Paul George has two first names. Also NBA 2K17 is here.

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Well guys, it’s that time of year again. The new NBA 2K game is out(ish), and as one of the game franchises I tend to enjoy the most and put significant amounts of time into, I want to talk about it.

As of Friday, anyone who decided to preorder the game has had access to it before this Tuesday’s official release date. The whole play before everyone else for preordering thing has always seemed a little weird to me, but here I am playing this game I was pretty sure I’d really enjoy several days early, so I guess I can’t complain.

Let’s just get right into it. The MyCareer mode. This is the main attraction for myself and I’d imagine most players. MyCareer is the scene of the crime of last year’s dumpster fire of a story presented by Mr. Spike Lee. That was the worst thing to happen to the mode in… well, ever. Thankfully that particular brand of garbage is left behind for a story with a bit more sanity and some legitimate acting and storytelling. I’m not going to say this is some riveting masterpiece of a story, but it’s leaps and bounds ahead of last year’s attempt. Michael B. Jordan, recently of Creed fame, stars alongside your created player as another player on whichever team you’re drafted to. Apparently one of the writers of Creed contributed to writing this year’s story, and I feel like that pedigree shows. Converging the on and off the court action by creating story characters that you end up running pick and rolls with and dishing assists to is a really good idea it turns out.

The day-to-day grind of the career mode is something I’m enjoying for the most part. I feel like one of the biggest changes is the emphasis on building your player’s skills. Practice is now more prominent than ever. Every day on the calendar now has multiple time slots in which you can take part in different activities, such as hang out with players, go to promotional events, practice, etc. On game days you’re now able to hit the gym pre-game to develop skills. Off days are even more intense, as you seem to always have four different time slots, all with different things to occupy your off-day should you choose to partake. I started off an absolute gym rat, electing to hit the court for some optional practice at every opportunity. It’s made clear early on that this is important for the long term, as it’s the way to earn additional attribute upgrade points, which you will eventually need down the line in order to build a truly elite baller. It can be so time consuming though to jump into the gym at every opportunity, and so now I’m skipping some of that and just making sure to hit the mandatory practices. Coach seems to be satisfied with that.

You’re still managing endorsements, earning a signature shoe line, demanding trades, all that good stuff. A new text messaging feature has also been added in, making conversations with your agent and other story characters lightly interactive, and actually pretty funny. You’ll often get a couple different ways to reply to someone, and it’s kinda great to get a text from your mom criticizing your turnovers last game and simply reply with a nervous face emoji. I haven’t played a whole ton of MyCareer, but it seems heaps better than last year, thankfully. Looking forward to spending some more time livin’ da dream(!) on my way to multiple championships.

I should mention that in terms of gameplay and how things feel this year, I’m happy with the changes. Defense feels a lot more physical for sure, which I’m pretty sure is something the devs were really going for. Steals feel a lot more dynamic. Swiping at the ball can cause it to squirt out in any direction now, and it can turn things into a mad scramble when you poke the ball loose, as opposed to past years when the ball always just poked free of the offensive player’s hands and fell roughly to their feet directly in front of them every time.

The shot meter is probably the other most obvious and meaningful change. It’s now a half circle around the shooter’s feet, and it makes it pretty clear what release timing you’re going for. Though I’m slightly confused about how the shot button (X on Xbox) differs from the pro stick, which is the right analog stick shooting method. When you pull pack the stick to shoot, it not only gives you release timing feedback, but also angle of the stick pull. You can either pull the stick back or push it forward to shoot, but if you push it to the side at all, it gives you an off-angle penalty to the shot and could cause it to miss in the horizontal direction you accidentally pushed. The confusing part is that by using the button there is no feedback on angle, leading me to believe it’s always perfect, but I guess I’m not sure. It’s certainly possible that the button randomizes angle to a degree and the only way to guarantee the best timing and angle is to use the stick. Perhaps someone else knows and can fill me in here.

Overall I’m really enjoying this year’s game. The menus are cleaned up a bit, the action is tighter than ever, and all of the modes seem to have come together the way you’d want them to. Online play has been fine so far, too, which has been far from a guarantee during the launch period of past NBA 2K entries. I guess we’ll see how the servers hold up when everyone else gets access on Tuesday.

So yeah, two thumbs up from me so far. Anyone else preorder and start playing? Eagerly awaiting Tuesday? Either way let's talk about it!