Dribble moves still help open windows for drives to the basket, but speedy guards like Russell Westbrook can also take lesser defensemen right from the first dribble. Big men feel more power-ful as well, easily backing down smaller defenders when screen switches create exploitable mismatches. The new shot meter feedback system, which communicates how well you timed your release and how contested your shot was, is another welcome inclusion. I just wish it extended to lay-ups as well, because my slashing guard had an inex-plicable amount of easy baskets clank off the rim. This five-star gameplay only has a few weaknesses. It’s still too easy to over-commit when guarding human players, and far too many clipping animations appear all over the court, from one-on-one situations above the key to slashing through defenders in the paint. Over the last several years, 2K has expanded off-court activities in its popu-lar MyCareer mode to include hangouts with NBA stars, fictitious characters, gym workouts, and the like. This year, Visual Concepts takes this progression to its inevitable conclusion with the introduc-tion of The Neighborhood. This GTA-style urban social hub serves as the center-piece for the entire mode. From this small city block, you can head to your NBA reviews training facility for practice, visit the fit-ness center to improve your stamina, enter an arena for a Pro-Am game, or get next on the street courts of The Playground. On your way to these various activities, you can stop to shop at vari-ous apparel stores, get inked at the tattoo parlor, or even get your hair cut and shoot the breeze at the barbershop – all of which cost VC, the in-game currency you earn through performances on the court. This hub is a strong concept, but its execution leaves much to be desired. With only a handful of NPCs on site, the people-watching is limited to other MyPlayers, most of who are standing around like zombies on their phones. The inactivity gives The Neighborhood an unintended 28 Days Later feel; if the streets aren’t disquietingly barren, they are mildly populated with people standing around. The mode could use an injection of interesting NPCs to liven up the streets and more shortcuts for users to load into specific locations. Most years, the MyCareer mode is driven by the NBA experience and accompanying story mode. This year, 2K loosens up the format to let you opti-mize your experience. The game still tells a coming-of-age story about an NBA longshot, complete with 2K’s now-trade-mark annoying secondary characters, social interactions with pro players, and endorsement deals. But if you prefer the spirit of competition in the 5v5 Pro-Am or street games, you can skip the NBA life altogether. The new player progression system allows you to grind for attribute gains and skill badges no matter where you hoop, wisely freeing players to con-centrate on the modes they like best.