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NBA 2K14 Review

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  • PS3

2K continues its tradition of eminently deep and thoroughly entertaining basketball simulations, albeit without many changes to its feature set.

Cover athletes are typically treated as little more than marketing tools in modern sports video games. Rarely do the presences of those featured athletes tend to bleed their way into the game itself, outside of the obvious stat boosts such a selection would warrant. NBA 2K has been one of the rare exceptions in recent years. In NBA 2K11, cover man Michael Jordan got his own excellent challenge mode, which highlighted key moments from his career. 2K12 featured a gaggle of classic superstars across multiple covers in celebration of the NBA's Greatest mode, which contained numerous nods to some of basketball's best old school rivalries. This year's title, NBA 2K14, once again tries to transcribe the story of its cover star into gameplay, albeit with less interesting results than usual.

I hope you like LeBron James, because his presence in NBA 2K14, from the new "Path to Greatness" story mode on down to the soundtrack, is inescapable.

This year's cover man is LeBron James. James is unmistakably the biggest name in basketball, and his presence looms large in this game, especially in the new "Path to Greatness" mode. Here, you are tasked with deciding where James will go when his contract is up at the end of this season. This immediately sounds alarm bells related to that disastrous "The Decision" moment from a few years back, where James went so far out of his way to make a big deal about his impending move to Miami from Cleveland that he all but alienated a huge swath of the league's fans (before most non-Cleveland folk promptly forgot about it and started loving him again). Fortunately, this isn't nearly as bad as all of that.

You're given two potential paths to choose from. The first simply has James deciding to stay in Miami, where he is presented with a series of game scenarios related to turning the Heat into a lasting dynasty. The other seems potentially more interesting up-front, in that it has James bolt following the end of the 13-14 season to see where else he might prosper. Unfortunately, there's no real element of choice here. All the scenarios and situations presented in this mode are scripted, so when you leave the Heat, you have no choice but to go try some time in New York with the Knicks, before eventually bouncing to more familiar territories.

The progression of the mode itself is fine. You play a series of key games, each set up by a bit of lackadaisical narration from James himself, which progresses the story as James works toward besting Michael Jordan's six championships. The best thing I can say about this entire mode is that the story does go to some entertainingly strange places (which I'd rather not spoil for those who may partake). Stuff like this is typically why I like the 2K basketball games so much. The developers' treatments of things like the Jordan Challenge in 2K11, and the classic rivalries in 2K12, are some of the most detailed and pleasingly crafted modes anywhere in the sports genre--never mind that those previous modes focused on the existing legacies of ex-players and teams, as opposed to making up imagined storylines for current superstars.

By comparison, the emphasis on James' forthcoming decision just feels like a mildly amusing oddity. The fan-fiction quality of the storylines is cute, but not terribly endearing once you realize you have no real choice in how the story progresses. And there's just something a bit grating about James actively endorsing more speculative frenzy over the next destination in his career, even if the scenarios presented here generally come off as more playful than intentionally prophetic.

The mapping of ball moves to the right stick in 2K14 is probably the deepest, albeit most initially unwieldy, execution of the mechanic to date. Take the time to learn it.

Maybe I'm making a mountain out of a molehill here, but it just rubbed me the wrong way. Especially when you consider how little else has changed in NBA 2K14's feature set. Key modes like The Association, MyPlayer, and MyTeam are functionally the same as last year's game. Granted, MyPlayer is probably the best single-player career mode in sports gaming right now, and The Association remains as enjoyable as any franchise mode out there, but so many of the key elements of these modes have been recycled, leaving those who have already spent countless hours with them in previous sequels without much to discover this time around. MyTeam does at least get some additional modes and tournaments, but it still feels like a second-rate knockoff of EA's Ultimate Team modes. Online, the Crews mode has returned for those who want to compete with their created players against other online groupings. Otherwise, the online feature set is pretty much identical to last year.

That probably won't matter much for those who just want to play competitively. The good news and bad news of this year's game on that front is that the tweaks and changes made to the controls this year make NBA 2K14 one of the tightest-playing basketball games ever, though at the expense of much of what you may have learned last year.

2K14 goes buck-wild with the right stick. Last year's game certainly had its share of stick-based mechanics, but this year's goes well beyond any of that. Fiddling the stick back and forth in specific circles and motions will result in some crazy, if chaotic dribble moves around defenders, while pulling it back and holding will set you up to shoot. The nuances of these stick movements, not to mention the sheer volume of them available, will likely require a lot of relearning for those who got used to last year's control scheme. The good news is that learning them is totally worth it, as it gives you an insane amount of control over how you play. You can, of course, just use buttons for many of the simpler moves, but you're still going to need to learn the stick if you want to effectively navigate opposing defenses.

Those controls will take some getting used to, especially given how unforgiving the defense is this year. Last year saw some improvements to passing that made it a hell of a lot easier to move the ball around. This year's defensive A.I. catches up to those changes. Hang around in the paint and the defense will swarm, swiping and grabbing for the ball any chance it gets. Pass even a bit wildly, and the odds of the defense picking it off climb exponentially.

Since this is one of the only screenshots we have of 2K14 not featuring LeBron James, I'll use this opportunity to mention that Euroleague teams are included this year.

Keep in mind that none of this feels cheap or unearned. You'll see occasional shoddy behavior from computer players (not jumping for loose balls quickly enough, too many goaltending penalties, etc.), but by and large NBA 2K14 plays how basketball should. Contact between players feels largely how it should, with size and momentum determining how effective picks and contested shots play out--hell, there's even the correct amount of flopping from certain marquee players. This is also a hard game, even on the lower difficulty settings, purely by virtue of how smartly opposing teams play. Areas like play-calling and passing have again been tweaked to try and simplify the process for dummies like me, and those changes are certainly appreciated. But even still, NBA 2K14's learning curve is no joke.

For those reasons, along with the series' continued best-in-class visual presentation and broadcast commentary, I have no issue recommending NBA 2K14 to those looking for another tightly-tuned, exquisitely deep game of basketball for their current generation consoles. It'll certainly help if you have a particular interest in King James and his future endeavors, but NBA 2K14 has more than enough quality content to keep LeBron haters happy too.

Alex Navarro on Google+
53 Comments
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Posted by nomtank

Wait...LeBron is in this game?

Posted by Olivaw
@nomtank said:

Wait...LeBron is in this game?

I don't know. I've heard conflicting reports.

Edited by Xehalus

I'll take Lebron on the cover over Kobe

here's to Durant for 2k15

Posted by Slash_Rick

I want a quick look of this. =(

Posted by leejunfan83

It's only just begun.........

Posted by Morningstar

Meh, I miss David Robinson. Guess I'm getting old.

Posted by zeekthegeek

I really wish I could play these games but the My Player mode requires a pre-existing understanding of what every role does in Basketball and in my experience they've never done a good job of helping a newcomer to do it. Shame.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@nomtank said:

Wait...LeBron is in this game?

Well, yea, but I hear you have to pay a $60 LeBron fee before you can use him.

Posted by Ravelle

Was looking forward to this, great to see it's good. Will read the review later. :)

Edited by megalowho

I'm with Alex.. As a pretty big NBA fan, the Path to Greatness mode feels like a strange LeBron ego stroke at this point in his career when many other modes in 2K have felt stagnant for years. The Association in particular has been stale for a while when it should be the showpiece. As much as I enjoy this series it's hard to shake the feeling that the lack of competition has been impacting the teams ambition more and more.

Edited by Flappy

@zeekthegeek said:

I really wish I could play these games but the My Player mode requires a pre-existing understanding of what every role does in Basketball and in my experience they've never done a good job of helping a newcomer to do it. Shame.

If you want to get a good feel of basketball, then just make a Point Guard. The ball is constantly in your hands and you'll be able to control a lot of what's going on. To be honest, the positions don't really matter much anymore and they're just labels to help categorize the different players.

Teams are usually:

Two smaller players to handle the majority of the ball-handling/perimeter defense.

Two larger players that may stretch the floor, get rebounds, and play defense.

One large dude to protect the paint, get rebounds, and scare the smaller players shitless.

Edit: Oh, and nice review @alex. As a person that needs their basketball fix, I'm really tempted to pick it up, but something is telling me to wait for the PS4 version. Will you be covering that version as well?

Posted by permastun

@megalowho: Yeah, I liked the Jordan stuff in 11 and 12, but it seems weird playing out a current player's career.

I hope Live/Elite/Whatever puts 2k in the corner and gets them to start innovating again.

Posted by Joshiepoo

I read a whole review. Im proud of myself

Posted by Brendan

Great review Alex!

Posted by joshuastevenrogers

Hey Alex, or anyone else that may know. Do you know if the PC port will be from the current or next gen version?

Posted by Saganomics

Are there new and exciting ways to unintentionally dog your teammates in MyPlayer post-game interviews?

Posted by Counterclockwork87

@xehalus said:

I'll take Lebron on the cover over Kobe

here's to Durant for 2k15

Durant's on the cover for 2K13, so I don't know....

Edited by Nightriff

I'll be getting this for the PS4 most likely, I love to see if there are any differences with a new gen in its sports games. I remember being blown away with Madden and NBA 2K in how they looked on the 360 at launch, hope I get the same feeling (I doubt it though).

Edited by mrGREEK360

Pc version is not next gen fk u 2k no buy from me this year as you screwed the pc users in nba2&13

Edited by DystopiaX

@flappy said:

@zeekthegeek said:

I really wish I could play these games but the My Player mode requires a pre-existing understanding of what every role does in Basketball and in my experience they've never done a good job of helping a newcomer to do it. Shame.

If you want to get a good feel of basketball, then just make a Point Guard. The ball is constantly in your hands and you'll be able to control a lot of what's going on. To be honest, the positions don't really matter much anymore and they're just labels to help categorize the different players.

Teams are usually:

Two smaller players to handle the majority of the ball-handling/perimeter defense.

Two larger players that may stretch the floor, get rebounds, and play defense.

One large dude to protect the paint, get rebounds, and scare the smaller players shitless.

Edit: Oh, and nice review @alex. As a person that needs their basketball fix, I'm really tempted to pick it up, but something is telling me to wait for the PS4 version. Will you be covering that version as well?

I'd wait for the PS4 version. They showed a full game of the current gen version and it looks...pretty much the same as 2k13. Offensive rebounds haven't been fixed, which is my biggest issue.

Edited by rasko_the_brave

Awooo

Edited by Nodima

But then...who knows what the generation jump holds. Genesis, PS1 and PS2 were great leaps forward in sports technology but they've become more like stockholm syndrome experiences over the course of this generation. And the jump was shit awful for every sports game except maybe Pro Evo soccer and...well, NBA 2K last time. So there's that.

Edited by JesterPC238

Outstanding review. I don't really care too much about basketball games, but this is one of the better reviews I've read for any game in a long time.

Posted by Flappy

@dystopiax: Yeah, I was thinking along those lines. Every review/preview thus far has mentioned that there isn't much a difference between 2k13 and 2k14 outside of some refinements. If I'm gonna shell out $60 on another 2k game, it might as well look super sexy.

Edited by csl316

I'd love to play it, but I can't get past the Lebron James (as a Bulls fan). Guess I can hold off for a next-gen version next year.

Also:http://www.everyjoe.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/nazr-mohammed-pushes-lebron-james.gif

Online
Edited by AlwaysBeClothing

I will look and see what marginal changes they've made and probably not buy it. Still, its probably pretty competent.

Posted by Brazzle

As a Knick's fan, the idea that Lebron James will be a Knick at the end of the season is patently ridiculous. There's more chance he'd end up back in Cleveland then figuring a way into NYC (Unless its by virtue of a certain Russian billionaire and the New York Nets).

But really, for now its Miami, Cleveland, and given the right, weird circumstances - maybe L.A.

Wish I had a PC that could run this, seems pretty dope.

Edited by chilipeppersman

@csl316: that gif made me chuckle. well done sir

Posted by Tru3_Blu3

LeBron isn't in this game at all. I don't know what Alex is talking about.

Screenshots? What screenshots?! Go away, stupid.

Posted by impartialgecko

"2K14 goes buck-wild with the right stick" is my favourite description of game mechanics to date.

Posted by xX_Kells

@brazzle: I hope he goes ANYWHERE other than L.A. or Boston... Enough titles in those two cities. Hope neither win a championship until I'm dead.

Edited by csl316

@chilipeppersman said:

@csl316: that gif made me chuckle. well done sir

Don't thank me, thank Nazr Mohammed :D

And I'll just apologize in advance for another:

lebronsprint_original

Online
Edited by RainDog505

@joshuastevenrogers: I obviously cannot say for sure given that I am opting to not purchase this year's model, but NBA 2k13 had some performance hitches on my PC rig that blew away it's system requirements (i7 3770k, HD 7970GHZ, 16 GB RAM, and SSD). Never got the game to run past 45 FPS per the in-game benchmark. I had no such problems the previous year. To top all this off, 2K released no post-launch patches for the PC version. So I'd assume that consoles are where you want to play this for both considerations of a larger player pool online and more T-L-C from the developers.

Even less knowledgeable about the "next-gen" PS4/XB1 models...sorry.

Posted by Astrophyle

@morningstar: Dude, I used to have David Robinson posters lining my bedroom growing up... the Admiral was a great player. The NBA is a different thing now.

Posted by DystopiaX

@csl316: next gen version in november.

Posted by Brazzle

@brazzle: I hope he goes ANYWHERE other than L.A. or Boston... Enough titles in those two cities. Hope neither win a championship until I'm dead.

Ha, yeah. I'm with you on that one.

Posted by Milkman

Not sure if I'll ever buy one of these games again after the 2K12 servers were shut down ONE YEAR after the game came out. It really left a sour taste in my mouth.

Regardless...let's go Knicks.

Posted by Sterling
Edited by csl316

@dystopiax: Oh right, that facial Lebeon demo. well, maybe I'll just have to take a shot

Online
Posted by Xeiphyer

Ugh I hate how there are all these Slamball ripoff games coming out.

Edited by Sphinx

What?! I can't bring LeBron to Toronto and pretend we have a contending team?! Well no dice 2K! Also lack of PC support is sadness.

Posted by StriderNo9

Well maybe Live will be good..........maybe.

Posted by TimesHero

@sphinx: I'm the furthest from a sports fan, and I really wish we could win something. Anything.

Posted by Hassun

This seems like the kind of thing you do when you REALLY want people to hate LeBron James.

Posted by AdMordem
Posted by sublime90

awesome and helpful review. im a big 2K fan but for whatever reason havent been following this propably because i dont give a flying you know what about lebron. my favorite features have only been the "classic rivals" which i sooooo wish theyd get back to doing those, and My Player. so to read that its basically more of the same except with some lame lebron mode, sorry 2K no $60 for you this year.

Posted by meteora3255
@sphinx said:

What?! I can't bring LeBron to Toronto and pretend we have a contending team?! Well no dice 2K! Also lack of PC support is sadness.

I sometimes like to play "GM Mode" and simply make the player and coaching moves but sim the games. Generally I like to take one of the bottom feeders in the league and try to make a winner. In 2K12 I totally managed to get LeBron to sign with Toronto in 2014 and deliver a championship to the Raptors.

Posted by Mdgeist316

I hope the soundtrack is as good as 2K11's. Aw hell, I think I'll go purchase 2K11 again since I thought that whole game was about as perfect as an NBA game could be.

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