NBA 2K14: Hands-on Impression of Graphics, Gameplay and Features

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NBA 2K14: Hands-on Impression of Graphics, Gameplay and Features
Ray Allen be like: "Norris, you really gonna wear your hair like that?" Image from NBA 2K14

After attending the media event held for the next-generation version of NBA 2K14, the overwhelming impression I came away with was: wow. Obviously, we knew the graphics would be stellar. It is easy to see from the feature image the attention to detail is on another level.

Because it is a next-gen title and this was expected, it says something that most people I spoke to at the event were still impressed with what they saw. These weren't newbies on hand. Besides myself, other hardcore sports gamers like Shakedown2012 and Da Czar were in attendance. Here's a taste of what they had to say about what they saw.

These positive vibes extended beyond the initial look at the "flashy" replay screens. Once we got an opportunity to play full five-on-five gameplay, the raves continued. There was obviously more to discuss than just the visual excellence in the game, but as long as eyeballs are the organ most prominently used to enjoy a video game, things will always begin with graphics.

 

Eye Candy Galore

Image from NBA 2K14

The closeups during replays and cutaway scenes are simply the best you've seen in a video game. The emotion captured in players' faces brings them to life. The sweat, jersey movement and seemingly endless amounts of animation are jaw-dropping. According to the developers, nearly every NBA player in the league had their heads scanned with this level of detail.

Even I had my head scanned. Because of the enormity of my cranium, they had to bring in HD widescreen lenses...I'm kidding..I think. 

Here's a look at one of the images the scanners took of me in the game. This is not a photo, this is just how detailed I would look if I were in the game. It captured every blemish and hoops-related scar on my mug. I was sitting too high, so the top part of my dome was cut off a bit, but you can see the imprint my tight Chicago Bears hat left.

This type of detail translates to the on-court action.

Once the camera is panned out to a realistic and playable camera angle, the game looks just as good. You know how parents, spouses, girlfriends and other non-gamers mistake some games for a real broadcast on current-gen games? This could easily happen to a person who plays the game on a regular basis now.

From a TV-style camera view, the action looks just that real. Take a look at more screenshots and full gameplay here.

 

Gameplay

NBA 2K14 is powered by a new engine called Eco-Motion. The game plays similar to current-gen, but there are noticeable enhancements. Foot planting is a big deal, as it eliminates the sliding that was prevalent in current-gen games.

There was a solid demonstration shown with LeBron James and James Harden. This technology goes a long way in bringing home the concept that every step counts and is realistic. This is really noticeable when you're guarding a man one-on-one. The over-exaggerated momentum doesn't automatically throw you off course as it did before.

The Eco-Motion system also brings home an almost endless array of shot releases. There was a video shown of Kevin Durant launching three-pointers from the wing. Each release was different with the variations caused by how he landed and the impact the closeout defender physically had on him.

True sim gamers will love and appreciate this type of detail.

While I can't completely confirm this in the three quarters of gameplay I experienced, it would appear that the new Point of Emphasis feature brings out the influence of a coach, and his philosophy, more than ever. 

The POE ties into a coach's tendencies and approach, and it can be switched mid-game. If you believe the inside game needs to be taken away, you can direct your team to shut down driving lanes and post entry passes. 

There was visible proof given of this type of change via screenshots in the demonstration, but in all honesty, during a whirlwind of gameplay, I didn't think to try and implement it. The menus and options were definitely there, though.

Overall, I came away impressed with the A.I., especially as it pertains to off-the-ball action. Cutters moved realistically, and more importantly, defensive players sought to deny passes more aggressively.

Last but not least, on this front is the new feature called Emotion Plus. Senior designer Rob Jones introduced this option. It captures the impact and effect a player's personality has on the game.

Some guys are leaders and alpha dogs like Kobe Bryant, while others are seen as volatile personalities like DeMarcus Cousins. Depending on the events of the game, these personalities shine through in players facial expressions, mannerisms and on-court performance.

Guys like Bryant and Chris Paul were shown counseling and leading their teams on the way to the sidelines. Cousins was shown getting very emotional after a call didn't go his way.

It was pretty awesome.

 

My Career

image from NBA 2K14

Per the NBA 2K14 presentation, My Career is by far the most-played mode in the series. There seems to be a lot of work put into making the next-gen version of the popular mode standout from its predecessors.

From a customization standpoint, there were at least five new hairstyles to choose from when creating your My Player. The player on display was a spot-on recreation of community manager Chris Manning, aka @LD2K on Twitter.

The hairstyle he was sporting was a fade with star graphics carved into the sides of his hair. It was over the top but cooler than the outside of an igloo to see. 

Aside from the new customization options, an entire storyline has been added to the mode. We saw a snippet of LD2K's character, aka Chris Cross, interacting with his agent and rival during some awesomely rendered cutscenes. There is more than 40 hours of gameplay in your My Player's first season alone.

Essentially, all of the things you've come to expect from My Career appear to be present, it's just that a personality and story have been given to hopefully enhance the experience. Some gamers may not welcome the story line as it could create an identity for their character for them, thus taking away the option to carve their own niche.

There could be some validity to that, but it is too early to tell. More information is needed before we can make a true assessment as to how the story-driven direction and the old setup will mesh.

 

My GM

image from NBA 2K14

Because I'm an Association/franchise mode guy, this mode was of major interest for me. No matter how good online play or single-player modes like My Career are, if a game doesn't have a solid franchise mode, it is almost always a no-go for me.

My GM takes the place of Association in next-gen and there are some distinct differences. I got an opportunity to interview senior producer Erick Boenisch, the man in charge of the mode. He shed some light on his vision for My GM now and in the future.

Riding on the conversation engine is a great platform and it leaves tons of room for growth. As great as the game looks and feels, this is just the first version on the next-generation consoles. Boenisch mentioned to me how this was just the beginning of the way he plans to have the mode evolve.

There wasn't much discussion about drafts or controlling multiple teams in My GM, so those are two major components of the mode we still have to learn about over the next two weeks.

 

My Team

Very little if anything was discussed on My Team. It will be in the game as it was present on menus and the screen shot above confirms it, but there is no word on what differences—if any—it will have from the current-gen version.

It would seem logical to assume the mode will function almost exactly as it does on current-gen, which conceptually is very solid. We'll have to wait to see how this evolves as well in the days leading up to the Nov. 15 launch on Playstation 4 and Nov. 22 release on Xbox One.

 

The Park

Mostly every mode was on full display at the media event with a good amount of information shared on each, with the exception of My Team and the purposely teased mode called The Park.

Of all the details, which features or enhancements are the most promising?

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Many fans balked at the announcement that Crews mode would only be available for current-gen systems, but little did we know something potentially bigger and better might be on the horizon for next-gen.

The mode was only discussed and shown for about 45 seconds, but from what was shown and talked about we know it takes place in a blacktop environment, and up to 100 online gamers can interact at once.

The short footage showed a park with multiple courts with games taking place simultaneously. Taking it beyond that would be purely speculating and running the risk of leading folks down the wrong path. At the very least, I can say the concept and subsequent execution of the idea is intriguing. 

 

Parting Shots

This game could seriously take over my life in a way a game hasn't in a long time. It will be difficult to restrain myself because the graphics and gameplay are so tight. If the full details on the modes included are verbose enough to provide long-term enjoyment, this could be the game of the year.

 

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