When I was a younger, fitter more idealistic teenager I watched an episode of the hit American TV Show One Tree Hill and decided I would have liked to have played basketball and even fooled myself into thinking I might have been good at it. If my performance in NBA 2K14 from developer Visual Concepts and publisher 2K Sports is anything to go by, I couldn’t have been more wrong. But even though the jury is out on whether my personal performance in the NBA is one to be proud of, the courtroom have agreed 2K14 is a smash hit.
Another franchise under the 2K Sports umbrella and one that stands out for quality and putting fans right where they want to be, in the middle of the action. It seems however that for next-generation 2K have hit the reset button and gone at it from scratch. You’d forgive the team behind them game to have simply given the next-generation title a visual upgrade from its 360/PS3 version, but they have gone all out in creating what is still a tightly finished and complex game, yet something all together different. For NBA 2K14, 2K have ripped back the skin on several of its biggest modes. In some cases, this has resulted in considerable improvement, but not in all.
Let’s get started with the visuals. 2K have gone all out for Xbox One and NBA 2K14. Body models are extremely detailed and realistic and more so than any other sports title I have played to date. It’s been reported that 2K scanned 80% of all the players faces in the NBA to achieve an incredible level of detail. I did notice a distinct difference in the quality between the popular and less popular players, the latter seeming that little more robotic and less emotive. In fact the further down the NBA you go, the more recycled and uncanny the faces become. That said, the vast majority of the players you will encounter will undoubtedly look excellent. The animate fantastically, too. The truth is, if you were to catch the game from the corner of your eye, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a real broadcast. The arena’s are detailed, the crowds react wonderfully, the graphics of both are mind blowing. Pause the game, hit replay and suddenly even more minute detail comes alive, as you spot the glistening sweat dropping from the player to court.
The games on the court mechanics revolve around using the right-stick to control the ball, similar to the other platforms. The AI is strong, clever and quick to ever change and adapt to your game-play style, keeping you thinking fast on your feet. The only real on the court issues I noticed were a few ball-oriented physics glitches. Specifically, every now and again, a shot will hit the rim and continue spinning around it for several seconds while every player just kind of stands around. You’ll also periodically see passes or blocked shots bounce off players and go flying off in some bizarre, unnatural direction. The commentary from trio of Kevin Harlan, Steve Kerr, and Clark Kellogg is as good as it’s ever been–if perhaps a bit more repetitive than usual–adding to an already stellar broadcast presentation.
MyGM is comparable to Manager Mode in FIFA. It’s an attempt to personalise the experience of being a General Manager in the NBA. So instead of being sat behind a desk, clicking through menus and completing the most boring of tasks, MyGM adds a bit of personality to the role. You’ll be able to interact with the franchise’s owner, other General Managers, staff and of course players as you deal with their over bloated egos whilst managing every aspect of your team. You’ll be delving deep, yet not quite micro-managing your team as you juggle contracts, set instructions for coaching staff, set prices on the games, merchandise and food for fans whilst in the arena. You’ll need to do all this whilst maintaining a balance between building trust with the team owner and also building trust with the players, coaches, media and of course fans. Unfortunately an overwhelming amount of this is handled via dialogue which reads pretty badly. It’s stiff, robotic stuff that has no place in anything resembling a conversation between humans. That said, if you can deal with the sterile feel of the mode, you’ll find quite a lot to play around with. Keeping everyone happy is a pretty intense process that requires some smart thinking, and while the UI is a little ugly, it’s easy enough to do what you need to do in the mode without getting lost or wondering why the hell anything is happening.
So you’ve tried managing an entire team, what’s next? MyPlayer mode has been of the best features in the 2K franchise of NBA games, and for Xbox One it has been given a massive overhaul in terms of features, mechanics and the way it plays through. Your next-generation NBA career includes numerous cut scenes, a storyline with branching paths, and in-game challenges that provide you objectives to hit as you play. The storyline itself however isn’t anything spectacular. You open up events by heading off to the Rookie Showcase in NYC with your agent and long time best friend, from there, regardless of your performance which in my case was horrific, it is off to the NBA 2014 Draft. Here at the Draft there is a couple of cut scenes designed to develop a rivalry with a fellow rookie which will undoubtedly continue as your career progresses. During your career you’ll be able to react to situations which will dictate the direction you go. Be a princess and only care about minutes on the court or touches of the ball, or become a real team player. This are basic choices and options and are binary in outcome, there is very little nuance to it.
There are a few bugs and things that should have been ironed before release. For instance during one cut scene in MyPlayer I was presented with one particular player who was acting the role of 3 different players. There he was talking to me, whilst also leaning against a locker in the background and also walking past down the corridor. There are a few issues with the in-game objectives too. Most of them are great, and make total situational sense. But sometimes it’ll ask your player to take over a game and score ten straight points, even if up to this point you’ve just been a selfless, pass-happy point guard who assists more than he scores. These problems aside, the mode was great fun and feels more like a framework for something much better and fleshed out in titles to come.
You can also take the action on and off the court in online modes. Head-to-head battles are back but also a new mode, The Park, which features street games in 2-v-2, 3-v-3 and 5-v-5. There is also MyTeam which is 2K’s equivalent of EA’s Ultimate Team mode in FIFA. Collectible player cards including rare player and a special mode only found on next-generation consoles, Domination, where you play matches against real life NBA teams and all-star squads.
NBA 2K14 is a great sports title and made even better through exquisite graphics and fantastic game modes. It’s a solid roster of features and helps make the game an easy recommendation for all new console owners. NBA 2K14 not only signals great things to come from 2K on the Xbox One but it also blurs the line and makes it difficult to distinguish video games from reality it terms of features, news reports and content. This is an exciting prospect.
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