NBA 2K14 is back, but this time it’s on new hardware. The PS4 and Xbox One to be exact. Is it a smooth transition like a LeBron James crossover, or does it stumble and fall over on the court? Read on to find out.
Game: NBA 2K14
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
The NBA 2K series has been the top dog in the basketball sim world for many years thanks to a lack of competition and a development team dedicated to making a game that is as close to the real world sport as possible. In fact, not only has the NBA 2K series been dominant in its own genre, it’s arguably one of the greatest sports franchises ever created. As it moves onto the new hardware, the possibilities are endless thanks to the power of the PS4 and Xbox One. For those that are familiar with the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of NBA 2K14, you’ll feel pretty much at home with the next-gen incarnation. There are a few differences though, and boy are they impressive.
Presentation wise, NBA 2K14 on the new consoles is absolutely stunning. If you have seen the trailers that 2K Sports released prior to the launch of the game, those are not rendered cutscenes, that’s exactly how the game actually looks when you’re playing. It’s that damn good. It’s without any shadow of a doubt the standout launch titles in terms of visuals. Player models look incredible with some of the most impressive detail you’ll ever see in any video game. The on-court players look and move scarily like their real life counterparts, so much so that it looks like you’re watching a live television broadcast at times. Zooming into a player via the replay cameras really shows how much love and attention has gone into crafting NBA 2K14 on this new hardware. Stitching and air holes are clearly visible on player’s jerseys, with the cloth moving a realistic way. Hell, you can actually see each individual bead of sweat on a player’s forehead. Sure, visuals don’t make a game great, but in terms of showing off what the new hardware can do (even this early on) NBA 2K14 is the best showcase. My only criticism would be the menu system. It’s slightly better looking interface than its PS3 and 360 counterparts, but still not any less cluttered. I can imagine if you were a newcomer to the series, you’d find the system to be quite confusing.
Crowds and courts are represented superbly, packed to the brim with an astonishing amount of detail. The gameplay camera, crowd reactions and commentary remain just as good as the previous gen, but everything just comes together extremely well thanks to the power of the new consoles. The authenticity levels and detail seems have gone up by quite a bit, and the addition of ‘Real Voice’ is a great example of exactly that. Sideline reporter Doris Burke now speaks with a variety of players and coaches at half-time or full-time, with each person voiced incredibly by their real life counterpart. The only downside is that Burke herself looks like some kind of string puppet compared to the incredibly detailed players and (to some extent) coaches. That said, it’s a fantastic feature that really pushes the boundaries of presentation in sports games. I can’t think of any other sports title that has even attempted to do this, so in that respect NBA 2K14 can only applauded. Plus, if 2K’s track record is anything to go by, it’s a feature that only going to get better.
On the gameplay front, the slightly scripted feeling of the previous gen versions has gone. Gameplay now feels fluid and natural thanks to the some new animations and engine power the next-gen versions. Shooting and passing (whether you’re using the stick or not) feels more responsive than ever and controlling the players feels bloody brilliant. It would’ve been very easy for Visual Concepts and 2K Sports to just simply port over the everything over and up the resolution, but they’ve gone the extra mile instead. The Eco-Motion engine helps make the action feel more alive than ever, bringing everything from animations and match atmosphere together to deliver an unparalleled basketball experience. There is a slight learning curve, but not once does the game punish you unfairly and make you feel inadequate. It’s a learning curve that is rewarding yet satisfying at the same time, and once it all clicks into place you start to see the huge potential in the game and just how impressive the overall package is.
In terms of modes, NBA 2K14 on the PS4 and Xbox One has plenty to offer. Not everything has managed to make it safely across to the next-gen versions, but the more important parts of the game are very much present. The inclusion of MyCAREER (essentially My Player from the previous console release) is a good one, with plenty of depth and an interesting story-like mode. Some may find it a little cheesy due to the somewhat weird cut scenes, but if you are dedicated then there’s much fun on offer in MyCAREER. Not only does the story element add depth, but it keeps you engrossed in what’s happening. Oh and the superb gameplay is just the icing on an already delicious cake. Aside from MyCAREER, NBA 2K14 features other well established modes that will keep you busy for a while. MyGM is the other main one, but you also have the standard exhibition matches too. If you’re unfamiliar with MyGM, it’s a mode that sees you take complete control of a NBA franchise. Although it’s a well thought out mode, it still feels like work in progress as you feel certain ideas could be developed further. Still, it’s not a bad way to spend your time with NBA 2K14.
Online modes are present too, but they’re not as good as the slick or functional as the rest of the game. I played various online matches via the PlayStation 4 and experienced slight button delay and response issues on more than one occasion. This meant players would sometimes react late with the ball would hitting their feet or unnecessary fouls being called for against me. I was even booted out of matches due to extreme lag. 2K’s servers have never been great for online gaming so part of me was expecting this, but that doesn’t excuse the hit and miss state of the online part of NBA 2K14. I say hit because I did have a few decent matches as well, but when a game is this good an issue like this tends to stand out more. Hopefully 2K can release a patch that fixes the online side of things quickly.
Small criticisms aside, NBA 2K14 is a breathtaking sport sim that has been pushed onto another level thanks to the hardware that the game runs on. Not only is it one of the best looking launch, it plays like a dream. The gameplay is seamless and has the depth to keep you coming back for more. If other developers out there want to step into the genre or improve their existing sports title, then they need to look no further than NBA 2K14 on the PS4 and Xbox One. It’s taken years of development time to get to where they are now, but it’s more than paid off here. For now, this is the pinnacle of sport sims. Well, until it more than likely gets topped by NBA 2K15 that is!