We take a look at 2K Games’ latest NBA game, and one that crosses generations as it appears on Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Take a look at our NBA 2K14 video review for the full picture.
NBA 2K14 Review:
Today we take to the squeaky courts of the NBA with 2K Sports latest basketball game NBA 2K14 which appears on both last and next gen consoles. There’s very little difference between the basic game across generations although with the game’s cover star Lebron James, means the Xbox 360 version gets an exclusive mode featuring the player which allows for playing in key matches throughout his career.
From the offset, players are greeted with a slick interface where players can keep abreast of the current happenings in the NBA with NBA Today. This is pure fan service, but a serious addition for gamers well into the sport. The Xbox 360 version allows gamers to partake in various mimicked match ups making for an up to date game. What’s more, players can also make edits to the initial roster, to keep the game well in tune with what’s happening in the real world which is neat. Players can upload their rosters for others to import into their game.
Aside from the tinkering, players can jump into the well needed practice mode which teaches all the moves available, quick game, Online Play including leagues and NBA Blacktop. The latter offering local play on street courts and offers 1 vs 1 up to 5 vs 5. Players can also edit and create their own teams using the My Teams option.
To go even deeper into the modes, there is also a Career mode for a lone upcoming superstar which can be crafted using the create a player feature. This is a story mode of sorts and follows the antics of your chosen one through the tentative opening of his career, on-court action – or not if you’re benched – and management and character scenes. There are a few choices to make , which can lead to different outcomes, but the core essence is controlling one character in each game, and making a difference. Each time your character is chosen, every action is scored and graded, which ultimately has some effect on progression. The only real criticism here is how long winded some of the scenes are between games especially as they cannot be skipped. Having to sit through the entire NBA team selection ceremony for example is a complete bore, especially as the player character is chosen after about 32 other selections!
That said, the career is a cool mode to play, and seems quite standard for sports games, but the change of pace might not suit all players considering something is lost when the AI takes control of most of the game and those cut scenes just can’t be avoided. The default camera view when playing might also be a little jarring at first, but at least can be changed if desired.
Gamers can also take to a more managerial role with the GM Manager mode which again, has players running the team and taking care of business. It’s another mode to rack up the hours, and with the quality of the core basketball game being high, makes for an entertaining break from shooting hoops first hand.
There’s a lot of choices here which is good, and when coupled with a solid game engine which recreates the sport extemely well regardless of platform, and you have a comprehensive rendition of the sport for fans.
Playing the game proper does have a slightly different outcome in that the game by default is extremely hard for newcomers. In fact, so much so, that newcomers are really left out in the cold if the tutorials are not mastered. Even placing the game on its easiest setting will have the AI simply trash players who don’t fully utilize all the key moves available. What’s perhaps the most difficult aspect to master is getting shots on target which requires pinpoint timing to get right. The window for success is quite small here, and means you’re left at the mercy of AI who whilst not perfect, still has a better grasp of scoring impressive 3 pointers than a beginner player.
It’s a little unfair, and whilst the tutorial does a good job of showcasing moves, the fact that there’s no gradual learning curve makes for an unwelcoming game. It’s almost as if 2K assumes players will have been weaned on previous games before jumping in. Luckily, players can tailor the game to suit in the options, but this feels like cheating when things like shot accuracy can be placed at 100 per cent.
That said, the core game is pretty sweet and captures the essence of the game very well despite being quite tactical and full of varied moves for players to adopt. There’s a great sense of pace, a sense of anguish as shots bounce off the ring and there’s a scramble for the rebounding ball and of course jubilation when your team wins.
In terms of looks, the Xbox 360 version does a fine job of capturing the razzmatazz of the court with impressive character details, lots of spectators and players on the bench. The screen is awash with movement and feels quite the authentic experience to look at. The Xbox One version clearly comes out on top not only with its sharper visual quality, but the actual models are much more detailed and animate in a smooth manner. In fact, the game looks eerily realistic at times with the only real let down being a lack of facial expressions and animations when viewing the players close up.
Audio is very well produced in either game, with some good commentary and music including the organ pumping in melodies at key moments as you would expect. The spectator ambience is also dynamic and is captured well to suit the on-court action. The only negative here is a lack of speech in the career mode when talking to key characters, where text is the only option. For such a well presented game overall, this does feel a little backward.
NBA 2K14 is filled to the brim with modes and extras for players to mess around with, making for a game that will last until next year’s effort and beyond. It’s a complete package for fans offering definitive amounts of entertainment that can’t really be faulted in terms of value for money – especially for newcomers.
To conclude, NBA 2K 14 isn’t the most accessible game for newcomers, despite its slick visuals, presentation and wealth of modes. Whilst there is something for everyone here, it takes a bit of digging to set the right balance to suit the skill of the player. Series vets will have no troubles jumping in, and will find a breathtaking looking game on Xbox One that offers a definite upgrade on the last gen version. That’s not to say the Xbox 360 version is a slouch. Which ever version peaks your interest, there’s a solid sports game here that will keep you well hooked for quite some time.
Score 8.5/10 – Review by Robert Cram