The folks at 2K Sports put an interesting twist on the Path to Greatness (PTG) mode in NBA 2K14 featuring cover athlete LeBron James. I originally published this article, wondering aloud what the mode would entail.
While it seemed plausible to have PTG somewhat mimic the Michael Jordan Challenge mode from NBA 2K11, I should have known better than to think that the guys at 2K Sports would rehash the same exact concept. Instead of playing through James' successful past, gamers will seemingly take control of the King's present and future.
The aim is to guide him and his team to an unprecedented level of greatness.
Andy Hartup of Games Radar had a hands-on preview of the game and spoke to senior game designer Rob Jones about PTG. In the article, Jones says:
Well, we’ve done Jordan, and we’ve done the other greats, so when we brought in LeBron—and you look at all the things he’s achieved—we needed to create a real story around him; to take advantage of having such a super-star on the cover of the game. So this is a play from us to imagine ‘what will LeBron be like in the next 5-6 years.
Perhaps now instead of seeing LeBron's hairline gradually go from what it was as a prep superstar to what it is now, we can watch it fade into the clean-shaven look we saw him sport this summer.
In all seriousness, this angle does indeed create more of a story as opposed to history. The Jordan Challenge mode allowed us to relive historic moments, but because LeBron is still just 28 years old, there is still so much history left for him to write.
Samit Sarkar of Polygon added even more detail with his preview. In PTG, gamers won't control LeBron solely as they have in previously released player-centric modes. You'll have control of James and his whole team in the conventional way most are used to.
Per Sarkar, there are two paths you can take with LeBron in PTG mode. You can choose to "Continue the Heat Dynasty" or embark on a "Fantastic Voyage." The options present a refreshing role-playing aspect to the experience.
The former option is self-explanatory with James attempting to lead the Heat to not three, not four, not five championships...you get the idea. It is cool to see the way 2K Sports will attempt to forecast who LeBron and the Heat will battle in the coming years. Sarkar offers a hint at James and the Heat's first challengers in the 2014 NBA Finals and one down the road. He writes:
For the first scenario, the developers posit that Dwight Howard immediately leads the Houston Rockets to a 2014 Finals showdown against James and the Heat. One much farther down the line sees Kevin Durant put together his own "Big Three" on the Oklahoma City Thunder, with James facing off against Durant, Roy Hibbert and Anthony Davis.
That's pretty intriguing. However, the most imaginative path seems to be the Fantastic Journey. This one explores the possibilities that LeBron leaves Miami via free agency and joins the N.Y. Knicks. Carmelo Anthony joins the Chicago Bulls and the bombastic player movement seems to turn the NBA on its ear. I love it.
Smartly, 2K Sports doesn't have gamers play through entire games and seasons to complete the mode. Instead, you'll be thrust into situations at pivotal points in the NBA's future seasons and playoffs. All the while, James' voiceovers will narrate and cool presentation sequences will create the backdrop for your challenges.
This just keeps sounding better. You can see the mode in action in the video below, from IGN.
From a marketing standpoint, it all makes sense. As much as LeBron has already accomplished, he wouldn't want to come off as if he's already reached the top of the mountain. He has won two NBA championships, two NBA Finals MVP awards and four regular-season MVP awards, but his accomplishments still aren't equal to Michael Jordan's yet.
MJ has six championship rings, six Finals MVP awards and five regular-season MVP awards.
We can all wonder and project how close LeBron will come to equaling—or surpassing—MJ's achievements in real life. With Path to Greatness, it seems gamers will get an opportunity to directly affect James' video game legacy.
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