Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows PC
We played on: PlayStation 4

There is only one reason to play a sports video game—to recreate that sport in the comfort of your home. Unlike other games, which could appeal to a wide variety of audiences for a multitude of reasons, sports games are designed specifically to please die-hard fans of that sport.

If you’re a casual NBA fan or have only a cursory knowledge of the game of basketball, then NBA 2K16 is not for you. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that the sometimes overwhelming breadth and complexity of the game can be too much for even die-hard NBA fans. It’s not the type of game to hold your hand, even though tutorials are abundant when needed. With each yearly entry in the franchise, fundamental gameplay mechanics change, requiring even the most dedicated gamers to relearn how to play.

If you’re not familiar with the NBA 2K franchise, it aims to be the most accurate and realistic recreation of basketball available in the form of a video game. All of the NBA teams and their players are present—complete with their mannerisms and on-court tendencies. It sounds silly, but I honestly lost track of the number of times the game had been mistaken by someone else for a real-life game of basketball. Someone would say in passing, “Oh, the game’s on right now? I thought they didn’t play until…oh, wait. Is that 2K? Wow, it looks just like real life!”

nba 2k16

Looking beyond the on-court presentation and realistic moment-to-moment gameplay, you’ll be presented with a whole host of game modes to choose from. You can be the General Manager of your favorite NBA team in the MyGM mode. You can create your own brand-new basketball team off and online with friends in the MyLeague mode. MyTeam lets you build your ideal NBA team from past and current NBA players.  MyPark brings the fun of street basketball to your living room with your own avatar playing in pickup games online. Finally, there’s the MyCareer mode.

Hands-down, the new MyCareer mode in NBA 2K16 is the most creative feature of this latest iteration. Not only do you get to make your very own player and follow his journey from high school superstar to college standout and future NBA legend, but it’s a fully fleshed-out narrative experience written and directed by the one-and-only Spike Lee.

You’ll be in charge of living the life of a seemingly true-to-life, up-and-coming NBA star. You’ll choose which teams to try out for and which endorsement deals to sign, and manage your off days. It’s about as robust a Career mode as I’ve ever seen in a sports game. However, with that being said, some of it comes across as a bit heavy-handed. The issue with combining a structured story experience with a customization-heavy career mode is that there is an inherent disconnect. The premade cutscenes don’t always match your real performance. If you don’t buy into the often-clichéd story, it can be much less engaging than you’d like.

Fans of the NBA that have been playing the 2K series for a long time will no doubt find this to be one of the most well-rounded basketball games of all-time. While NBA 2K16 can seem like too much to handle, it’s worth the effort. If you take the time to “up” your “stick skills” and know the ins and outs of moving the ball around the court, taking your shots, and juking opponents, it’s one of the most satisfyingly realistic sports simulations ever created.

This article was written by

David lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and loves everything about gaming. He has been writing about games since 2011 and has been writing and editing professionally since 2008. He has degrees in both Technical Communication and Political Science from the University of North Texas. You can find his work across the interwebs at various different publications and you can follow him on Twitter @David_Jagneaux.