(I will state at the beginning that I have not tried out any of the online modes for the game, including the return of the “Crew” feature, due to the fact that I do not have a current Xbox Live subscription. All of the information contained below is in regards to the single player aspect of the game.)
As I started to play NBA 2K14 on the Xbox 360, I was struck with a strong feeling of “sameness.” Sure, I know that isn’t a word, but that’s the feeling I had from the moment that I started playing the game. I swore that it was nearly identical to last years game. In fact, after playing for about 10 hours, I was almost certain that the game play was almost identical, then I put last years game into the drive….
Now it is fair to say that there are quite a few similarities between the titles. The interfaces and game play modes are almost completely interchangeable. If it wasn’t for the soundtrack, Lebron’s mug all over the place, and seeing a 4 instead of a 3, you would swear that you’re almost looking at the same game, but when you get into the gamest, you’ll really find some terrific differences between 2K13 and 2K14.
One of the first, and best, changes that is found revolves around the play calling interface. 2K has implemented a “smart play call system” that is utilized by holding down the LB button on the controller. Once that is started, the game gives you basic instructions as to how to run that particular play for your team. (For example, they will put a circle on the court indicating where you need to move your player to, then a ball icon will appear over the head of the player to pass to for that particular play.) It’s a minor change, but it really helps people who want to move quickly into gameplay rather than studying an entire playbook for a team.
Beyond that change, the game has also tweaked the “drive to the basket” animations. In all of the games that I’ve played, I can’t recall a time where I got “stuck” in an animation where my player was driving out of control to the basket. In the single game of NBA2K13 that I played after playing 2K14, I saw at least three of those “out of control drives” in a single half. Again, it’s a minor change, but it makes the game seem much more realistic and makes you feel like you’re more in control of the players on the court.
Another item that really draws you into the game is the fact that the arena interaction has been greatly improved as the crowd intensity seems to ramp up as your team plays better on the court. Now, whether or not it has an impact on the other team and causes them to make more mistakes is up for debate, but it does seem to mirror the appearance of an NBA crowd.
The commentary is still terrific and is probably one of the best features for the game, year in and year out. The way that they weave in previous stats and details about your last games is masterfully handled each and every year. I really wish that 2K had more opportunities to bring this technology into other sports, because the commentary in Madden, The Show, and NHL have been so lackluster over the past few years and could really use something like this to freshen them up.
Now, having listed those positives, there are some negatives in the game as well. Defensive players (that you are not in controlling) will sometimes just lapse away from opposing players and leave them with wide open opportunities to score more often than you would see in any real game. In fact, most of the scoring chances that I have seen in my games have been due to the fact that the CPU defense just doesn’t play intelligently on it’s default settings. This may be something that is able to be adjusted and tweaked, but it is certainly annoying when you are playing a very close game in the 4th quarter.
The My Career mode is very much the same as last season and could really use a refresh. The media interaction segments take far too long after each game and really drag on throughout the season. Also, it’s annoying to hear the exact same player voice no matter who you have created for a player. Lastly, the point system to upgrade your created player lends itself to a massive amount of grinding in order to make your player into a decent NBA player. The way that it is balanced is by having to pay real money to buy the “VC” in order to build a serviceable NBA player. Personally, I think that stinks, but I can’t say that it’s a foreign concept for most of today’s sports games (nor will it be going away any time soon.)
As for the Lebron: Path to Greatness mode? I would have been more interested in it if you had the ability to take Lebron and pick whatever team you wanted to put him on and attempt to best MJ’s 6 championships, but the fact that it’s an entirely scripted affair really diminishes my interest in that feature.
So, it’s clear that the game has it’s good and bad parts, but I believe that the good greatly outweigh the bad. If you haven’t played the game in a few seasons, I highly recommend taking a look at it.
Also, if you are a PC player… take a look at the version available via Steam, as it is priced at $29.99 (half of what the console versions run for.)