I am not a huge fan of basketball. It’s not that i don’t appreciate the sport, but as someone who has never really played, basketball just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I understand, from some of my students, that there’s a lot of positioning and stuff going on at all times, but when i actually watch an NBA game i just cannot keep up with it all, and it becomes watching a bunch of tall guys run back and forth and fall on fans who are sitting way too close to the court why are you allowed to sit there when you could so easily interfere with the game.
It is into this level of knowledge, then, that NBA2K16 was released as this month’s free game on PSPlus. I decided to give it a shake, because i do enjoy playing NHL from time to time, and why not? It’s free. NHL16 (the last game in the series i’ve bought since picking up ‘08 used for PS3 a while back, for reference) had a great tutorial that taught you how to play as you went. It even asks you outright at the start if you have any idea what you’re doing. I figured an NBA game would hopefully do the same thing.
Step 1: Character Creation
We’ll get to that in a bit (spoiler alert: it doesn’t), but first i have to get into the game. Watch an epic opening sequence complete with Demon Michael Jordan and a bunch of other guys i don’t really recognise, check. Go through a bunch of sign-up for online portions of the game, sure, why not. Time to design my character. I get his face somewhere reasonably close to mine, and then decide to jump into the myCareer mode, primarily because maybe if i start out only controlling one person, i can get a handle on what i’m supposed to be doing.
It is here that i am presented with my first hurdle - choosing a position to play. All of these things are pretty much greek to me. Point guard? Power Forward? Small Forward? I know Center probably takes the jump ball, but past that it’s as much a mystery as the rest. I end up going with point guard, because i think i remember hearing that Kyle Lowry is a point guard and i do remember him standing out at the edge of the 3-point zone when i watched those couple of Raptors games in the Conference Finals (I’m Canadian, if you’re wondering why i suddenly cared slightly), and having that to go off of is better than nothing. Scoring preference is next: inside, outside, or default? I go with outside, hoping that shooting 3-pointers is in fact in the job description.
The rest is pretty easy. I leave the height and stuff alone, trusting that the game knows better than i do what my position needs (i noticed it changing my height as i scrolled through the positions, so it clearly has an idea in mind), choose a High School (the one with the Dragons, obviously. Dragons are cool.), and take the number 19 because Steve Yzerman seems as good a basketball hero to emulate as any. Thus does my story begin.
Step 2: I’m in a Movie Now!
Things start up, showing a bunch of motion capture actors. Someone misses a line, the director shows up briefly (i’m made to feel like i should know who this guy is, but i’ve got nothing), and then bam! Video game rendering. It’s at this point i realize i should start taking screenshots, because things are going to get silly.
I’m then presented with the guy who will be playing me in this story, i guess:
The camera zooms in on him for a moment, when he’s abruptly replaced by:
So with that jarring transition out of the way, we move on to an opening sequence for a film. I do like the 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks name. I’m the star, directed by beret guy, yada yada. The game shows a scene at home, and i immediately start to feel weird. I am so clearly adopted it hurts. I’m this one, blazing beacon of whiteness acting like i’m one of the gang. It wouldn’t be so jarring if i hadn’t made the character look so much like me - i would not fit in with these people, but here’s some guy who looks like me, doing it just fine. I mean, just look at me:
I’ve also got a dumb nickname, which even my sister calls me by. Guess that’s one way to avoid having to use a billion actual names.
The game drops me in my practice gym, telling me this is where i’ll level up my skills and can invite friends to do stuff together. I spot a rack of balls in the corner, and the game lets me goof around for a bit. This is good, as it lets me try out some buttons and sort of figure out what they do. I have been told nothing thus far.
I figure out a little bit, then decide to try to level up a bit before i start. I don’t see any XP meters, so i just try leveling a thing up to see what happens.
Oh. I need in-game currency, which the game prompts me to buy from the PSN store. Are we sure this wasn’t designed as a free-to-play game with microtransactions? No, it’s a full sports game, which they charged $80 for at launch? Huh. I guess i’ll try playing games, see if i get money from that. I hope so, because otherwise this experiment is dead in the water before it’s even started. The menu marked “boosts” is not any more encouraging.
Step 3: Home Opener
Ok, time to dive in. I proceed to my first game, the season opener against another high school. Sure. Jump ball happens, my team gets the ball. I move forward, hoping for helpful advice. It doesn’t come. I sort of run around a bit, not knowing what to do. I find the sprint and call for pass buttons in this first possession, the latter leading to everyone running the other way. Oops.
Now i’m on defense. There’s an arrow by my feet, showing me who i should be guarding. That said, i have no idea how to do this. This is the point where i open up the menu and try to read the controls. Most of it doesn’t make a lot of sense and seems super situational, but i find that i can hold L2 and the game will help me out. I do that, and i look like i’m covering my guy, so good enough for now.
Our team scores a few baskets, and we somehow hold the other side scoreless. I make a jump shot, and draw a foul or two and get to take free throws, which i figure out after blowing the first (turns out the rhythm for a free throw is very different from a normal shot).
The game progresses well, with the exception of a few controls i haven’t found yet (it turns out this white man really can’t jump - rebounds were not pretty), we win the game. Yaaay! Go dragons! Though really, that aviation club they were talking about after the game sounded super fun. Somehow i doubt the game will let me go sign up.
After the game, a bunch of guys from a bunch of universities show up and try really hard to impress me.
That’s wonderful dude, but absolutely none of those names mean anything to me. After spouting a bunch of praise for their respective schools, they left me with letters offering me a basketball scholarship. So that’s nice.
After an hour, i feel like i still know almost nothing about basketball. My team won the game, sure, but i have no idea if i was where i was supposed to be or shooting when i was supposed to shoot. I did discover the jump button via the game’s training videos (of which there are 3, totaling all of maybe 2 minutes combined), but i still feel like i’m flailing around in the dark, throwing a ball at a hoop and hoping things work out. All things considered though, life isn’t so bad in the projects. I’ll be back. After all, we have such a nice house.
Do feel free to offer feedback on this piece, as it’s the first of its kind i’ve ever really written. Also let me know if this is a story you’d like to see continued, as that can be arranged if there is a demand.