Developer: Visual Concepts | Publisher: 2K Sports | Played On: PS3 | Price: $59.99 | ESRB: Everyone
The NBA series by 2K Sports has had very little competition in this current generation of gaming consoles. EA Sports’ basketball offerings have been promised and then cancelled for several seasons running, but 2K keeps its home court domination rolling with NBA 2K14. With smooth gameplay, classy presentation, and solid game mode offerings, 2K is adding another winner to its already impressive dynasty.
NBA 2K14 delivers more of the fantastic gameplay we have come accustomed to season after season. The fluidity of the player movement on-court is at an all time high, and some of basketball’s most intense battles have been captured with even more realism than in the past. One of the most noticeable gameplay changes this year comes in the arsenal of moves a defender can now use to thwart an offensive playmaker. Tired of getting dunked on time-after-time when your defender looked to be in good position to at least change the shooter’s path to the basket? You’ll be thrilled to find out that blocked dunks are now in the game. Now you can be rewarded for good defensive positioning near the rim. It does feel great to send away a few dunks and lay up attempts, and in some cases right to a teammate to start a fast-break in the opposite direction.
The action in the paint isn’t all about blocks however. Players crash into each other during layups and scraps for possession of the ball. The general feel of taking the ball to the basket is much more life-like this year with all the added collision and body-on-body animations. It made it feel like a battle to get to the rim for that layup and there are fewer “free” or uncontested buckets.
Running the offense is also rewarding in several ways. AI teammates are effective in spacing the floor, which allows for more room to run effective plays. It’s incredibly satisfying to pass the ball around the perimeter waiting for the center to post up for a killer pass. The proper floor spacing also allowed for that same Center to pass the ball back out to the perimeter after feeling a double team by the defense, and ending up with a wide open look from 3-point range from my shooting guard…nothing but net!
The NBA 2K Series has always innovated with its game modes, and this year cover athlete LeBron James gets special treatment in the all new “LeBron: Path To Greatness” mode. It offers an interesting choice: You can either choose to continue a path towards a dynasty with LeBron staying in Miami with the Heat, or you can follow another path of free agency and personal glory elsewhere for the NBA superstar. Ever imagine what would happen if LeBron were to play in the Big Apple? Or make a triumphant or awkward return to the Cleveland Cavaliers? You play out many of these scenarios if you opt for the “Fantastic Journey” path to greatness. It would have been more fun if this path was more open-ended and dynamic, with a choice of joining any NBA team instead of playing out a predetermined set of events. Still, the path to greatness mode is a great addition and a fascinating twist for NBA fans to witness a couple of what-ifs.
MyTeam mode returns for a second season in NBA 2K14. The card collection-based offering similar to those “ultimate team” modes offered in EA Sports’ games such Madden and FIFA offers a more diverse way to play games both online and offline this year. You can play in season mode where you play a real NBA team’s full schedule to earn virtual currency and unlock boosts and players along the way. New this year is the addition of tournaments that require certain standards to enter, such as having an all bronze, silver, or gold level squad. This should ensure tournaments will be available for teams who have been playing for a while and improving their rosters as well as people who are just starting their teams. The road to the playoffs format has returned from last season as well, consisting of a series of games in which your team needs to win three out of 12 online games to qualify for the eighth playoff seed. The ultimate goal of the mode is to become the number one seed and win player cards and coin rewards along the way.
The format that the NBA 2K series arguably executes better than any other sports game is MyCareer mode. This player career mode has always evolved the ways to progress your character both on and off the court. Despite no revolutionary changes this year, minor enhancements make the overall experience a bit smoother. Your player’s on screen team grade rating graphic gets a fresh look for one. Also, tedious but necessary skill drills can now be played all in one session instead of entering and exiting loading screen after loading screen. Pre-Draft interviews, Post Game interviews, and sit down talks with the team’s General Manager look to be almost identical to last season’s offerings. As good as the MyCareer mode is, I’ve always longed for some customization in my player’s voice or mannerisms in dealing with the media, as everyone’s MyCareer player sounds exactly the same regardless of how they are otherwise customized.
Veteran NBA 2K players should also rejoice the return of Crew mode for the first time since NBA 2K11. Crew mode is an online mode where five players team up to take on another set of five players similar to how the NHL hockey series manages its 6-on-6 online games and leagues. For whatever reason the mode was ditched from NBA 2K12 and 13. While this return is welcome it isn’t the fully featured mode many franchise fans had hoped for. Crew mode games in NBA 2K14 are played on blacktop courts instead of the typical NBA arena setting, and while games can be up to 5-on-5, the games are played with blacktop rules, so ending when a team reaches 21 points. Due to a lack of online players at the time of this review, it was tough to get a feel for this new brand of Crew mode in action, but why this change to blacktop rules when the previous versions followed full NBA standards?
Presentation elements in NBA 2K14 get a new look from last year. New loading and lineup screens add a fresh look with silky smooth transitions after baskets that felt much more like quick TV broadcast cuts and less and less like a videogame cut scene. Euro league teams are included in the game for the first time to add an international flair. You also have your very first chance to play with the newly renamed New Orleans Pelicans, including a double-take from Commissioner David Stern when they are on the clock for the NBA draft in MyCareer Mode.
NBA 2K14 is as solid as current gen basketball gaming gets. While not a revolutionary advancement over last year, smart gameplay tweaks and the return of a couple favorite game modes make it once again a must buy for hardcore NBA fans. MyCareer mode is still the leader in sports career modes for any sport, although sky-high expectations mean we always want more. We’ll probably expect more innovation next year, but no doubt NBA 2K14 delivers a season full of NBA action for any fan.
+ Gameplay improvements including blocked dunks & improved player spacing
+ Crew mode returns (although limited)
- Innovative MyCareer mode starting to feel a little stale
8.5 / 10