The NBA 2K series is renowned by many as the best sports title available. With last years iteration receiving plaudits alike, can 2K Sports do the same this year with NBA 2K15 and hit a buzzer-beating three pointer? Read on to find out.
Game: NBA 2K15
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
Last year, NBA 2K14 was a title that showcased exactly what the new hardware under the bonnet of the PS4 and the Xbox One could produce and this year (as expected) it does exactly the same once again. Not only is it the best looking basketball title available, it’s the best looking sports game out there. Period.
Graphically, this is an absolute peach of a title with some of the most impressive looking player models and faces ever seen in a virtual representation of the real-life sport. Not only do the players look like their real-life counterparts, but the arenas and crowds do as well and with the crowds reacting to what’s happening on the court, it all adds to the realism from a visual standpoint that the NBA 2K titles are famous for. The amount of detail here is astounding and glancing at the TV while the game is playing makes you wonder if you are watching a real game on tv and not playing a video game. Yes, it’s that impressive.
2K15 uses a very familiar TV style broadcast camera and like always, does it brilliantly well. Along with the stunning visuals from the gameplay camera, 2K15 uses slow-mo’s and its action packed replays to show off the game in all its light and just like last year, it looks sublime and all runs at a very solid 1080p, 60FPS.
It may not be a massive step-up from last years iteration, but in all honesty, it doesn’t need to be. Slight improvements have been made to the visual side of things to give it a more natural look. One thing that has been improved and something that I stated last year that needed to be improved upon, were the menus. In NBA 2K15, they have a more modern look and for the most part, are more responsive. My only slight gripe with them still, is that they still feel a bit clustered and bogged down. Too many clicks to get you to where you want to get and hopefully for NBA 2K16, they will be even more streamlined. For someone that is new to the NBA 2K series, the menu system may feel a bit daunting when trying to navigate through sub-menu after sub-menu. They are improved since last year, but still need work.
A new addition this year is a pre-game show featuring Ernie Johnson and former Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers player, Shaquille O’Neal. Its a nice little touch seeing the two greats talk about the upcoming game and although it may look a little ‘wooden’ at times, its nice to see little details like this to bring even more realism to an already extremely realistic title. Both Johnson and O’Neil were motion captured for their roles and for the most part, it works and it works well.
For the most-part, the sound is fantastic in NBA 2K15 but it’s not without its issues. First off, let’s talk about the soundtrack that was put together by none other than Pharrell Williams. A few tracks that are included feel like they are in the right place, but the majority just don’t fit right within the basketball eco-system and the soundtrack for NBA 2K15 is one of the weakest it’s been for years. While I love a bit of Red Hot Chilli Peppers or The Strokes as much as the next man, they just felt out of place within NBA 2K15.
Another issue is with the commentary. The main of the commentary within 2K15 is absolutely fantastic with dialogue back and forth, but there is a glaring issue that has been reused from NBA 2K14 and thats Steve Kerr’s part of the commentary. For those of you that are new to the series, Steve Kerr is a commentator in NBA 2K15, and while he does a mighty fine job, 2K Sports have dropped a clanger by having him commentate on games that he is the coach of. Yes, thats right, Steve Kerr is now also a coach in the NBA for the Golden State Warriors and in NBA 2K15, he commentates on games for the Golden State Warriors while also being animated on the side of the court as a coach. So, a coach and commentator at the same time, right? Yep. This is something that 2K Sports should of taken out, but for whatever reason (and its a baffling one), they kept it in. Crowd sounds and reactions through audio are here within NBA 2K15 and sound fantastic. while there are times when the crowds for some reason don’t react to the action on court, its a rare occurrence, but unfortunately it can happen and hopefully with an update, this slight issue can be rectified.
For those that are expecting a huge leap from last years iteration, you might be disappointed at first glance as the core gameplay is very similar, but once you sit down and play a few games, the slight tweaks here and there will become apparent. for those that are worried about how the gameplay feels, don’t be as its a joy to play.
First off, the game feels more fluid and feels like whatever you want to do, is possible. Last year in 2K14, there was a tendency at times where the game just didn’t want you to do what you wanted to do which may be down to animations, but in NBA 2K15, its feels more fluid and natural. Alongside improvements to your teammates from an attacking standpoint, there have also been slight tweaks to the defensive side of the game when playing the CPU and it makes for a better game overall, but not making the game frustrating to play. In NBA 2K15, you’ll see more fluid motions and more natural plays thanks to slight tweaks to the control scheme involved. For example, making a pick-and-roll has never felt better.
The biggest and best addition this year without a shadow of a doubt is the new ’shot meter’. An absolutely incredible addition to the series that makes shooting feel not only more rewarding, but make each shot feel as if your inputs actually made you sink a three pointer or miss a lay-up due to the feedback that the system gives you on each shot. The marker (that you are aiming to hit within the shot meter) changes in size depending on the player you are controlling and his strengths and weaknesses. So, if you’re a center trying to sink a three-pointer, the marker will be incredibly hard to hit due to the fact that the player isn’t a great three-pointer shooter for example. Put a center close the the rim, and that meter will get bigger and be easier to make it easier to hit the shot. Due to the new system, you can actually see why you missed a shot or how you managed to score when in previous NBA 2K titles, you just didn’t know why you missed.
There is a very array of modes to chose from and NBA 2K15 is a game that doesn’t scrimp on things to do. Be it, exhibition, MyGM, MyLeague or MyPark for instance, there is plenty on offer here.
A new mode to NBA 2K15 is MyLeague that lets you take control of everything that is involved within running a successful basketball team. Be it, the roster, season length (single season or anything up to 80 years), scary cap, drafts etc. This is your own basketball haven and if you have the time and dedication for it, its a brilliant mode with huge offerings.
One mode that has seen huge improvements and thats, MyCareer. Last year it had its issues, but thanks to the improvements including more depth and most importantly, streamlining, in terms of the best modes within the game, its the MVP of NBA 2K15. The new story thats attached within MyCareer sees you go undrafted and in desperate need of finding a team. The story goes back and forth with your coach, the GM and also a veteran teammate that will look after you and help you in your quest for NBA glory. MyCareer has been made more streamlined and manageable and this is a good thing for regulars to the mode and for newcomers trying to get involved in this side of the sport. One big improvement this time round is your upgrade system. In previous years, you had to manage each individual attribute which ended up becoming tedious. This time round, you upgrade in categories (athleticism, defence, etc) and it focuses you on what needs improving the most. It feels more solid as a result and more importantly, better for those that want to get involved with the mode for the first time.
Some modes haven’t had too much love attended to them this year, but still offer something new. If you love the management style of a sports game, then MyGM is a mode for you. In MyGM, you take control of any of the 30 teams and become a general manager which sees you control the finances, trades and available free agents to bring in to make the team stronger amongst others. Something new this year in MyGM is a conversation/messaging system that has you take control of everything from the media to player morale. Most parts that you can imagine in the day-to-day running of a basketball franchise, is here for you to explore and get involved in.
Its not all fine and dandy though with the online side of NBA 2K15 being somewhat a bit hit and miss. Server issues have crippled previous iterations in the series and last year was no exception and while its been slightly improved this year, its still not perfect. MyPark for example had me waiting, doing nothing and then when it did allow me to get involved in one of the courts, it then disconnected me. This happened a few times throughout my time with the mode and the same for single matches as well. When it all works well, its a good experience, but for me personally, it just doesn’t happen enough. While 2K have said that these issues are being worked on, I can only write about my experience at the time I played online and unfortunately, it was as good as I had hoped.
Issues aside, NBA 2K15 is an absolutely incredible basketball sim and one that has pushed the bar even higher than it did before. If you love the game of basketball, and want a title that not only shows off the sport in a beautiful light, but also plays like its real-life counterpart, then NBA 2K15 is for you. Quite simply, NBA 2K15 is again, the pinnacle of sports representation in a virtual form.