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Review: NBA 2K18 (Nintendo Switch)By Phoenom At 12.10.2017 13:41

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As the officially-licensed game of the sport itself, NBA 2K18 has a vast pool of resources to draw from, and it does so in spectacular fashion. Acting more like a hub interface than a simple game menu, starting it up leads to a vast number of potential modes and options to try out, with 2K Games' own 2KTV feature bringing current updates via video features. Just starting a basic court game brings up all the pre-match commentary and player focus angles that would be at the beginning of a televised show. Fully up-to-date player rosters, together with classic and legendary teams are present. Not to mention the high amount of licensed music utilised for the game and its menus, plus the huge amount of options that affect gameplay, including difficulty, player speed and handicaps; all completely customisable to a player's liking. The file size for NBA 2K18 on Switch may be rather extensive, but seeing the content on offer helps justify why that is.

Playing basketball itself across one of these many modes is as simple as can be. Analogue stick to move, and button use to initiate one of many pass, dribble and shoot options. Key tactics involve using the right stick in place of the buttons for more advanced manoeuvres, and correctly swapping between players on the team to cover the opposition and gain the best chance for successful shots. There is a fully-fledged tutorial mode, 2KU, which covers all these controls and more, ranging from Beginner level all the way up to Advanced, providing easier access to relapsed or new players. The glossary included is also a useful aide for basketball terminology.

Some modes in NBA 2K18won't actually hit the court, instead providing a more managerial hands-off kind of experience. This is a huge boon for variety and gives NBA 2K18 a more rounded and robust level of content.

NBA 2K18 on Switch carries the key advantage of portability and an instant multiplayer option, at the cost of performance and a slight hit on visuals. Running at 30 frames per second instead of the 60 found on other versions of the game, players of the franchise in recent years may have to adjust, but the game is still perfectly playable in this form, and still retains a solid level of graphical fidelity because of the frame drop. There are some notable differences between Docked and Handheld modes, as well, namely the loading speeds and resolution output both being shorter and greater in the case of a TV hook-up. Due to the smaller detail of Handheld mode it can be more difficult to make out an individual team member's stamina meter under their feet, and with a 5-on-5 match underway it's even more so an issue.

This version of NBA 2K18 is slightly hampered by the game card technology of the Switch, choosing to use a smaller memory size in retail cases and offering the rest of its content as a mandatory download, which can be an issue for Switch consoles not backed up with a MicroSD. Not to mention the huge save file requirement for NBA 2K18, maxing out at a massive 5GB that has to stay on the Switch internal memory.

One aspect to note of NBA 2K18 across all formats is its reliance on a constant online connection, to the extent of blocking off key modes on the main menu if there isn't one. Not such an issue for Switch owners looking for quick multiplayer sessions when on the go, but for the dedicated single player the need to always be online to get the most out of NBA 2K18 is quite a restriction, and downplays the 'anywhere, anytime, with anyone' appeal of Nintendo Switch greatly.

This restriction is likely primarily due to how the MyCareer mode operates. Beginning as a fully customisable created character - 'DJ' - MyCareer takes him from the early days of courtyard try-outs all the way up to NBA big time. Told through excellently voiced cut-scenes, this journey is given free reign between important calendar event dates with a basic hub world, and lots of character design customisation possibilities like haircuts and tattoos, and opportunities to level up overall stats. Building up character stats is where the first major issue for NBA 2K18 shows itself, and one that is difficult to ignore. Virtual Currency, the in-game cash system, is how stat increases and essentially any customisation options in the hub world are purchased. 6,000 is given away at first, which sounds like a lot, but individual purchases can easily take up vast chunks of that cash.

Boosting up stats is the most expensive of all options, and unlike the other cosmetic purchases, is absolutely essential to progress in MyCareer to a significant degree, making matches and training sessions far more difficult than they need to be without the upgrades. 2K Games has remedied this in its own way by offering real-money purchase options for Virtual Currency, ranging from a couple of quid all the way up to prices rivalling this already-full priced title. Of course, currency can still be gained by playing matches normally outside of MyCareer mode, but the small reward given per match and the sheer amount of grinding that would be necessary to gain any notable amount is vast.

As a full priced retail release, NBA 2K18 offers an immense amount of authentic content to enjoy, and comes with a mind-boggling number of modes that seemingly cover all aspects of basketball; both on and off the court. Presentation is top notch, and despite sacrifices had to be made for the game to run well on Switch, run well it does. Internal issues of memory spread, and the questionable nature of micro-transation placement aside, NBA 2K18 on Switch is a notable achievement, and although the current product is no slouch, handheld NBA 2K19 will be one to watch.

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Final Score
Teased as a prime title for the demographic aimed at in the Nintendo Switch reveal trailer, [i]NBA 2K18[/i] achieves that goal of serviceable console play in the portable space, but with notable compromises. Questionable micro-transaction placement and downloadable requirements aside, [i]NBA 2K18[/i] is [i]the[/i] truly authentic basketball experience, and a strong sign of things to come.

7

/10

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