Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of the five worst things in five of my favourite basketball video games.
I’ve been playing basketball video games for many years now, and there are several titles that stand out as my favourites. I’m probably overdue to write an article where I rank them, either in Monday Tip-Off or as a multi-part Friday Five series. With over two decades’ worth of games, the arcade and sim subgenres, and more than one series among my favourites, a Top 5 wouldn’t be sufficient. I feel I’d end up making some very contrived selections in order to make the list of five as varied and interesting as possible, which wouldn’t necessarily allow it to be completely accurate and honest.
Obviously, games become our favourites because of their strong points. The titles we love the most are the ones that offer the best combinations of quality gameplay, deep modes, and memorable features. They’re the ones that we’ve spent hours upon hours with, creating many fond memories on the virtual hardwood. However, even the best games and the ones that rank as our personal favourites have their problems. It’s rare that there isn’t one thing that bugs us, one thing we can point to as being the worst aspect of a game that we otherwise hold dear. With that in mind, here are five of the worst things in five games that I’d rank among my personal all-time favourites.
1. Charging Fouls in NBA 2K17
I recently went back and played a bit of MyCAREER in NBA 2K17 PC. I’d played the mode extensively on PlayStation 4, where I actually managed to get a decent face scan into the game, but didn’t really touch the PC version at all that year. The reason I dusted it off was to get a few screenshots, check out offline MyCAREER, and maybe pick up a few Steam Achievements while seeing if NBA 2K17 was still as fun as I remembered. NBA 2K17 does have a lot of strong points when it comes to player movement and shooting mechanics, but upon replaying the game, I was reminded of one of its worst issues: it’s far, far too easy to be called for charging fouls.
This may have been less of a problem in Play Now and MyLEAGUE, but if you were playing any mode that didn’t allow slider adjustments – such as MyCAREER and its online modes, or MyTEAM – you’d suffer a ton of unfair charging foul calls. Needless to say, online gamers exploited this for all it was worth, flopping to draw charges before you’d even crossed halfcourt. For all the adjustments that were made in the NBA 2K17 patches, this issue was never fixed. It was also present at launch, so going back to an earlier version on Steam doesn’t resolve it either. I still rank NBA 2K17 as one of my favourite games, but those terrible charging foul calls were just the worst!
2. Primacy Recalculation in NBA Live 06 (PC & Prior Gen)
NBA Live 06 PC is an overlooked release, owing to the fact that NBA Live made a rather unsuccessful leap with the Xbox 360 version that year. As I noted in my 25th Anniversary of NBA Live retrospective, this meant that NBA Live 06 was a tale of two games: the last great all-around release on PC and prior gen, and a next gen flop. With that being said, NBA Live 06 PC wasn’t perfect. It was a great game for its day, but even at the time we noticed its issues. The worst problem would have to be the Primacy Recalculation that occurred in Dynasty and when creating players. Removing access to Primacy in Create/Edit Player was also an annoyance in the first place.
Primacy Recalculation was, as the name implies, a feature that caused the players’ Primacy ratings – the attribute that determined how many shots they took and how much they scored in gameplay and simulation alike – to be recalculated. It was intended as a way of adjusting everyone’s Primacy in the event that players were injured or traded, in order to redistribute shot attempts. The problem was that the adjustments weren’t always very logical, and in the event of an injury, the old ratings weren’t restored when a player returned to the lineup. We ended up creating batch files to restore the original ratings, but it was still messy, and obviously a PC-only fix.
3. Offseason Bugs in NBA Live 2004
When Franchise was revamped into Dynasty in NBA Live 2004, it came as a very welcome enhancement. Franchise was starting to get stale, and Dynasty introduced new staple features that added pleasing depth to the experience. As is often the case, the revamped mode wasn’t without its teething problems. Two of the worst issues revolved around the expanded offseason features. The new training mechanic – both the in-season sessions and offseason training camp – had a bug that resulted in players declining if less than 20% of training time was assigned in any area. It reduced the effectiveness of the feature, especially since it was safer to just skip camp altogether.
The second problem was related to free agency. I ended up covering this in detail in a Wayback Wednesday feature, but the short version is that big names often wouldn’t re-sign or sign on anywhere else when they became free agents. This meant they’d just sit there in the Free Agents, often for years at a time. One could of course cash in on this bug by creating a super team, signing those players to minimum deals. Most of us preferred to use this as a workaround though, signing those players one by one and then trading them back to their previous team, usually for a benchwarmer we’d then cut. It was a viable workaround at least, but it was frustrating always having to do it.
4. Isomotion in NBA 2K11
Whenever I go back and play NBA 2K11, three things usually happen. The first is that I marvel at how good the game is, and how well it still holds up. There’s a reason I want to get my 2020 season roster update for it done as soon as possible. The second is that I accidentally launch a shot from beyond midcourt, when trying to perform a dribbling move with the right stick. This leads immediately to the third thing, which is to remember how much I disliked the original approach to Isomotion, and consider it one of the worst dribbling control schemes in a video game. NBA 2K did a lot of great things that helped it overtake NBA Live, but Isomotion wasn’t one of them.
Look, the original Isomotion is functional. Once I’ve remembered that there’s no right stick dribbling, I can adjust and play the game fine. It does stand out as the worst and weakest part of NBA 2K11’s gameplay, though. The idea of holding a trigger and then trying to perform specific dribbling moves with the same stick used for general player movement is very clunky and cumbersome to me. Right stick dribbling allows for so much more explosiveness and precise player control. I do hold NBA 2K11 in very high regard and I’d rate it as one of my favourite basketball games, but the old Isomotion system has never been to my liking, and is one of its worst features.
5. Inability to Block Dunks in NBA 2K13
NBA 2K13 is the game that got me hooked on MyCAREER for years to come, and I had one of my favourite basketball gaming experiences as a result. It’s also the first time that NBA 2K adopted right stick dribbling, and as I just mentioned, I was never a fan of the original Isomotion mechanics. To that end, NBA 2K13 became one of my favourite games in the series. Once again though, no game is perfect, and as much as I enjoyed it, NBA 2K13 did have its faults. One of the biggest problems that I think everyone remembers is the complete inability to block dunks. Unless a player blows the dunk or is fouled hard, it’s a guaranteed bucket. Slams just can’t be sent back.
It was such a prominent issue that the developers made a point of mentioning that it would be possible to block dunks in NBA 2K14. While the inability to block dunks is one of the worst aspects of NBA 2K13, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it all the same. It was a lot of fun to dunk over and over again with my player, especially since jumpshot mechanics and feedback still left something to be desired back then. It at least placed both the user and CPU at the same advantage and disadvantage, so it evened out. Although it didn’t ruin the game for me, objectively speaking, not being able to block dunks or have dunks blocked is one of the worst things in NBA 2K13.
What are some of the worst things – be they errors, gameplay issues, or undesirable design choices – in some of your all-time favourite basketball games? Have your say in the comments section below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.