|System: Xbox One, PS3*, PC, PS4*, Xbox One|
|Release: October 1, 2013|
|Players: 1-4 Online Multiplayer|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
It’s basically just one gigantic “what if” question framed as a campaign mode, and it works. It has a real sense of pacing and never feels like a grind. It doesn’t spend too much time outside of games, and the only real stipulation you need to fulfill to continue onward is to win. In a way, it feels more arcadey than anything else, and it’s a good feeling. It’s not necessarily the best single-player campaign we have seen out of the NBA 2K series, but it will certainly keep you playing till the end.
Unfortunately, the game isn’t without its issues. There is still something jarring about the animations of the players on the court. While moving, passing, and shooting, animations look fluid and realistic. However, when the camera zooms in after a shot to catch a player’s reaction, they seem to jitter a bit and move robotically at times. Wild passes and loose balls sometimes cause characters shake left and right as they decide what to do, or sometimes simply stand there without reacting at all.
Thankfully, the game compensates for these few minor graphical snafus in other areas. The cinematic presentation does a great job of making the game look like an actual TV broadcast. The announcers are absolutely astounding, calling each game enthusiastically and with great precision without sounding like they are just sound clips copy and pasted together. It’s easy for random passersby to mistake the game for a real broadcast, so long as the camera isn’t inadvertently focusing on the back of a player’s head or something.
Frankly, there’s not much more to say about NBA 2K14. Online play still works smoothly. Pick-up games are easy to set-up and proceed at a quick pace. The game satisfies everything that a casual basketball fan like me could want. Perhaps there is something more that the game is missing that a hardcore b-ball fanatic would catch, but for the life of me, I can’t see it. Simply put, NBA 2K14 is better than NBA 2K13, and worth buying even if you picked up last year’s release.
NBA 2K14 is one of the few games that I can actually say looks astoundingly different on next-gen platforms. Player models are more details on the PS4 to an absurd extent over the PS3. Hair on the PS3 is just a flat matted texture, which can be seen easily during close-up shots. However, hair on the PS4 seems to be modeled strand by strand, or at least more independently than its PS3 counterpart. Before you get on me for being obsessed with hair like some sort of basketball barber, players’ bodies look better too. Muscles look less blocky, and they expand and contract in almost eerily realistic ways. Faces are also animated better on the PS4. PS3 faces look flatter and almost mannequin like in comparison. NBA 2K14 is actually pulling its character models out of the uncanny valley at this point, which is simultaneously impressive and slightly terrifying.
All of this is well and good if all you want to do is look at players, but player movements are better animated as well. Most notably, player collisions are handled way better. You know that weird negative space between players that sort of acts like a force field? That area where players aren’t really touching each other but act like they are so that you don’t get rampant clipping errors? That is drastically reduced in the PS4 version of the game. Even the way players’ hands interact with the ball is sharper.
If you want the absolute best graphical experience in NBA 2K14, pick up the PS4 version. Even the color palette seems brighter and better handled in the PS4 version, which is something I haven’t said since I compared NES to SNES games. You may not be able to see many differences when the camera is zoomed out, but when the camera zooms in, it’s like you are looking at a whole other game. Sports games are certainly making the best use of next-generation graphics technology, and NBA 2K14 for the PS4 may just be the best example of that.
Angelo M. D’Argenio
Date: November 19, 2013