Fun for the Casual Fan
I’m not a huge basketball fan, but I am a huge video game fan, and NBA 2K14 does the sports video game genre right. As I’ve said time and time again, it’s hard to review these yearly sports titles, as they have to walk an interesting line between changing features that fans already love and keeping the game feeling fresh enough to not feel like a poor excuse for an expansion pack. NBA 2K14 walks this line perfectly. In fact, it does more than that. It does somersaults on the line while explosions play in the background to a rocking guitar solo. By that I mean that all the new features of NBA 2K14 genuinely make the game better without the expense of any of the features we have come to know and love.
The big stars in NBA 2K14 are all the new ball-handling skills. We thought that the beat poem about dribbling we saw at E3 was goofy, but it was really spot-on. This is poetry in motion. Essentially, you can control your dribbling and ball handling by using the right stick, a feature that was originally toyed around with in last year’s release. However, this year’s dribble-control has expanded exponentially.
The system keeps track of the direction you flick the stick, the speed you flick the stick, and how long you keep the stick held down. Just a slight change in direction can produce entirely different moves. You might perform a fake when what you wanted was a behind-the-back pass for example. While this may sound intimidating, the game does a lot to get you acclimated to the control scheme. There is an incredible tutorial that goes over how to do each move one by one, which is a great way to get your feet wet. In addition, moves with similar effects have similar movements associated to them. So, while you may find points where you wanted to say, spin around a guard rather than lean over him to the side, both enable you to get that game winning shot in, so you really won’t mind. The whole system feels natural and can be picked up quickly, even without any time in the tutorial. It’s perhaps the best new addition to the game system.
Giving the player a whole bunch of new options on offense means that the game has to play a better defense, and NBA 2K14 has that covered as well. Defensive AI has been greatly enhanced without being made to feel cheap. Opposing teams will try their hardest to wrench the ball from your hands, but they will always have a few noticeable gaps in their play. It’s up to you to use your new ball-handling skills to exploit these gaps. If you manage to do so, you’ll style on your opponent easily. If not, then you’ll find the ball changing hands frequently, never letting you get close to the basket.
You can’t leisurely run up to the hoop and try to shoot anymore. You have to consider the strengths and weaknesses of your team. Some players will have deadeye shots but can easily have the ball stolen from them. Others are monsters close to the basket but can’t make three pointers to save their life. Others are adept at squeezing through tight defensive lines but have a crappy passing game. In fact, I’d say that players are more personalized in NBA 2K14 than ever before.
If I were a basketball fan, which I’d like to remind you again I’m not, I could probably comment on how the individual abilities of each player matches up with their performance on the real court. Instead, I’d like to say, in my own geeky way, that each individual player kind of feels like controlling a specialized unit in a strategy game. There is something extremely satisfying in using the right player for the right job and triumphing over an opponent that seems to have your number.
The new big addition to the single-player is the Path to Greatness mode. This interesting new take on controlling an NBA legend lets you take Lebron James, not through the great moments of his past, but through the great moments of his future. It’s up to you to decide whether James stays with the Heat and tries to become the greatest player the team has ever seen, or whether James starts wandering off to join other teams in other cities.
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.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
There are a few graphical hiccups here and there, but overall, the game’s presentation is top notch. 4.5 Control
Being able to pull off ball tricks on the court is a blast. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Gotta love the announcers and the soundtrack. They both get you pumped. 4.0 Play Value
Even as a casual basketball fan, I still liked this game. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best