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Hands on preview of NBA 2K18: You need to know about 'The Neighborhood'

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GiveMeSport was invited to play NBA 2K18 two weeks before its scheduled release on September 15 in the UK to experience first-hand some of the giant strides the franchise is making.

And they are gigantic. For those of you that enjoyed the 2K17 installment of the game, one year on some valuable lessons have been learned and there is more to sink your teeth into than ever.

While last year you were able to make your way through selected colleges in the Prelude before getting drafted in the NBA as 'Pres', this year it's a whole different ball game. Pun kind of intended, I guess.

MyCareer has become the cornerstone of this franchise and one could argue there isn't another sports game with a career mode that can touch this.

So what's changed this year? There is no other place to start than The Neighborhood.

The Neighborhood

2K has custom built it's very own city block where your MyPlayer can roam between games and do just about anything.

The first thing we did was head to the gym. You can do sprints, weights and several kinds of exercises to help improve your player. How hard you work depends on the results.

Then we stopped by the NBA store to get some cool threads, Footlocker to get some fresh kicks to take onto the court and the 2K store to play some arcade games. Later on, as you build up your player, you can even DJ at the 2K store!

Of course, everybody wants their player to be their own. Next up on the agenda was to hit up the barber shop to get a unique hairstyle and beard. Then we shimmied next door to the tattoo parlour to give ourselves a nice, distinguishable sleeve.

This is all in one block. And that's before you walk around the corner (or take a conveniently placed subway) to the courts where you can play against your friends that litter the same street. Or, you can just practice slam dunks, jump shots and three-point shooting.

MyCareer

Senior producer Rob Jones said the major thing they have learned with the franchise thus far is that players want to make their own decisions.

"I remember being in a room - it was kind of a focus group, I'm behind the glass, no one knows I'm in there - and we asked them about how they experienced MyCareer.

"And we asked them 'hey, what would make you not want to buy NBA 2K again?' and the answer to a man was 'if they don't do story mode'.

"The thing we took away from that was, users want to have a purpose. A story-driven line will usually give you that. They want to be entertained. Whether it's comedy, entertainment or a rewards system - and they want to have choice.

"We found that one out the hard way because of trying to do the Spike Lee thing and getting the reaction like 'hey, that's not my story'"

Well, this year, there is plenty of choice and both MyCareer and MyGM are deeper than ever. Interaction is the key to everything and how you choose to respond to situations will make the bed you ultimately lie in.

Road to 99

What do you want to do once you've created your MyPlayer? You want to be good, right? You need virtual currency (VC) to do that, but the ultimate goal is to be the greatest and reach that holy grail of a 99 rating.

Everything is geared towards that this year. As we mentioned before, you can go to the gym and work out your strength and speed. In the game, we found that even just recording a rebound or scoring a certain type of jumper would give you increased VC at the end of that game.

You're in total control. As Jones explains, instead of picking one type of layer you want to be like last year, there will be different shades to the kind of player you choose to be now.

"Every time you create a different combination of archetypes (sharpshooter, slasher etc) - your primary and secondary - you're saying you're trying to be a different player.

"Imagine, right: passing and ball handling and then you have shot creating, but what if I reverse those? That would change what my attributes would be able to max-out to as a player?

"So the idea is to change the variety of player you will come up against. We wanted more flexibility for the user to determine who he wants to be," Jones said.

Gameplay

The gameplay is ultimately the most important thing and Jones acknowledged that. When we got to play the game, it felt the smoothest yet, especially on defence.

The graphics are outstanding. Every player's body type has been nailed to a tee and you could be forgiven for being in awe of your surroundings at any given moment. The meticulous detail on the court is mind blowing.

If I could sing the praises of one aspect of the game, the gameplay and graphics would win handsomely. And that's no shot at the rest of the game.

First impressions

The amount of content is actually astounding. It's daunting as much as it is exciting, but if you're a fan of the MyCareer and MyGM modes like myself, there is no way you're going to get bored of playing this. And that's the goal really.

It's still heavily reliant on VC. Luckily, 2K gave me a generous amount to explore with while playing the game but nearly everything leads back to that while playing MyCareer. The system makes sense, but it still holds a perpetual and almost overbearing presence.

Still, having everything in one spot for MyCareer is very exciting and with the new all-time teams and the revamped MyTEAM, there is something for everyone without a doubt.

UK gamers can pre-order to play on September 15. Worldwide, you can pre-order your copy of NBA 2K18 today and play four days earlier than the September 19 release date!

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