Review: NBA 2K15 (PS4)

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Title: NBA 2K15
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (42.9 GB)
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: Visual Concepts
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: E
NBA 2K15 is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC.
The PlayStation 4 disc version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
The core of NBA 2K15 hasn’t changed dramatically from last year’s excellent next-gen effort, the verdict on which can be read here. Unlike some other successful sports studios who can’t help but tinker for the sake of it, Visual Concepts has elected to make very slight tweaks to a few on-court aspects. The controls for instance are more responsive than ever. A scheme which is the epitome of ‘easy to pick up, hard to master’, it now exudes a natural and accurate feel. Shot success better reflects the button or stick releases too whilst the addition of a shot meter provides instant feedback on exactly why your timing was right or wrong.

Movement feels better than last year as the occasional stutter and frequent clutter are both largely eradicated. In the case of the latter the spacing on the hardwood is far more natural. Patient build-up and slick passing continues to reap greater rewards but dynamically driving to the basket is now possible too as players aren’t too bunched up in a tight area. The AI is smarter now (in regular play anyway – your teammates in MyCareer are still pretty thick), so you will have to think each move through carefully in order to exploit said space.

Passing is another beneficiary of a nice, understated refinement in 2K15. The aforementioned build-up which makes the offensive portion of proceedings so joyous relies on solid passes. In comparison to last year this mechanic is snappier and means the target destination is almost always found with very little error. Defending retains the feel of an afterthought though – an argument many fans would level at the real world NBA. Perhaps it’s an unavoidable imbalance in ratings but I’d like next year’s iteration to be equally interesting on both sides of the ball.

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The best gameplay in the world is nothing though without a solid bunch of modes to keep players hooked. NBA 2K15 provides significant longevity through the excellent MyCareer and MyGM. Predictably, the former of these extremely deep modes has you controlling a player and the latter a whole franchise. Unlike some other sports titles where the options ultimately feel a bit samey these are built in such a unique and robust manner that they almost feel like two separate games.

MyCareer has improved on last year’s impressive effort in a number of subtle ways to construct a more polished experience. For instance voiceovers have been recorded by one NBA star on each team to inject further life into the cut-scenes. The narrative is hardly Oscar-worthy but remains a strong glue which holds together the most compelling career mode in any sports title. It’s certainly rewarding to watch your rough diamond become a millionaire pro baller. Luckily, the gameplay has taken a step up from 2K14 via more accurate readings of performance.

Lastly, the installation size and length must be noted as a major annoyance. Any gamers who have purchased both NBA 2K titles on PS4 will have sacrificed a minimum of 100GB HDD space, not to mention an hour or two and the entirety of their PS+ cloud storage allowance. Perhaps it’s harsh to criticise a game for its install methods but there are obviously optimisation issues which can be looked at. Its main rival for the sports game throne – FIFA – has hundreds more teams and thousands more players yet allows immediate access to the full game upon the disc first being inserted (and only a 15GB footprint).

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Visuals:
NBA 2K15 is simply stunning. There hasn’t been any noticeable upgrade on last year but there doesn’t need to be – 2K14 had a huge claim at being the best looking title on PS4. The fluidity of the game translates to a beautiful recreation of the sport both to play and watch.

Player models are lifelike, arenas are buzzing with life, and there’s phenomenal attention to detail. In all, the screens captured via Share do no justice to the beauty of this game. 2KTV is a smart addition as a video channel on the main menu which houses a weekly show filled with interviews and matches. My only dislike on the aesthetic side is with the UI change which now makes some menus too obscured or cluttered.

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Audio:
Musical selections will obviously boil down to personal preference, but I don’t rate NBA 2K15’s tracklist as highly as past iterations. Commentary is still superb and continues to set an unreachable standard for the genre, providing such natural and informative conversation. Super sound effects in the arena add another layer to the faux reality you can’t help but be immersed in – especially towards the tense finale of big games crowd atmosphere ramps up well. One addition for 2K15 is a mini Shaq & Ernie pre-game show (shown below) to disguise the load screens. NBA legend O’Neal provides his typically understated voice acting but his opinion on current players works well to complete the broadcast experience.

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Online/Multiplayer:
Like last year, NBA 2K15 suffers from serious server issues. Connection problems are prevalent across the various online game modes which often renders the multiplayer portion simply unplayable. Due to the never-ending nature of this it’s frankly impossible to recommend 2K15 to those who prioritise online play. When it works matches run fairly smoothly and Online Leagues show potential for great fun with friends which makes the lack of reliability even more frustrating.

Again akin to FIFA, 2K seems to be at a similar juncture to EA in 2011. The unified Virtual Currency relies on a constant connection to ensure earnings are not unfairly lost but the studio has simply not come to terms with what a mammoth task that is. Unlike EA they don’t have an addictive enough mode to keep gamers hooked regardless as MyTeam continues to bore and frustrate.

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Conclusion:
NBA 2K15, thankfully, is almost identical to its predecessor in terms of core gameplay. Contrary to some of their contemporaries the developers have evidently thought, ‘Why rock the boat and risk being capsized?’. Key components of the MyGM and MyCareer modes have been improved though which makes for a near-perfect recreation of basketball. However, the server issues continue to cripple the game. A one-off occurrence is understandable but two years in a row is inexcusable. With the online aspects being imperative to a successful overall package it’s difficult to recommend Visual Concepts’ latest effort as an upgrade.

There is no escaping the fact though that as an offline experience NBA 2K15 plays sublimely. An extremely tight control scheme is coupled with slight tinkering to the shooting and movement mechanics. Alongside the unrivalled presentation – a wonderful blend of contextual commentary and lifelike graphics – it creates the best sporting reproduction in videogames.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Raj Mahil

Raj Mahil

Game collector. Journalism graduate. Batman addict. Movie goer. WWE nut. Sports obsessive. Arsenal fan. Squawka.com Sub-Editor.

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