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NBA 2K14 Review

4
  • XONE
  • PS4

2K Sports hits the reset button on its NBA franchise while still maintaining the level of quality fans of this series have come to expect.

Considering that 2K Sports' NBA 2K series has been a standout among all sports franchises over the last several years, you might expect that for the jump to a new console generation, its developers would be more than satisfied simply giving its existing game a visual bump, while keeping its various modes and features largely untouched, for a first time out. Surprisingly, that's not the case. NBA 2K14 on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 is a very different beast than the releases for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The tight, complex gameplay fans have come to know and love is still front and center, mostly no worse for the wear. But in terms of features, 2K has gone back to the drawing board on several of its biggest modes. In some cases, this has resulted in considerable improvement, but not in all. Still, even with what it's missing, the wide swath of visual improvements to NBA 2K14 alone make it worth consideration for anyone looking for a great looking sports game to go along with their new console purchase.

NBA 2K14 looks spectacular. I could probably embellish that statement more, but do I even need to? I mean, just look at it!

Let's just get those visuals out of the way right now. NBA 2K has always provided the best-looking representations of the game of basketball available on video game consoles, and for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, 2K has gone all-out. Body models are as realistic as any sports game I've ever seen, and the faces are especially amazing. 2K reportedly scanned the faces of 80% of the league's current players, and the level of detail in each face is fantastic. Granted, that means there is a qualitative difference between, say, a LeBron James and a Cody Zeller. Less popular players look a bit more robotic when they emote, and the faces do look a bit more uncanny the further down the NBA rabbit hole you go. But the vast majority of players look really excellent.

They animate wonderfully, too. The animation has always been this series' best feature, and this is one of those games you could very easily mistake for a real TV broadcast if you just happen to catch it out of the corner of your eye. The level of detail in each arena certainly helps, with wonderfully reactive crowds, terrific court and crowd graphics, and tons of minutae you won't even see until you pause and dig into the instant replays. 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.

On the court, the game plays just as well as it did on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. All the right-stick-based ball-handling mechanics that were available on those platforms work just as well here, and the A.I. is also just as strong. If anything, it's maybe a bit tighter, but not in a way that feels cheap or broken. The only issue I noticed in this version that I didn't see in the others 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. Thankfully, these only happened a few times over the hours I spent playing, and never got in the way of my enjoyment.

With the gameplay and visuals leading NBA 2K14's featureset, that leaves the game's selection of modes to bring up the rear. The story mode from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games, which saw players living out an imagined version of LeBron James' future career, is entirely absent here (which really isn't much of a loss, honestly), and features like The Association (its franchise mode) and MyPlayer have seen massive overhauls that leave them only somewhat resembling the previous versions. In the case of the new MyCareer mode, that's actually a very good thing. In the case of the new MyGM mode, it's a bit less so.

The new MyCareer mode is a weird, sometimes janky experience, but it's also way crazier and more entertaining than anything seen in the old MyPlayer mode.

MyGM is an attempt to personalize the experience of being an NBA general manager a bit more. Rather than just sifting through menus and doing all the dry math involved in managing an NBA franchise, MyGM adds a bit of flavor to the experience by giving your GM more personality. It's not just you, as you'll have an owner to talk to, other GMs to converse with, and a whole host of NBA player egos to deal with as you manage every aspect of your team. Really, you do end up digging down pretty deep in this stuff, as you juggle contracts, your coaching staff, and, of course, the ticket prices at your arena. It's possible to do a lighter, single-season version of the mode that doesn't require owner oversight, but the full-on mode features a number of goals and objectives given to you by your team owner. Maintaining trust with your owner has to be balanced against building trust with your players, your coaches, and the media.

You do this with a lot of dialogue that, sadly, 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. I feel like in a year or two, the developers will be able to flesh this out into something pretty exciting. As it is, it's a deep, if not overly thrilling management experience.

The converse of the MyGM mode is MyPlayer. This has been one of the better features of the last few NBA 2K sequels, and the Xbox One/PS4 version of this mode has been given a terrific overhaul. Now when you create your personal baller, your vicarious NBA career includes numerous cutscenes, a storyline with branching paths, and in-game challenges that provide you objectives to hit as you play. The storyline itself isn't anything too spectacular, mind you. It opens with you jumping into the Rookie Showcase before the NBA Draft, and developing a rivalry with another rookie that carries over into your NBA career. Along the way, you'll have the opportunity to decide how you react to situations on the court. You can be a dickish prima donna who only cares about his minutes and eventual stardom, or be a team player who will do whatever the team asks of him in the hopes of crafting a winning squad. Unfortunately, the choices are just about that binary always. There's very little nuance to it; you're either the worst kind of asshole or a saintly team player. But considering that before, all you could really do was make some comments during press conferences and get a few endorsements as you went along, this is still a notable upgrade.

There are quirks, to be sure. Cutscene conversations with your GM start repeating very quickly--you'll hear him talk about Bob from maintenance's birthday no less than four times during your rookie season--and you'll see weird stuff like the same teammate show up as two different characters in the same scene, or players who are nearly a foot taller than you standing at your eye-line. 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. Those few problems aside, I really liked what 2K was going for with this mode, so much so that I've played it for hours longer than I expected. Again, this feels more like a framework for something much better down the road, but what's there is surprisingly entertaining.

MyGM isn't quite as fun or fleshed-out as MyCareer, but this is still a deep, fully-featured franchise mode.

Elsewhere, you can play online (which periodically seemed a bit laggy on PS4, and not at all on Xbox One), both in head-to-head battles and in the new The Park mode, which features street games in 2-v-2, 3-v-3, and 5-v-5 matches. The MyTeam mode--2K's equivalent of EA's Ultimate Team with collectible player cards--is also present and largely the same as it is on PS3 and 360, save for some additional rare players and a new Domination mode, where you can play matches against existing NBA teams and all-star squads.

It's a solid roster of features that only looks a bit more skeletal in comparison to what was released last month on PS3 and 360, and it's more than enough to make NBA 2K14 an easy recommendation on these new platforms. Certainly, there are plenty of the sorts of issues one generally sees in launch games, especially launch games from franchises that have opted to start over, rather than just delivering a prettier version of the same game already released. But those seams in the fabric aren't enough to detract from what is otherwise a terrific game of basketball. If anything, NBA 2K14 signals that great things are on the horizon for this franchise on these new platforms, and that things are already off to a very good start.

Alex Navarro on Google+
40 Comments
Posted by MHBroly

Ugh, I really want to wait on getting a PS4, but this game is making it really hard on me. Damn that revamped MyCareer looks awesome

Posted by impartialgecko

2013's Best use of Phil Collins

Posted by trelution

So how long til EA tries to buy the NBA license?

Posted by Sackmanjones

Been playin this with my ps4 and it's fantastic. The my career is hilarious and stupid in the best way possible. The voice actor for your created player is just the best, he compliments the writing very well.

Posted by Flappy

4 Stars sounds about right to me. NIce write-up, Alex.

Posted by Otogi
@adam1808 said:

2013's Best use of Phil Collins


Hey, man, Dead Space 3 has a pretty great use, too

Posted by csl316

After Derrick Rose potentially tore his other ACL yesterday... I gotta go on an NBA hiatus.

Posted by CustomOtto

Really don't dig the MyCareer direction. I already hated the way they forced your character into saying stuff at the beginning of games or during interviews mentioned on Twitter, and now it seems like you're being entirely locked into a specific person's story. It's kind of sad that I've found using player lock in franchise the last couple of years gives me more control over "MyPlayer" (tendencies, sliders, no stat locks, etc). If they gave you the ability in franchise to sim when a certain player is on the bench, I'd probably never go back to MyCareer.

Of course now it seems like franchise mode is going the same route.

Edited by UberExplodey

beep beep

Edited by Maystack

If I get a PS4 any time soon, it will be because of this game. Although I kinda want to wait until next year so it will have the stacked draft. Don't know if I can wait that long though.

Posted by Dilbyo

4 stars for a game that the ceo apologized for?

Edited by McTaters

@dilbyo: That was NBA Live, not 2K. And a Producer for the game, not a CEO.

Posted by FifiChiaPet

So how long til EA tries to buy the NBA license?

If I remember correctly, they tried but the NBA wasn't interested in being exclusive with anyone.

Posted by Brandino

So how long til EA tries to buy the NBA license?

EA lost the NCAA exclusivity and will lose NFL later this year. EA is no longer the powerhouse when it comes to sports titles. Yeah, Madden still sells a lot but it's not like it used to be. People want variety and people are going to get variety.

Posted by Czarpyotr

best use of Ray Allen face.

Posted by Dylabaloo

@dilbyo: That's NBA 14 by EA, this is the 2K joint.

Posted by AV_Gamer

The people at 2K Sports were smart. They knew EA was trying to get back into the basketball market, so they decided to remind gamers who has the superior basketball series. Meanwhile, EA got blindsided and had to apologize for delivering a half-assed game at full price.

Posted by benspyda

So wait, in myGM there is meant to be someone sitting in that chair!

Edited by forteexe21

I prefer playing as a ghost in myGM

Posted by Dooley

Game is so fun online.

Edited by megamanslazar
Posted by mshaw006

Hey FYI: In the middle of the third paragraph you said "minutae." It should be "minutiae."

Posted by pg77
Edited by Anobix

Good overview, Alex!

I agree with the 4/5 stars, there are still some annoying 'bugs' in the game. Where I really only play the MyCareer mode you get stuck with losing in-game-points [the grade bar] because CPU players switch to your man while theirs is on the opposite side of the court... which gets passed the ball and nails a 3, whom you should have been guarding (apparently). Beyond that and the silliness of the subtitles since most of the conversations are almost entirely silent, the game is pretty fluid and fun to play.

Posted by bunnymud

I saw the 4 stars and said "Alex reviewed it." My ESP did not disappoint.

Posted by Fox318

@trelution: NBA wouldn't allow that after the success of 2k

Posted by BaconGames

God that banner image is amazing. Good work Alex.

Online
Edited by PanaMusica

Ray FTW

Posted by OurSin_360

it's way better than current gen, but still has a lot of the same damn glitches. I still can't save turbo camera in my career, and turning off replays and camera cuts does absolutely nothing so instead of getting back on defense i have to watch my guy run back down the court nonchalantly. I don't believe this is a new engine like they said, it's just a revamped version of the old one built on the same glitch filled system they never bother to fix. Wish you could skip the cutscenes in my player too, and even a generic voice for some of the characters would make it less creepy lol.

Still best basketball game sim IMO.

Edited by megalowho

Pretty disappointed that there is no mention of 2k14's currency system and how deeply integrated it is to all aspects of progress within the game. With in app purchases/microtransactions in full price games quickly becoming a defining part of this upcoming generation and muddled information as to who is doing what, I would expect reviews to explain how those systems work to potential consumers.

Personally I find the rate you earn currency in-game to be grossly insufficient and a step backwards for the franchise, but even if Alex did not it's a mechanic that really should be broken down so folks know what they're getting into.

Posted by Counterclockwork87

Pretty disappointed that there is no mention of 2k14's currency system and how deeply integrated it is to all aspects of progress within the game. With in app purchases/microtransactions in full price games quickly becoming a defining part of this upcoming generation and muddled information as to who is doing what, I would expect reviews to explain how those systems work to potential consumers.

Personally I find the rate you earn currency in-game to be grossly insufficient and a step backwards for the franchise, but even if Alex did not it's a mechanic that really should be broken down so folks know what they're getting into.

To me the micro-transactions aren't even worth mentioning. They affect the game in a really minute way. In MyCareer you can upgrade your player even easier than in past years...they really are only there for if you're crazy from what I can tell.

Edited by megalowho

@megalowho said:

Pretty disappointed that there is no mention of 2k14's currency system and how deeply integrated it is to all aspects of progress within the game. With in app purchases/microtransactions in full price games quickly becoming a defining part of this upcoming generation and muddled information as to who is doing what, I would expect reviews to explain how those systems work to potential consumers.

Personally I find the rate you earn currency in-game to be grossly insufficient and a step backwards for the franchise, but even if Alex did not it's a mechanic that really should be broken down so folks know what they're getting into.

To me the micro-transactions aren't even worth mentioning. They affect the game in a really minute way. In MyCareer you can upgrade your player even easier than in past years...they really are only there for if you're crazy from what I can tell.

I respectfully disagree. You can't even set your own lineups in MyGM without spending VC, as well as a number of other core responsibilities found in franchise modes. Having to spread VC out amongst everything in the game means choosing which mode you care about and being at a disadvantage in the others. Plus the option to buy more is ever present in all menus, it's up front and center now. I've played this series for years and both the balance and reliance on currency across the board has never been as pronounced as it is here.

Posted by PhilipDuck

Good review, good game! An unexpected great title for the next gen launch!

Posted by OurSin_360

@counterclockwork87 said:

@megalowho said:

Pretty disappointed that there is no mention of 2k14's currency system and how deeply integrated it is to all aspects of progress within the game. With in app purchases/microtransactions in full price games quickly becoming a defining part of this upcoming generation and muddled information as to who is doing what, I would expect reviews to explain how those systems work to potential consumers.

Personally I find the rate you earn currency in-game to be grossly insufficient and a step backwards for the franchise, but even if Alex did not it's a mechanic that really should be broken down so folks know what they're getting into.

To me the micro-transactions aren't even worth mentioning. They affect the game in a really minute way. In MyCareer you can upgrade your player even easier than in past years...they really are only there for if you're crazy from what I can tell.

I respectfully disagree. You can't even set your own lineups in MyGM without spending VC, as well as a number of other core responsibilities found in franchise modes. Having to spread VC out amongst everything in the game means choosing which mode you care about and being at a disadvantage in the others. Plus the option to buy more is ever present in all menus, it's up front and center now. I've played this series for years and both the balance and reliance on currency across the board has never been as pronounced as it is here.

you can earn vc though, you don't have to spend a dime (i never have and never will). I agree that it's terrible, but it's been in the game since 2k13 so it's not really anything new

Posted by lee84

I personally hate the fact that you can't personalize your character facial features what's up with that.

Posted by slabrock

@megalowho said:

@counterclockwork87 said:

@megalowho said:

Pretty disappointed that there is no mention of 2k14's currency system and how deeply integrated it is to all aspects of progress within the game. With in app purchases/microtransactions in full price games quickly becoming a defining part of this upcoming generation and muddled information as to who is doing what, I would expect reviews to explain how those systems work to potential consumers.

Personally I find the rate you earn currency in-game to be grossly insufficient and a step backwards for the franchise, but even if Alex did not it's a mechanic that really should be broken down so folks know what they're getting into.

To me the micro-transactions aren't even worth mentioning. They affect the game in a really minute way. In MyCareer you can upgrade your player even easier than in past years...they really are only there for if you're crazy from what I can tell.

I respectfully disagree. You can't even set your own lineups in MyGM without spending VC, as well as a number of other core responsibilities found in franchise modes. Having to spread VC out amongst everything in the game means choosing which mode you care about and being at a disadvantage in the others. Plus the option to buy more is ever present in all menus, it's up front and center now. I've played this series for years and both the balance and reliance on currency across the board has never been as pronounced as it is here.

you can earn vc though, you don't have to spend a dime (i never have and never will). I agree that it's terrible, but it's been in the game since 2k13 so it's not really anything new

You could earn tokens in Forza too but people held them to the coals. VC deserves the same; in fact it seems worse than the Forza system.