After a long summer drought of information, Visual Concepts and 2K Sports are finally opening up about the changes heading to its beloved basketball franchise. We went hands-on with NBA 2K17 to experience the new changes to the gameplay, investigate how the franchise/online modes are evolving, and try out "The Prelude," the pre-release MyCareer content coming September 9 that lets you check out the new player creation engine and take your prospect through his first year of college.
Here's a bullet point breakdown of all the changes we spotted.
- The first thing we noticed upon booting up the game is the streamlined menu system. NBA 2K17 trades in the busy user interface of the past few games for a minimalist design that gets you into favorite game modes much more quickly.
- Crowd reactions are receiving a major overhaul in NBA 2K17, and the differences were immediately noticeable. We quieted home crowds by shutting down an opposition run, and even forced fans to head for the exits early during blowouts. Visual Concepts says it has also added authentic touches to all 30 arenas, including building-specific sound effects and chants.
- Play-by-play man Kevin Harlan and color commentator Greg Anthony will be joined by guest analysts throughout the season, including Chris Webber, Brent Barry, Steve Smith, and Doris Burke.
- David Aldridge is taking over the regular sideline duties from Doris Burke.
- To bring the in-game coaching huddles more authenticity, Visual Concepts has added more than 200 new coach mic-up clips.
- Expect to hear more player chatter during dead-ball situations.
- 2K is doubling down on its RealVoice interviews with more than 300 new mid- and post-game interviews with players and coaches.
- Both summer league and hoops summit have commentary support.
- Gameplay director Mike Wang has two major goals for NBA 2K17 – to make the game look more like real basketball and to make it feel better in players hands. "I really want the game to be about what the user does on the sticks and making sure that the better users always come out on top instead of having things come out more randomly or just based on the players attributes," he says.
- Player onboarding has always been a weak spot for the series, and Visual Concepts hopes to address this shortcoming with the new 2KU. This new tutorial, which is narrated by Team USA/Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, extends beyond basic controls and into basketball education so new players can better understand rudimentary concepts like who to defend on the pick and roll.
- Fatigue plays a big role in the minute-to-minute play. Gone are the days of spamming turbo up and down the court – doing so once will drain your stamina, adversely affect your shooting accuracy, and potentially increase your odds of picking up an injury The new system makes you better discern when to slam on the accelerator.
- Last year Visual Concepts felt it was too easy to get perfect shot releases, so for NBA 2K17 the team rebuilt the shot meter. The most exciting part about this change is that all shots are releasable instead of just being automated animations. This includes layups, hook shots, floaters, full-court heaves, and even half-court shots. Each type of shot has its own timing aspect to it. Wang says the system will be more forgiving this first year as players learn the intricacies, giving those who nail the timing a boost on the shot rather than punishing those who haven't mastered it.
- Visual Concepts also added an aiming mechanic for those who shoot with the right analog stick. You can directly affect whether the shot is online or a bit to the left or right. This is a feature that 2K can continue to tune after the game release.
- On defense, more responsive movement helps you better keep your defender between the dribbler and the hoop. Wang says you can better bottle up guys online this year.
- To aid pickpockets, Visual Concepts overhauled the stealing system. The new approach better rewards good timing and aiming of steal attempts. If the ball is exposed there is a higher chance of coming away with the steal, and those protecting the ball have a higher chance of getting fouled. You can make left- or right-handed steals and strip the ball away as well.
- The overhauled playcalling system is all accessible by tapping the left bumper. When the play call wheel comes up, you can choose between quick plays, smart plays, and new dynamic plays that analyze the personnel on the court and make a recommendation that fits your team's attacking style. You can still choose an individual player and cycle through all his plays as well.
- During timeouts, the reworked coaches clipboard should allow you to make lineup and strategy adjustments more quickly than in the past.
- Visual Concepts worked on offensive A.I. to improve the way sharpshooters find openings. Last year they realized through simulations that great three-point shooters like Steph Curry didn't really hunt for threes. This year, they will perform step backs to get behind the three-point line and better identify long-range shooting opportunities.
- The dribbling system seems to be under a constant state of construction, and Visual Concepts is making changes yet again to give players more control. The drawn out signature animations are being broken up; now you need to string multiple moves together to make these signature plays happen.
- Expect to see more physical rebounding animations. In our play session, we noticed more collisions in the paint both on the way up to retrieve an errant shot and while landing. Players wrestle the ball from one another, perform back taps, and work more aggressively toward tip-ins and put-backs.
- Not many modern NBA stars play with their backs to the basket, but Visual Concepts is still working to make the post play feel more nuanced and streamlined. The changes to movement this year include new backdown animations and resolutions when you drive or spin off a defender.
- Situational Motion is getting another layer of polish, as defensive players now have more contextual awareness of where they are on the court. 2K says they now move in a more believable way thanks to improved foot planting and a new off-ball collision system.
- As with previous entries, MyCareer puts you in the shoes of a heralded hoops prospect. This year you take over his career right before national signing day.
- You have 10 schools to choose from – Arizona, Georgetown, Illinois, Kansas, Louisville, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Texas, UConn, and Wake Forest.
- MyCareer features a new player creation system that includes the ability to scan your face into the game using the MyNBA2K17 mobile app.
- To prevent every player at every position from being dominant at every facet of the game, this year Visual Concepts introduces the concept of player archetypes to the creation system. You need to choose what position you will play, as well as what kind of player.
- Player type options include sharpshooter, playmaker, lockdown defender, slasher, shot creator, glass cleaner, etc.
- Each player type has its own set of rating caps for the various skills in the game.
- New body types give you greater control of how your character looks, as well.
- The Prelude takes you from Midnight Mania to the National Championship game, and how you perform will affect your draft stock.
- The games in our demo were only six minutes a half, and the coaches annoyingly pull you at crunch time yet again even if you're leading the team in scoring by a large margin. I hope this gets corrected for the final release.
- Your team grade and stats combine to give you a point total, which tells you how well you did in each game.
- You can spend VC to make your player better in The Prelude.
- Unlike the uneven Spike Lee offering last year, this year's MyCareer puts less of an emphasis on off-the-court drama and focuses more on interactions with teammates, coaches, and other players in the league. That said, your college years do include interactions with your family, high school coach, closest teammate, and a love interest.
- Expect to see more cutscenes in the arena tunnel and in the locker room than in years past.
- The coolest new feature in MyCareer may be the addition of a fictional teammate played by Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Chronicle, The Wire). This character, named Justice Young, is the Robin to your Batman. Your goal is to become the next great dynamic duo in the league, following in the footsteps of Michael Jordan/Scottie Pippen and Shaq/Kobe.
- Young will workout with you on your MyCourt after hours, as well as the end-of-the-bench comic relief player Denver Levins.
- A Jim Rome-like television pundit named Jason Richmond chronicles your development and exploits throughout your career.
- Visual Concepts has put more work into streamlining the off-day simulation to give you more activity options on your days off.
- Endorsements received a makeover to trigger certain opportunities based on your play style, popularity, and the market size of the franchise you play for.
- The player connections from last year return, giving you a chance to interact with some of the NBA's most recognizable faces, but don't expect as many options as last year. Visual Concepts is taking a quality over quantity approach this year.
- MyCareer expands the live practice concept this year under a new banner called "Doin' Work." The basic concept is whether you are scrimmaging with teammates, performing drills, or just shooting around the gym, you are filling the Doin' Work meeting. 2K said you may run into other players when shooting late at night, as well.
- MyCourt gets a greater role in MyCareer this year, as this home base will appear more frequently in the story instead of a random apartment you didn't design. Shooting at home on your MyCourt also fills your MyCourt meter.
- You can invite virtual friends to check out your court and play games together.
- Perform well enough during a game and you may get interviewed by Shaq and Kenny from the studio.
- Coaches now offer dynamic strategy suggestions during timeouts based on how you are playing.
- As we previously discussed, MyGM brings league expansion into the fold this year, with capacity for 36 teams.
- In this mode the potential for league expansion is brought to a league vote in the offseason. Your team's owner will ask you how you want to vote, and that will essentially determine whether the league goes through with it or not.
- If a team is added, the jersey and location are randomly selected from the 10 preset options Visual Concepts created. Senior producer Erick Boenisch told us these weren't hastily slapped together designs, either. He challenged the team to come up with designs that fit with the modern spirit of the NBA.
- Each of the 10 teams has full commentary support. Visual Concepts also added commentary for the return of the Seattle Supersonics since it knows many fans will add them immediately.
- If you want, you can start the MyGM mode in control of an expansion team, making all the crucial drafting and free agency decisions to build a contender.
- This year introduces some new trade wrinkles, including the ability to trade players at any time during the offseason, pick protections, and pick swaps. The pick protection essentially lets you protect your rights for a traded pick if it ends up in the lottery, a tactic many NBA teams use.
- Adding offseason trades required the team to rebuild its team logic to better anticipate who it plans to resign, who it plans to draft, and who it plans to target in free agency.
- 2K says it has improved the trade rumors in social media, including subterfuge. Don't believe everything you read.
- Owners also come to coaches with dynamic rule changes over the course of your franchise. More than 60 options are available, including minor changes like shortening the shot clock to big financial restructuring like abolishing the salary cap. Just like with league expansion, your vote essentially determines whether or not a rule change is adopted.
- NBA 2K17 gives users control of advanced rotations, meaning you can decide which five players are on the court for every single minute of a game. You can set these up per matchup as well, allowing you to emphasize small ball against lumbering teams or ranged shooting against teams that are effective in guarding the paint.
- New team control options let you add or remove users and swap which teams you control at any point during MyGM.
- The new scouting logic is better at identifying where you are projected to draft and which positions are team needs. It then uses that information to target and scout players that are ideal fits at that point in the draft.
- A frequent fan request – jersey retirements – are now in MyGM mode.
- A nice touch for jersey nuts, this year each new jersey introduced over the course of the NBA season is automatically added to your options in the MyGM and MyLeague modes regardless of when you start the league.
- 2K says it has improved the alternate uniform selection this year, so you should see more variety in the jerseys over the course of the year. This includes historic jerseys.
- The All-Star weekends are getting overhauled for NBA 2K17. Now a new city hosts the event every year, and each has a customized all-star court floor.
- If you don't relocate your team in NBA 2K17, you can still rebrand your home court. This will be a boon for every Timberwolves fan – say goodbye to the horrible eyesore!
- A bunch of NBA rules are making an appearance for the first time, including the playoff roster rule appears this year, meaning players waived after March 1st and signed by another team are not eligible for that season's playoffs The Derrick Rose "5th year 30 percent max criteria" contract signing rule is in this year as well.
- NBA 2K17 tracks dead money, so spend carefully.
- Users have quick access to player editing from any roster sheet this year. You can customize hot zones while editing players this year, as well.
- You can now edit your staff in the Roster Creator.
- Draft classes can be imported and edited at any point.
- Injuries can now occur during the summer league and the offseason. These carry over into the regular season, but happen rarely.
- MyLeague Online is being expanded in its second year. Now you and friends can play through 80 seasons.
- Rather than emulate the NBA draft and free agency (which is hard to do when you are trying to schedule an event with multiple people), MyLeague introduces the concept of "keepers."
- Each player has a designated number of keeper years for which he's eligible to stay on your roster.
- Much like a fantasy league, after each season you need to decide which players to keep and which to release into the free agency pool.
- Players age and regress and prospects develop, so you need to keep this in mind when making roster decisions.
- The player pool includes players with expired keeper contracts, players released, and a new draft class. This should lead to some interesting team building decisions – do you build for a championship now with proven veterans or invest in your franchise's long-term standing with a rookie?
- The admin can customize how many players each team can keep at the end of a season.
- Admins have much more control this year. They can schedule and update the offseason draft time, import custom draft classes, edit prospects, manually pull players out of retirement, set the draft order, and re-run the draft lottery.
- Injuries are added this year.
- MyLeagues can begin with anywhere from 30 to 36 teams, and admins can add new teams during any offseason.
- You can upload your team rebrandings and new teams via the online sharing functionality so anyone can download them. This year you can package the full suite, including arenas, court floors, jerseys, etc.
- Playoffs mode returns, allowing you to jump right into the year-end tournament with teams of your choosing.
- MyLeague Star Today mode returns as well, so you can start a new league on any day during the regular season and port all the real NBA stats, standings, and injuries into the mode.
- 2K says it has improved the MyPark matchmaking so new players won't be constantly posterized by vets.
- NBA 2K17 introduces new park-specific badges.
- Pro-Am games now have new pre-game and post-game intros and celebrations, respectively, and a leveling system.
- The leveling system divides teams into rookie, pro, and elite brackets.
- You reap benefits from being listed on a Pro-Am roster. Each Pro-Am team can have up to eight players on a roster.
- You can finally view full team stats via leaderboards.
- Pro-Am teams can customize their home arenas.
NBA 2K17 comes out September 20 for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.