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NBA 2K16 is absolutely everything you can ask for from a sports game

From Chris Bosh video-bombing postgame interviews to Steph Curry fiddling with his mouthpiece before free throws, "NBA 2K16" nails not only the subtle nuances of the on-court action but also the distinctive personalities of the game's brightest stars. Signature celebrations like James Harden's "stirring the pot" or LeBron James' "silencer" are just as present as Harden's patent Euro-step or LeBron's fadeaway, adding a level of authenticity that few sports titles can match. But probably the most attention has been paid to My Player mode, which has you play from the perspective of one player and watch him grow from a limited rookie to eventual star. This year, 2K hired writer/director Spike Lee to oversee the story, and the result is a mixed bag. On a side note, something to expect as you play through any mode of NBA 2K15 is a constant and shameless Sprite promotional barrage.
 
You will see Sprite plastered on the tables, chairs, walls, MyPark and pretty much anywhere you could possibly imagine. Sprite isn’t the only offender as Sprint makes appearances (as well as other brands) but Sprite is the only one that smacks you in the face with a blast of lemon and lime. Pharrell Williams joins this year’s title as the one in charge of the 2K Beats portion, similarly to how Jay Z had the honors a couple of years back. Fortunately his hat did not make it into the game (except for in one of the menus) but all of his choices on tunes did, which for the most part work pretty well in the game. Expect to hear Gwen Stefani’s Spider Webs followed up by Lorde’s Team and A Tribe Called Quests’ Scenario. Pharrell’s eclectic style gives you a good flow of music to ball to while appeasing a large mass of listeners.

 
Last year’s NBA2K15 first offered the My Team mode (which returns this year). Prior to that the 2012 version offered the hugely successful Legends Mode and before even that there was the Jordan Challenge. This year we are treated to LeBron James, Path to Greatness. I have to say that if you are not a huge fan of his then you are kinda screwed. It has some great ideas; playing his games offers not only progression, but access to many different scenarios that play out like a biography. Blocks, steals and tipped balls create cool scrambles and the type of action that is fun, but still realistic. The aforementioned play in the paint is another great boost to gameplay. Playing in the post feels more physical, and drives to the basket aren't as automatic as before. Contesting shots at the rim is far more rewarding in NBA 2K15 than in past versions.
 
With the ability to play each player in a variety of ways, there's more tools at your disposal to try and lock down an opponent. The 2K servers are at it again, or it might be Sony and its PlayStation 4. When I’m not consistently connected to a very high-speed Internet (which has been my life the last few days), I can’t play much of anything in 2K. I can’t access MyCareer or My GM because the 2K servers time out. That leaves you with nothing but Quick Game against the CPU, which has also been reported to not work well offline. One feature that I was never able to access was The Park. The Park allows you to take your My Player to a giant playground with up to another 99 My Players. Here, you get to have pick-up games by choosing “who’s got next?” I’m not sure how much time I will spend here, because I’m curious to see if there is going to be any lasting appeal. It’s in wait-and-see mode."
 
Despite that, NBA 2K manages to feel smooth and relatively intuitive once you get a handle on the analog dribbling mechanics. The controls are helped along by a new shooting gauge; which, after some initial trepidation, helped to refine my timing quite a bit. Intimidating as NBA 2K might feel at first, it becomes shockingly easy to perform a double move around an opponent and drain an easy jumper once you get the hang of the controls. And even with my rudimentary understanding of the tactics, it was obvious enough what I should be doing based on the way my teammates moved around the floor.
 
NBA 2K16 is absolutely everything you can ask for from a sports game. I mean, they had the core gameplay down so well from last year that all they had to do was tweak a couple things, freeing them up to flesh out the presentation and really deliver addictive game modes, but they did much more. No sports game come close to pouring out the same amount of passion or intensive attention-to-detail that Visual Concepts does with this year’s 2K.