NBA 2K14 makes a return as the dominating force in basketball simulation for another year. After the uncontested dominance of the NBA 2K franchise over the last four years and the near perfection of NBA 2K12 onwards, is there enough improvements and features in NBA 2K14 to justify purchasing the series for another year?
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
Platform: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, Windows PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Players: Single-Player, Multi-Player
Release: (PS3, Xbox 360, PC) October 1st-4th 2013, (Xbox One, PS4) November 15th-22nd 2013
If you take away all the roster updates, NBA 2K14 can feel like a case of déjà vu with plenty of existing content from last year’s effort back for another season in this latest iteration. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you haven’t played an NBA 2K title in a couple of years as the game has been finely-honed to become arguably the best sports simulation on the market today. Even still, if you scratch the surface a little and you’ll start to see the differences between the previous releases.
The most notable update is cover superstar LeBron James stronger than usual presence. Similar to NBA 2K12 where fans could relive Michael Jordan’s greatest moments in basketball history, NBA 2K14 introduces a virtual future with LeBron’s “Path to Greatness”. Players can decide LeBron’s fate in the NBA, either choosing to continue with the Miami Heat for hopefully more runs at championship rings, or test his fortunes elsewhere in another NBA team franchise.
It opens up plenty of titillating possibilities, from running the court alongside the likes of Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, to returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers where it all began. The concept is interesting but plays into the realm of NBA fantasy teams which takes away from the feel of realism that the 2K franchise has built a reputation upon.
Commentary is top notch and current as the commentators exchange banter about what is happening at the time. If you play long enough, much of the same remarks are repeated, yet it never feels quite as repetitive as you imagine due to how authentic and true to life every time looks and feels.
Daily updates from all the happenings in the NBA is back where players and teams are updated to reflect what is happening at the time, from players drafts, to injuries, right down to their level of performance. Quick exhibition style matches can be jumped into from the home screen for a quick game or two, but for the journeyman looking to make the most of their NBA season, MyCareer returns better than ever.
Create your very own NBA rookie and guide him through the Drafts, right on through to their own path to greatness. The creation process can be a little tedious at first, but once you get stuck into your rookie year in the NBA, you’ll quickly become involved in your virtual NBA self.
Each game is graded for your playing ability and contribution with virtual currency (VC) rewarded depending on how well you do. VC can be used to improve player attributes, unlock signature moves, improve social media standing and get personalised training from NBA Legends. Successfully completing training drills also unlocks more VC to burn. There are so many little things you can enhance that it’s beyond ridiculous at times, but in a good way. I’m still in the first year of my rookie season and after hours of gaming, and despite my early lacklustre performances, the rate in which my player gradually improves keeps me coming back for more on a daily basis.
MyCareer is a balancing act as ball hogging is generally frowned upon, unless you jack up some amazing plays and perimeter shooting. Spreading the ball around not only helps to improve your playing statistics, but also your standing with your teammates which is essential if you want to stick it out with the one team in the long term. Of course, if you feel you aren’t getting enough court time or simply dislike your team in general, you can always have a sit down with the GM and complain about the coach, or ultimately request to be traded away to another team who is better equipped to unlock your full potential.
The social media component returns as opposing players set out challenges which reward you with even more VC should you meet their objectives. Performing well earns more fans and followers, resulting in lucrative endorsements and bigger spoils on your way to superstardom.
Control mechanics will be a point of debate for some as newcomers may find the basic controls difficult to grasp at first. Advanced players will feel right at home with the diverse range of options available, from executing signature moves, running plays, to delivering flawless alley-opp passes on a fast break, all done to perfection. It can be a brutal affair at times as just about all the shots you make take timing into account, and the position of opposing players. It’s particularly frustrating to see a shot with an A+ timing release fail to convert into a bucket.
NBA 2K14 does suffer from game play issues with teammates taking the ball out of court in the most bizarre fashion, to staggered movements and animation that feels anything but natural. During the post game interview, I can’t help but notice the same three odd reporters repeated in the room which takes away from so much of NBA 2K14‘s good work. Keep in mind these are only minor gripes in a title that does so many things beyond right.
Whether or not NBA 2K14 can keep the momentum in their favour as we enter the next generation of consoles is open to debate, as EA’s NBA Live 14 is prime to finally post up some real competition in years. Those that purchase the PlayStation 3 version of NBA 2K14 can outlay a small fee to upgrade to the PlayStation 4 version of the game when it launches in the months ahead, but how it compares is anyone’s guess at this stage.
There’s very little to complain about as NBA 2K14 delivers the ultimate basketball experience for another year before departing ways with the current generation of consoles. LeBron’s “Path to Greatness” may feel a little cheesy and tacked on but then again, it’s pretty hard to 1-up the Michael Jordan experience of years gone by so I’ll say it’s a commendable inclusion to say the very least. With the exception of a few game play issues, NBA 2K14 puts up a strong performance and a deserving contender to capture the coveted title of Sports Game of the Year for another year. NBA 2K14 is a highly recommended purchase that is guaranteed to last for another NBA season.
9.0 – Excellent. Fun, enjoyable, engaging, and memorable but is missing that little something that will make it exceptionable. People will fondly talk about this for generations to come.