Tucked away in a corner of the X15 Canada space this year were a couple stations running NBA 2K16, the latest iteration of 2K Sports’ long running basketball simulation series. The biggest questions around the VC system used to unlock game items and MyPlayer attributes as well as public challenges with server stability and performance will have to wait for launch later this year as 2K brought a minimalist build of their hoops series to the event.
Gamers had access to limited player options with team choices consisting of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors in a single 5-minute quarter of hard court action, but it was enough to get a feel for the various improvements in this year’s edition after a few abbreviated games. The demo didn’t have the dynamic or set play calling options enabled, leaving me and a friend to make the best of isolation heavy drives or rapid Spurs-esque passing sequences to generate scoring opportunities. The funneling of offensive options without plays actually provide abundant examples of refinements made to 2K16’s AI: automated teammates intelligently set screens, rolled towards the basket to generate scoring opportunities in the paint or sprinted out to the 3-point arc for open looks correctly based on their attributes. You won’t have to worry about Timofey Mozgov senselessly camping out at the corner 3 spot or Stephen Curry running towards a crowd of towering defenders in the paint while waving for the ball anymore!
The overall graphics and sound were difficult to discern on a lower performance demo screen and among a cacophony of game demonstrations and press, but the specific animations are markedly improved from 2K15. Playing a LeBron heavy drive and kick style with the Cavaliers or relying on a flurry of touch passes as the reigning champion Warriors to generate open outside looks is smooth and free of random AI players behaving erratically as in previous installments. Character touches such as current hair and tattoo styles are nice aesthetic updates and the lesser known players such as Matthew Dellavedova have been given the full facial scan and designer cleanup treatment.
The online servers will need to show significant improvements in stability and speed for me to fully return to the NBA 2K series after a few years of ongoing issues, but my time with NBA 2K16 showed a wide range of cumulative improvements that should further increase its lead as the premiere basketball video game.