The end of a console generation puts up a wall that makes all current-generation titles feel incredibly limited in comparison to what’s to come, and the effects are felt across most games in most genres. This hypothetical wall can be even taller in annualized games, since improvements are meant to appease yearly investors and intrigue new players to play. NBA 2K14 constructs an experience that takes progress in unique ways, but the wall that has been built might be taller for some people than it will be for others. LeBron James has made waves in the National Basketball Association, and 2K wishes to reflect that with a game mode dedicated to the statistically significant player, but does such a focus bottleneck the game or does the linearity make for a grand joyride, and does this basketball game without much competition still validate buying this year’s version after doing so last year?
NBA 2K has always looked beautiful to me, even if I haven’t played them very regularly. Watching jerseys flap and shorts bob as players move makes the experience that much more immersive, and character detail is the best that a sports game could offer—after The Show, that is. The sights and sounds of the game are refined and visually and audibly sheened right down to the player movement, the buzzers, and shoe squeaks; even the commentary makes other sporting titles look generic. The only visually off putting part to this game is that which plagues all sports titles: the audience. And this one is especially awkward. Affiliates of these types of games are accustomed to seeing pixelated and paper-thin fans, but this one does a bit of both as well as an attempt at offering at realistic interpretation. The fans that are closer to the court and the player appear in a three-dimensional form, albeit pixelated, but they become distorted and fuzzy as they move further away, leaving almost a cloud of team colors and moving pixels. Granted, this is more of an oversight, and it can easily be overseen, since the action on the court is both engaging and challenging, but you’ll see it eventually.
Right as the game loads, the simplistic menu system directs you to take part in NBA Today challenges, which chooses a game that’s taking place on the same day and has players take part in the action. In doing so, you’re awarded coins that are used to obtain player abilities and other unlockables such as legendary training drills in MyCAREER; but more on that later. Visually, watching players interact and move around the court is as good as it is awkward. Many specific animations take place all over the place and their consistency is only matched by their relativity, having animations specific to block positions and impact reaction, which gives 2K14 a great feeling of reality. What counters this is an underlining counter development: these animations can defeat the players. Too many times, my player would be forced backwards in an animation that would take him out of bounds where a professional player would have more spatial cognition. Another hiccup occurs when blocking: after jumping straight up, a few of my players would end up pushing the driving player backwards instead of being pushed back themselves. In retrospect, these inconsistencies don’t take place often, but they can and have changed the outcome of a game.
Learn more about the new control scheme and game modes after the page break