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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that NBA 2K16 is a basketball simulation that you might think is fine for players of all ages, but a story-based mode written and directed by Spike Lee has references to violence, suicide, sex, and alcohol. The words "damn" and "hell" can be heard in dialogue sequences. Gamers who play online could chat with others freely, which some parents might not like, and there is ample in-game advertising and optional purchases.
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What's it about?
When is a basketball game more than a basketball game? When it also has a first-person story-driven narrative written and directed by Spike Lee. This is the case with NBA 2K16, the latest in the 2K Sports franchise. Its MyPlayer mode lets users create a player and go through life on and off the court, personally and professionally, which adds some welcome drama and depth. It also features a number of solo and multiplayer modes, including the new 2K Pro-Am, which lets you customize your team and play five-on-five tournaments with and against others, which can be live-streamed on NBA 2KTV. For the first time in the series, online head-to-head games matter, as your performance is directly tied to unlocking extra content, such as the best NBA teams in history. This year's game features a new physics engine for more realistic player and ball movement, smoother animations, and high-definition character models, courts, and stadiums. Complementing the visuals is an enhanced soundtrack with more than 50 tracks created or mixed by renowned DJs.
Is it any good?
If you're going to buy only one basketball game this year, it should be this one. It's a stellar experience, and the MyPlayer story mode is exceptionally fun, well written, and chock-full of personality. Some of the subject matter might not be ideal for younger kids, since there are sexually suggestive comments and mentions of suicidal thoughts, but as a piece of art fused with basketball, it's a fresh and fun break from the norm. NBA 2K16 feels great to control, looks and sounds top-notch, and offers many modes, game styles, locations, and teams to choose from (or create). Despite some Internet hiccups affecting the performance of the 2K Pro-Am mode, featuring five-on-five tourneys, this mode and the rest of the game are a blast to play and offer a lot of bang for the buck.
Along with the regular modes and the ambitious 2K Pro-Am online mode with built-in spectator support via NBA 2KTV, you can engage in competitive street ball games in the MyPark and Gauntlet modes (with three newly updated parks from last year); and the MyTeam mode lets you collect past and present NBA players, customize your lineup, and play in five modes. Returning this year is the meaty Road to the Playoffs that has you completing challenges, collecting cards, and facing off against rivals, and there's a reimagined MyGM mode, were you can play as manager of a team. With so much to see, do, and play -- and the fact that the game is available on multiple platforms (new and old) -- it's easy to see why NBA 2K16 is simply the best basketball game available this time around. Kudos to 2K Sports for raising the bar once again.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether it's a great idea to have a renowned writer and director like Spike Lee craft an interactive story for a basketball game. Is this unnecessary for a basketball game, as well as a concern for those buying the game for kids, due to the mature topics in the MyCareer mode? Is it a problem that there's no way to lock out this mode for younger players?
Discuss consumerism in sports games. NBA 2K16 shows a lot of corporate logos in an attempt to recreate the experience of broadcast NBA games. Does the inclusion of these logos add to the realism, or are they only being used to push products?
- Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: 2K Sports
- Release date: October 2, 2015
- Genre: Sports
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Great Boy Role Models
- ESRB rating: E10+ for Alcohol Reference, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violent References
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.