Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! This is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to basketball video games, the real NBA or another area of interest to our community, either as a list of five items or in the form of a Top 5 countdown.
Well! It’s certainly shaping up to be an interesting – and somewhat controversial – offseason so far. Some big names are staying put, a few significant players are moving on, and at least one key free agent has completely changed his mind. I was considering writing about a topic related to the offseason for this week’s Friday Five, with the DeAndre Jordan situation being an obvious frontrunner. However, I can pretty much sum up my thoughts on that in ten words: it was a situation that was handled very, very badly.
Besides, as I mentioned in last week’s Five, I want to concentrate on putting out some articles about basketball video games, since that is the focus of the NLSC after all. The Finals and Playoffs offered an incentive to talk about real basketball, but as we find ourselves in the offseason and waiting for more news on both NBA Live 16 and NBA 2K16, I feel some game related topics are in order. To that end, this week I’m talking about five game modes in basketball video games that I ended up enjoying more than I thought I would. Let’s tip things off with a mode from NBA 2K!
There was a time when I had very little interest in single player career modes. I was far more interested in team-oriented modes, particularly NBA Live’s Dynasty. When it came to NBA 2K’s modes, I was just disappointed that NBA Live couldn’t match what I saw Association bring to the table – indeed, I’d still like to see Dynasty take a few pages out of MyLEAGUE’s book – and as such, I didn’t pay much mind to My Player. That’s not to say that I couldn’t see the appeal of single player career modes, but they just weren’t for me. Nevertheless, I did check them out each year, in part to write up a more complete review, but also to see if they would draw me in.
Come NBA 2K13, the newly re-branded MyCAREER did just that. Once again, I started a MyCAREER game simply for the purpose of giving some thoughts on it in a written review. I continued to play it until I put NBA 2K13 aside, and as I’ve said before, it became one of my favourite basketball video game experiences. The depth, the journey, even the fake Twitter…I loved it all! Unfortunately, the new approach to MyCAREER on New-Gen hasn’t resonated with me nearly as much; I feel I can’t role play as much as I’d like, and I don’t care for the arrogant character. Perhaps NBA Live’s Rising Star can evolve into a mode more like MyCAREER on Prior-Gen.
2. Ultimate Team
Since I don’t play Madden or FIFA, and Ultimate Team didn’t make its debut in the NBA Live series until NBA Live 14, I wasn’t that familiar with the concept up until the past couple of years. It always sounded vaguely interesting, something that I’d check out and perhaps spend a bit of time with, but only for a change of pace between other modes (primarily Dynasty). As it happens, it’s quickly become one of my favourite modes. After spending a reasonable amount of time with it in NBA Live 14, I’ve actually been playing Ultimate Team far more than Dynasty in NBA Live 15.
To be fair, that’s because Dynasty Mode in NBA Live 15 is still lacking some of the depth that I want to see. I also want full control over my substitutions, and due to the bug in NBA Live 15 that disables automatic substitutions and timeouts by the CPU when the setting is toggled for the user, that’s a little more difficult than it should be. Even so, with Dynasty set to receive further enhancements in NBA Live 16, I still anticipate playing a fair amount of Ultimate Team in the future. Maybe it’s because I collected basketball cards as a kid, or maybe it’s just a newer and fresher experience. Maybe it’s a bit of both. In any event, it’s a mode that’s quickly won me over.
3. Online Team Play
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a huge fan of online gaming, whether we’re talking about basketball games, first person shooters, or any other genre. You can go back and check out my previous Friday Five discussing why I’m not a big online gamer when it comes to NBA Live and NBA 2K, but the main reasons are the appeal of the single player offline modes, and general style/experience of online basketball gaming (including poor sportsmanship). However, when EA Sports pushed through the update that added Online Team Play to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of NBA Live 08, I definitely had some fun with it on 360.
Following the launch of Online Team Play, we started arranging times where some of us from the NLSC Team and a handful of regulars from the community would jump online and get a few games in. A couple of times, NBA Live developers and community managers joined in on the fun, and EA themselves organised a few OTP games featuring the developers taking on the community in a first in, best dressed, open invitation. It was always fun when you had ten users on ten different consoles trying to work together as a team, and it was just a very cool concept. I’d definitely like to see it return in some form.
4. Remix Tour
I know I’ve said it before, but NBA Jam by EA Sports (the game released in 2010) is an underrated release, hampered by the cancellation of NBA Elite 11, and a couple of misunderstandings. While the follow-up NBA Jam: On Fire Edition was a superior title with a better campaign mode (Road Trip), the reboot of NBA Jam was a solid arcade basketball game that did some creative things in the form of the Remix Tour. Whereas the Classic Campaign was a tad monotonous and restrictive, the Remix Tour – true to its name – mixed things up for a fresh approach to gameplay.
In addition to providing challenging match-ups and games with altered rules, the Remix Tour also featured boss battles, Elimination, Domination, 21, and Backboard Smash. I was a little wary of the mode at first: being an NBA Jam fan since the 90s, I feared it might be too gimmicky, too radical a departure from what made Jam so much fun. As it turned out, it was a very welcome addition to the game, adding considerable replay value compared to its predecessors. Combining and reworking the Classic Campaign and Remix Tour into Road Trip in OFE made things even better, but the Remix Tour was definitely a mode that I enjoyed more than I thought I would.
5. BIG Moments
This one’s slightly different to the first four items on the list. It was tough to come up with a fifth entry this week; the first four modes I’ve written about came to mind fairly quickly (and indeed, pretty much that in order), but it took me a little longer to think of this one. In fact, I wrote most of this paragraph before I actually decided upon it. It then occurred to me that I was really only looking at the topic from one angle. Whereas I was a little unsure about some of the other modes on the list and ended up liking them more than I thought I would, BIG Moments is a mode that I really liked the sound of, and then ended up liking even more than I expected.
Just as Ultimate Team has been my mode of choice in NBA Live 15, BIG Moments was the mode I spent most of my time with in NBA Live 14. Again, that’s partly due to Dynasty being in need of an upgrade, but EA really came up with a great concept in BIG Moments. Trying to recreate and relive memorable moments is something that most of us have tried to do with basketball video games over the years, and BIG Moments makes that a lot easier, as well as a lot of fun. Some nice improvements were made to the mode in NBA Live 15, and while there are still some issues to fix and further enhancements that could be made, EA has a real winner in BIG Moments.
Along those same lines, Franchise Mode in NBA Live 2000 is worth an honourable mention. I was very eager to try it out all those years ago, and it really exceeded my expectations, truly igniting my passion for that kind of mode.
What are some of the basketball video game modes that you’ve enjoyed more than you thought you would, or exceeded your expectations? 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.