As someone who loved the current-generation version of NBA 2K14, to say I was excited to see what the next-generation had in store is an understatement. With the wait finally over, it's time to talk next-gen hoops.
Without further ado, let's get into expectations and reality for each aspect of the game.
Graphics and Animation
What We Expected
After the trailers we saw during the ramp up, the full game was set up to be held to the highest standard in the history of sports video games. We saw things in the “OMG” trailer and previews that made our jaws drop. Could the full game live up to what we saw in the trailers?
What We Got
As soon as you slide NBA 2K14 into drive on your next-generation system, you’ re going to be blown away by the visual appeal. The game is quite honestly the most beautiful game regardless of genre on a console system to date.
Besides the awesome facial renders, player models and tattoos, the animation is rock solid as well. The scenes go beyond the old double-take effect. Never have player models looked and felt so alive. The number of new animations is startling as is the look of the crowd and environments.
The last time we saw a game make a visual statement like this was Fight Night Round 3 on current-gen systems.
There are a few gaffes that literally catch you off guard because the game is otherwise so beautiful. The passthroughs with players and structures are an annoyance. It isn’t as if it happens all the time, but when it does, you want to close your eyes and act like you didn’t see it. Who likes to ruin perfection—aside from the Stanford Cardinal and the 2007 New York Giants.
There are also a few moments close to the basket during an animation where player’s hands may appear to get lost in a defenders jersey. It doesn’t happen as much as it does on current-generation systems, but it does happen.
Aside from that, there isn't anything negative to say about the visual quality of the game. It’ll have your non-gaming family member asking whose playing when they come into the room.
Gameplay and Realism
What Was Expected
Not much was known about gameplay on next-gen prior to launch. Those of us who had played the game knew what to expect, but most were wondering if the game would feel any different. Would there be any new gameplay innovations that enhanced or bogged down a pretty efficient system?
What We Got
If you liked the current-gen version’s gameplay, you’ll like it on next-gen. It is virtually the same with a few noteworthy improvements. The Point of Emphasis feature is excellent for making big coaching decisions mid game. With a simple flick of the right stick—or even during a timeout—you can change the area of focus on offense or defense.
If you pick up that your opponent is destroying you on the offensive glass, you can direct your team to attempt to limit second chances on the fly.
If one player is killing you, you can direct your team to key on that player. Of course, there is a counter to every coaching strategy. Your opponent can then combat that action with their own. It can really create a bit of a chess match between you and the CPU or a human opponent.
It is an awesome feature.
The foot planting and new ball physics are definitely felt. The ball is more free and changing directions on offense and defense is more realistic.
Last, but certainly not least of the new gameplay additions is the implementation of wingspans. Finally, this very important physical trait has been added to the game.
With the new physics, this addition not only has a cosmetic effect on the game, but it adds realism to the gameplay. Players with longer arms are better shot blockers, they extend further and are more dangerous in the passing lanes. This has been a long-time coming.
Sound and Presentation
What Was Expected
The current-gen version had solid presentation as is always the case with the series. We saw the trailer for Real Voices and I’m not sure about all sports gamers, but the one writing this review was blown away.
It was an example of 2K again taking things to the next level in the realm of presentation. Already impressed, what else could be added to the overall sound and presentation package?
What We Got
The developers at NBA 2K14 could have used the same commentary from the current-gen version. Folks would have called them lazy, but ultimately, the visuals would have won them over. Instead of going that route, there was a plethora of new dialog saved for the next-generation version. It sounds like a whole new game, and that’s great.
The sound effects have also been augmented. Chants from the crowd come through clearer, as do on-court things like shoe screeches, rim clanks, etc.
The Real Voices is as good as advertised. It is a little quick and it leaves you wanting a little more, but it is still really nice. Damon Bruce is still on hand to provide the halftime highlights as well.
If I can nitpick a bit about anything in this aspect of the game, I’d say I’d like to see Doris Burke with a different pants suit periodically. She looks good in the olive and mulberry ensemble, but another color would be awesome.
Many fans may have noticed during the Real Voices trailers, the players were shown in the same stance and the coaches had their own posture. In the retail version, there are more than just one stance for the players, but there is an example of passthrough in one of the postures. Perhaps that's why only one was shown in the trailer.
Factor in a fresh new overlay system during games and the presentation has at the very least met some very high expectations.
Game Modes and Options
What Was Expected
We saw a full breakdown of My GM, My Team and a semi-walkthrough on My Career in the days leading up to release, but there were still a lot of unknowns about the latter. Also, what is The Park and how does it work? It was hard to know what to expect in the realm of features.
What We Got
My GM is an excellent evolution of the old Association mode. More control is given to gamers in regards to controlling every aspect of running a franchise. The conversation engine that powers interactions between you, the GM, players and owners is great—though I wish some audio was included. All the conversations are text based.
At this time, you can only control one team in My GM. Controlling multiple teams would have been great, but you can still do that in the more traditional Season mode. Many of the management tasks are omitted as this is a more bare bone season experience.
Aside from those issues, the mode is stellar.
My Team is sleeker and smarter overall. Transitioning from figurines to cards just made more sense—even if it does appear to be an emulation of EA Sports' My Team concept. Gaming series borrow ideas and expound on them all the time. This is no different.
The new tiered tournaments and the Domination mode offers originality and variety to the experience.
The Park was not available to play at this point, so consider this aspect of the review to be purely conceptual. Essentially gamers can take their My Player to a virtual park where they can play in two-on-two, three-on-three or five-on-five games against as many as 100 different online gamers.
It's not Crews, but conceptually it could be an even bigger experience.
Speaking of My Player, the biggest mode in the series is the My Career single-player experience. The mode has gotten quite a face lift, but some aspects have been left sagging. The customization options aren't very verbose in this mode—at least at launch.
There are only 24 heads to choose from when creating your My Player and the options to customize facial features doesn't exist. Gamers will have to individualize themselves with hairstyles and tattoos beyond the use of the 24 available head models.
As far as presentation and an engrossing experience, the new My Career delivers in a major way. Your player will have to handle on-court and off-court situations. The gameplay is tight in the mode, but the story line is what really differentiates this from almost anything we've ever seen in a sports game.
Another customization issue arises in the Create-a-Draft Class feature. Just as you can't alter the facial features of your My Player, you can't change the look of the faces of the pre-rendered rookies in the draft classes. You're able to change the player's names, heights, weights wingspans and other traits, but not their mugs.
This means if you have designs on creating a draft class based on real collegiate players, you won't have an option to make your best Andrew Wiggins clone. Instead, you'll have to select one of the African-American models and pretend he looks like Wiggins. Some may not mind doing this, or others may be fine with the fictitious players, but I was a big draft-class guy. Unfortunately for gamers like me, this featured has been stripped down.
Lastly in regards to slip ups, there is no Create-a-Player (aside from My Player) or Create-a-Team feature in the game. Again, for gamers who really like customizing their experience by adding players who aren't in the game, you won't have a lot of freedom in this aspect.
However, there is a nice feature called Roster Creator. In this option you're able to create, share or build upon any roster anyone in the community has uploaded. This even includes mixing players from Euroleague and classic teams to make your own league. This I do appreciate.
Understandably, the limitations to customization are due to the developers and publisher not wanting any user-created players to ugly up a beautiful game, but once fans have become accustomed to a feature, it stings a little bit when they are removed.
By no means do these missing features kill the NBA 2K14 experience, it just keeps it from being doggone near perfect.
Aside from a few next-gen growing pains, NBA 2K14 is a classic from the moment you rip off the plastic. Of every launch title for next-generation consoles, no game screams "you're in the big time baby," like NBA 2K14.
It is a must have if you love virtual hoops and a must-see if you don't like basketball, but still want to know what a next-gen game is supposed to look like.
Here's a look at the game by the numbers:
Graphics and Animation: 9.75
Gameplay and Realism: 9
Sound and Presentation: 9.5
Game Modes and Options: 7
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