of the gameplay, which is simple enough that someone who has never touched an Xbox One or PS4 controller could get up to speed pretty quickly, while more experienced users can dive deeper into more complicated moves if they desire. It’s not just the absurd attention to detail with every NBA athlete featured in the game. It’s 2K16’s ability to build on features from previous editions that makes it the most substantial version yet. Here are the five coolest things about this year’s game.
1. MyPlayer Mode Turned Into a Mini-Movie
MyPlayer, which allows you to create your own avatar and have an entire NBA career beginning as a rookie, has been beefed up. The mode is now called “Livin ‘Da Dream,” and it plays out like a movie. Written and “directed” by Spike Lee, it lets you create yourself as one of the top high school basketball prospects in the country, playing for the Parkside Dragons out of Harlem, N.Y.
If you have Xbox Kinect, you have the option to scan your face into the game, but the results can be horrifying. Here’s my image, which doesn’t resemble me at all, but whatever!
Anyway, after making a bunch of high schoolers look silly by draining 3-pointers from half court, I was recruited by a handful of college coaches. I chose Arizona, because it’s sunny there. There was no way I was going to Villanova or Michigan and shovel my car out of the driveway just to get to practice. I’m a superstar, ya hear?
You then move on to the NBA, and so on and so forth, choosing the people you want to include in your inner circle, dealing with agents, committing to sponsorships and a dozen other things. It can seem overwhelming, but trust me, you develop a bond with your digital you, and you will miss him when you go off to work or school and have to leave him for the day.
2. The On-Court Details Are Next Level
While I was playing a game as the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Chicago Bulls, Bulls point guard Derrick Rose went to the free-throw line to shoot two after a clearly terrible call by the ref on a drive to the basket. While Rose was shooting, I watched LeBron James in the background. He was tugging on his arm sleeve, pulling it and adjusting it, just like he does when he needs to fiddle with something during a break in the action during actual games. Fans in the stands hold up Fatheads of their team’s stars. James Harden (above) does his cooking dance after a made 3-pointer.
2K16 showcases all the players and stuffs everything they do—from their shooting motion to how they dribble to their individual idiosyncrasies—into the game. It’s an absurd attention to detail, and it makes the game feel distinctly real.
3. The Music is On Point
The guys at 2K linked up with DJ Mustard, DJ Khaled and DJ Premier, arguably three of the best ever, to take care of this year’s soundtrack, and each DJ got his own playlist to curate. Premier’s has some old school hip-hop flavor, since the 49-year-old has been in the hip-hop game for a long time, with songs like Nas’s “Made You Look” and cuts from GangStarr, the early 90s hip-hop group he formed with emcee Guru. DJ Khaled goes new-school hip-hop, with big anthems like “We Takin’ Over,” and “All I Do is Win,” two of his biggest radio hits. Finally, DJ Mustard gets eclectic with it, featuring bands like Imagine Dragons and Santigold alongside Machine Gun Kelly and Drake.
Unless you’re a country music fan—and why would you ever choose that?—the funk will take over your body.
4. The Player Interviews Make Things Seem All Too Real
You know how when you’re watching an NBA game on national TV and there’s a lull in the action, they cut to a previously recorded interview with one of the players, addressing questions like, “Will you give 100 percent or 110 percent this year?” or “How hard is it to make a lay-up, exactly?” Well, that now happens in 2K16. While I was playing as the Cavs, they kicked it to a digital Kevin Love talking about what it’s like to play with LeBron James. It was Love’s real voice. I did a double take.
Then, at halftime, a virtual Doris Burke wandered over to the sidelines to talk with Derrick Rose before he headed to the locker room. It was Rose’s real voice too! The game even has teammates photobombing each other. Are we sure that real NBA players aren’t trapped inside our gaming consoles, screaming for help?
5. There Are a Ton of Options For Online Play
If you want to take the traditional route and play online as your favorite team against some 11-year-old who hasn’t left the TV room in a week, you can certainly do so. But there’s much more you can do, especially if you’ve got a couple of buddies willing to join in. You can take engage 2K16’s MyPark mode, where you and two friends can play 3-on-3 against others on an outdoor court. You can also hop into Pro Am mode, where you can go 5-on-5 with friends or join a squad looking for one more member. You have a large spread of online options to choose from, and you should definitely dive into each one.