Review: NBA 2K14 (PS3)
Title: NBA 2K14
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (8.7 GB)
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: Visual Concepts
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: E
NBA 2K14 is also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, iOS and Android.
The PlayStation 3 Disc version was used for this review.
Whilst NBA 2K12 was nearing perfection in terms of what sports games could achieve on PS3, last year’s iteration disappointed due to changing too much. As admirable as it was to actually put a lot of effort in, rather than simply milking the fans, the game slightly suffered. This time around, Visual Concepts have only made small improvements to an already amazing formula. Change certainly hasn’t been made just for the sake of it – everything about this game suggests the developers were focused on leaving this console generation on a high.
The on-court refinements work fantastically well, at both ends of the court. Defensive play is more rewarding overall, particularly blocking, which has undergone significant surgery. Blocking a star player’s dunk attempt feels great and generally the new system is easier; though timing it incorrectly does highlight the more physical nature of 2K14, with players hitting each other and the ground with realistic force. While steal success is not necessarily more frequent, failed attempts now thankfully result in less foul calling, which is a welcome relief for those of us who found past titles too strict on reaching-in and almost a risk not worth taking.
Offensively, fast breaks are much improved and quick passing moves are far more satisfying than before. Partly this is down to snappier passes which reach their intended destination more often, but also due to the new controls. That’s right, for the third straight year, the devs have seen fit to introduce another new scheme – though this one is perhaps the best of all. Although it means slightly re-learning the game once again, the right stick for ball control is brilliant if time is taken to improve one’s skills, resulting in an enjoyable enhancement to dribbling and passing. Furthermore, dribbling seems more fluid; weaving through traffic with intricate movements being a sight to behold.
However, for novices, the basic button system remains present. Visual Concepts have done well to make this feature an on-the-fly addition rather than a core game mechanic. Beginners and expert virtual ballers can take to the court without changing any settings to suit their individual level, which is great for couch play. Sticking with on-the-fly developments, we have the neat new play calling system on L1. Again unobtrusive, this helps out a lot when moving across halfway and deciding on the best option. Some of these more patient plays are hugely gratifying, such as biding your time then splitting the D open with a bounce pass to your selected runner.
Aside from the one key change, modes are largely unaltered, still lacking a real hook to keep you addicted. I suppose they tried it with the now departed Ultimate Team clone, 2K13’s ‘MyTeam’, but perhaps a new take on ‘The Association’ is needed for next-gen. Replacing the aforementioned failure of last year is ‘Path to Greatness’; a mode focused on LeBron’s quest to make sure none of his fingers are championship ring-less.
It works nowhere near as well as the awesome ‘Jordan Challenge’ from 2K11, due to obviously taking place in the future rather than the past. Playing through hypothetical finals with ‘King James’ is not as noteworthy as reliving actual moments of history with MJ – after all, the entire single-player game is centered around simulation of future seasons. Whether you elect to keep your talents in South Beach or exercise the free-agency option, ‘Path to Greatness’ has been weakly implemented and is not a massive draw even for big fans of the current NBA MVP.
Elsewhere, ‘MyCareer’ is still an excellent mode that (like the game as a whole) is thoroughly polished – right down to interviews with potential employers for your rookie year and David Stern presenting the Draft. It’s also underrated in its ability to build up your skill set, perfecting the controls with your individual pro before extrapolating it to a full five. Finally, some European teams have now been included for playing quick matches, alongside the standard current NBA and historic sides. A slight annoyance here is there are no categories (e.g. East, West, 80s, 90s), meaning you have to cycle through all 50+ teams without any quick links.
As expected, there are no changes to report. Arenas still look alive with impressive lighting and reflections. The broadcast style remains a phenomenal feat; in fact, the new opening montages along with advertisements for upcoming matches make it better than ever. As for player models and faces, I suspect my perception has been irreparably altered by the PS4. They look dated now, though I’m certain a year ago, they’d be classed as stunningly lifelike.
2K14 is not ‘Executive Produced by Jay-Z’, so only one of Hova’s tracks makes an appearance, in what is a fairly strong (albeit quantitatively sparse) list of tunes that for the most part, fits the theme and atmosphere well. Commentary is simply superb – an absolute masterpiece that only FIFA can rival. The conversational tone works well in convincing your ears this is an actual broadcast and not in fact a video game. It’s also wonderfully contextual. There are constant remarks about a player’s form, their injuries last season, how their stats compare to the opposition… the list goes on. When a spectacular dunk hits the bucket, the trio will all shout ‘oooh!’ in unison, just as in real life. I could go on for hours with examples like this. In all, there aren’t enough superlatives for this masterpiece in commentary, for which 2K deserve infinite plaudits.
The online portion of 2K14 remains unspectacular. Games run smoothly but similarly to the criticisms levelled at some of the single-player, there’s little to keep you coming back. Two-player games offline is still my personal favourite way to play. There’s a constant feeling of it never being over; even with a 10+ point lead in the 3rd, a comeback is always on the cards. Another exhilarating aspect is the final few minutes being so tense and tactical. Just as in a real NBA game, the end of the 4th takes an absolute age with the fouling and free-throws. That’s where the sound hits another level, the DualShock starts vibrating, the screen even starts shaking and the clutch players really come into their own, sinking them with relative ease. No other sports game becomes so nail-bitingly tense as 2K14.
It feels as though there was a real determination from the development team to completely conquer this console generation. Their domination has been so severe that the competition haven’t even stepped on the hardwood for the last three years – but 2K have ensured that with this latest iteration, we’ll remember basketball games on the PS3 for their outstanding quality, rather than NBA Live’s failure. General gameplay is flawless; the on court action so refined and fluid. Combined with the unparalleled broadcast presentation, this is as close to perfection as sports games can get right now. Awe-inspiringly lifelike already, it’s intriguing to see how the PS4 version will improve the realism even further. Until then, this is a fitting ending to an outstandingly fruitful era in 2K’s basketball legacy.
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