NBA 2K18 Gameplay Hands-On Impression: My 5 favorites things about the new game

After spending eight hours playing an early build of NBA 2K18 at 2K headquarters in Novato, California, I’d describe the experience with two words: enhanced realism.

For fans who are more interested in an arcade-like hoops experience, that might be a turnoff, but for gamers who love their sports games as close to real life as possible, you’ll be excited about the direction of this year’s game.

Here are the five best things about gameplay.

NBA 2K18 Hands-On: Revamped shot meter

The shot meter returns in NBA 2K18, but it has a different look that is easier to follow. It’s now vertical as opposed to circular. Green releases still mean almost guaranteed success, but in this year’s game, you can customize the meter’s color.

That means a perfect release can now be blue, green, red, orange, pink or any color you choose.

NBA 2K18 Hands-On: Revamped shot feedback

Accompanying the revamped shot meter is a new-look shot feedback graphic. Whenever you take a shot, you’ll see a reading that tells you how open your player was for the shot and how close you were to a perfect release.

It isn’t visually obtrusive, and it’s great instant feedback on every shot. If gamers pay attention, they can not only learn the correct shot release for every player, they can also gain a feel for when they’re actually open to take a shot.

NBA 2K18 Hands-On: More clear representation of strength

Size and strength matter more than ever in NBA 2K18. Bigger guys with heft are difficult to back down in the low post, and vice versa, larger guys tend to move defenders easier close to the basket.

This enhanced piece of realism forces you to make good decisions when trying to maneuver in the post.

NBA 2K18 Hands-On: Dribble moves feel more intuitive

NBA 2K17 had a great deal of dribble moves, but you didn’t always feel totally in control of every move you tried to execute. This felt much better in the early build of NBA 2K18.

It felt as though you could guide players where you wanted to take them, and there wasn’t as many instances of players being stuck in undesirable animations.

NBA 2K18 Hands-On: Bigger gap between stars and average players

Stars stand out in a major way in NBA 2K18. When you’re controlling them on offense, the better players feel as though they have more options to score.

In NBA 2K17, you could pass the ball around and wait for average players to cut to the rim. Sometimes you could run this strategy to a point where a guy like Robin Lopez of the Chicago Bulls might wind up with 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the field.

That kind of line will be much more difficult for any player in NBA 2K18, especially a marginal offensive threat.

The NBA is a star-driven league and the same concept powers NBA 2K18.

More sports gaming news and updates

Love sports games? Check out more content from Mic, including tips for leveling up your NBA 2K17 MyPlayerplaying quarterback in Madden 17, our review of MLB The Show 17 and the classic Nintendo sports games we want to see on the Switch.