Believe it or not, LeBron James has never been on the cover of a video game until now. King James graces the cover of NBA 2K14, and—with both reigning as the undisputed champions of their fields—it seems to be a perfect match.
The current-generation version of NBA 2K14 releases on Oct. 1, and we've already learned quite a bit about it. Based on the steady flow of information from 2K's stellar marketing and community management team, fans of the series and skeptics have a good idea what to expect.
Here's a look at the most prominent new features.
LeBron: Path to Greatness
LeBron James' future is in your hands in the Path to Greatness mode. It's the reverse direction used in the Michael Jordan Challenge that was included in NBA 2K11. In that mode, gamers played through Jordan's most iconic moments in his career. In LeBron's signature mode, 2K Sports attempts to predict the future.
From the looks of things, it could be quite fun.
Gamers can choose to allow LeBron to stay in Miami to chase not three, not four, not five rings with the Heat, or you can leave after the 2013-14 season and join the N.Y. Knicks to attain championship glory in the Big Apple.
That scenario may sound implausible, but that, to me, is part of the fun. The concept is crazy enough to be taken for what it is, but partially feasible enough to spark a conversation. It is interesting that this mode doesn't function like a My Player or My Career clone. Though LeBron is the focus, gamers will have control over the entire team he plays for, like in a traditional game.
If this mode gets the proper presentation, it will be stellar. Here's a little sample of gameplay from IGN.
Mike Wang of 2K Sports told Andy Hartup of Games Radar that My Player is by far the most played mode in the series. Gamers love the ability to create a player and control his entire career.
There hasn't been a ton of information released in regards to additions made to this aspect of the game, so we'll have to wait and see if any notable improvements were made. For the most part, the functionality of the mode was good in NBA 2K13, but things like teammate A.I. could still use a boost.
By far, the most-talked about new feature in the game is the Crews mode. Billed as the return of Crew mode, the concept remains the same as the cult favorite feature from NBA 2K10 and NBA 2K11—but with a few notable changes.
Instead of playing games in an arena, all Crews games will be played in blacktops. Games will be played up to 21 instead of with a clock. The new concept falls more in line with a true pickup game—which is what the Crew concept always reminded me of—but anytime big changes are made to an old favorite, there is bound to be backlash.
Sometimes change is good, sometimes it isn't. We'll hope for the former in this case.
More Physical Gameplay
Much of the talk about gameplay this year has been centered around balancing the flow between offense and defense. Gameplay was slanted in favor of the offense in NBA 2K13, so seeing a focus placed on defense is exciting for me.
One of the most potentially impacting changes is the new shot-blocking system. Per Rob Smith in the video below, the ball is always live, and defenders can tip, block or deflect it at any time. That's a very good thing.
An increase in the overall physical interactions between players should make fouls and post play more realistic. It would be great to be able to feed a low-post player and draw fouls on the opposing big man. This could be the final piece in the gameplay puzzle for a series that has upped the ante in that regard year after year.
Looking Ahead to the Review
As of now, we can only speculate on how all of these new features will come together. Will the series go out with a bang on the current-gen systems or leave us yearning for the next-gen version? Be on the lookout for a full review on Sept. 24.
Follow me for musings on sports video games, NBA, boxing, MMA and WWE.