NBA 2K6 Preview

With the NBA season just around the corner, we take a look at NBA 2K6's new and improved 24/7 mode.

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With the start of football having occurred within the past two weeks, basketball isn't exactly in the forefront of most sports fans' minds. Still, with the start of the new NBA season not too far away, the next crop of basketball games is nearly ready to be harvested. Among them is 2K Sports' seventh entry in its hoops franchise, NBA 2K6. Along with the standard exhibition and franchise modes common to nearly every basketball game, the NBA 2K series has come to be known for its 24/7 mode, a different take on career mode that's been run through several iterations of the series. This year, 24/7 mode has a new look and a number of new wrinkles, so we took the mode through its paces to give you a look at just what to expect from 24/7 when NBA 2K6 ships later this month.

Take your created baller from obscurity to streetball glory in NBA 2K6's new-look 24/7 mode.
Take your created baller from obscurity to streetball glory in NBA 2K6's new-look 24/7 mode.

The first change to point out is also the most obvious: the name change. In 2K6, 24/7 mode has been given a subtitle: Road to the EBC. As any streetball fan can tell you, "EBC" stands for Entertainer's Basketball Classic, a classic streetball tournament held in New York City's famed Rucker Park. As you might expect in 24/7 mode, your goal will be getting your created player to the famed game in NYC, where your street-hoops skills will be given their maximum test. The road to the EBC is long, however, and it won't be an easy journey. So lace up your sneaks, and let's begin.

Since this is a career mode, the first thing you'll want to do when entering 24/7 for the first time is create your virtual baller. Practically everything is customizable, including your name, number, college, position played--all the way down to specific physical traits such as skin color, moustache style, sideburn length, and build. Just as no aging baseball player goes anywhere without his supplements, no hoops player is complete without his tattoos. And you'll have plenty of tats to choose from and plenty of places to ink up here. Finally, you'll be able to customize the gear you wear on the court, from knee pads to sweat bands, and you'll even be able to design your signature shoe from the ground up.

Once you're done creating your player, you'll move on to the next section: a map of the US with various destination icons notated. Most of these locales will be locked in the early going. In fact, you'll only have access to three of them to start out with: your home base, your training ground, and your first round of streetball games. Your headquarters is where you can change your player's gear, look up others players in your phone book, buy new shoes, check out your player card to gauge your progress, or simply save your game.

Before you hit the streetball games, you'll need to acquire some skills. And the best way to do that is to hit the practice drills, which are available to you right from the start. Taking part in these drills will increase specific attributes (provided you pass the drill, that is), but entry into each drill comes at a cost of development points, which you earn by winning streetball games. The more games you win, the more points you earn to spend on development, which will in turn help you win more games (and more development points).

Complete drills to earn valuable attribute points. Then hit the hardwood to teach your opponents a lesson.
Complete drills to earn valuable attribute points. Then hit the hardwood to teach your opponents a lesson.

There are a number of drills to take part in here, and each challenge will increase a specific set of your attributes. As you might expect, shooting drills will do wonders for all your shot attributes, while more-specialized drills, like the free throw and offensive and defensive rebound tests, will benefit those areas of your game specifically. There are 13 drills to choose from, so let's take a look at a few of the more interesting ones.

Drills and Thrills

Dribble and shoot has you moving the ball to a set spot on the floor before nailing a jumper. The full-court iso drill has you navigating the entire length of the floor, beating defenders left and right and finally taking the ball to the hole. You get points for juking defenders and, of course, for making a basket. Two passing-related drills are included in this mode as well. The first has you playing keep-away with a teammate, with a defender in the middle, as you try to complete as many passes as you can in the allotted time. The second, monkey in the middle, puts you between two players, where you'll look to disrupt as many passes as you can before the clock winds down.

Few things are more fun than posterizing Greg Ostertag.
Few things are more fun than posterizing Greg Ostertag.

There are two rebounding skills challenges--one for offense and one for defense--and there's even a drill to help you work on your free throws so you can come to grips with 2K6's new free-throw mechanic, which uses the right analog stick. The triple-threat challenge has you breaking down a defender and scoring from three-point land. Obviously, some of these more specialized skills should be attempted only after you've gotten some of your basic attributes built up. There's no point, for example, in hitting the triple-threat drill without at least spending some time in the basic shot drills to build up your three-point-shot attribute.

Once you've gotten some experience on the hardwood (and once you run out of development points to spend), it's time to hit the streets to make a name for yourself as you begin your road to the EBC. Your first stop is Chicago, where your first slate of events will take place. You'll start off simple in standard one-on-ones against NBA competition that isn't exactly first-rate: Greg Ostertag, Mark Madsen, or Christian Laettner. Some of the opening games have specialized rules, such as the score challenge, where you spot Ostertag five points and then proceed to hand him his oversized rear end. There's also a small-ball game, where you play with a miniaturized ball that makes hitting long Js much easier, and there's a seesaw battle where you start off the game locked at 11 points apiece. Make a basket and you get a point, and your opponent has one point subtracted from his total. The winner is the first person to get to 22.

Later on, as you move around the country to different locales (and play in fictionalized settings such as a cowboy-corral-themed Albuquerque court), the challenges will become much tougher, as the level of competition increases. In some matches, even your controls will work against you, such as in the supremely frustrating reverse controls one-on-one game where, as the name implies, your controls are reversed. Up is down, black is white, Darko is an all-star center... It's pure madness.

24/7 mode will take you all the way to NYC, where you'll compete in the Entertainer's Basketball Classic.
24/7 mode will take you all the way to NYC, where you'll compete in the Entertainer's Basketball Classic.

Beyond some of these specialized settings and rules, a lot of 2K6's 24/7 mode will remain familiar to 2K vets. If you beat a challenger, he'll give you his phone number, and you'll be able to dial him up for team games later on down the line. You can also expect to win plenty of cool and not-so-cool gear, which you can use to customize your player as you go along. And for those who have special places in their hearts for cast members of VH1's The Surreal Life, former legit rap star and current Viking cosplayer Flavor Flav is on hand, and he's just one of a handful of celebrities making a guest appearance in NBA 2K6. The sad thing is, based on his performance in the matches we played, Flav's got more skills than Ostertag and Laettner on their best days.

NBA 2K6's 24/7 mode is shaping up to be a nice alternative to the standard five-on-five matches found in other parts of the game; with enough variety to keep things interesting as you get deeper into the mode. We haven't progressed far enough to tell you how the EBC itself plays out, but we look forward to exploring it, and the rest of NBA 2K6, in the near future, so stay tuned.

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