Aren’t there 29 other teams?
Summer has come and gone. As we sit here in fall, we’re already a solid week into October, which is basically the best month of the year: football season in full bloom, hockey gearing up, baseball playoffs getting started, Halloween, a birthday for yours truly, and of course the NBA rounding out the month with its pre-season and regular seasons. Yup, best month, at least for sports fans and attendees of my birthday festivities.
Picking up where it left off last year, the NBA 2K brand brings back all the major staples that had many of us on the edge of our seats. ’13 sparkled and shined, so much so that it was sometimes visually distracting in the best way possible. All the features helped bring to life the atmosphere of NBA life. You could even just focus on the soundtrack alone, which of course was a focal point with Jay-Z as an executive producer.
For last year’s edition, all of the trinkets were well warranted and accepted. Very few complaints were made for what was offered. This year, it’s a bit different. As said, all of the past features make a return, but what has been added to supplement what has already been accomplished? In a nutshell, not too much. Before jumping to rebuttal, let’s break out the cleaver and butcher.
NBA 2K13 introduced many quality details to the foundation of the franchise, from classic teams to strong online play, to game modes aplenty. NBA 2K14 is mostly an affair of copy and paste, with a few things sprinkled here and there and some modes partially erased. The ever so popular “My Career” tied with MyPlayer, seasons, blacktop, and other familiars have been kept. But it saddens me to see Dream Team mode taken away, as it’s always great to have an old-school feel in the new school.
Mechanically, player motions are more responsive. Core movements closely resemble those of real-to-life players, though at times players perform boneheaded moves such as running out of bounds to catch a ball (because it’s not like the real Chris Paul can accurately pass down court, of course not). Defenders lock down more tightly, making it tougher for ball handlers to drive the lane unchecked or break down opponents with jerky crossovers.
Thankfully, the offensive side have stepped up its game as well. Though it’s harder to beat defenses with simple dribble moves, it’s still possible to win the battle using skill and technique, particularly with the new Assist Pass feature. By holding down the corresponding trigger button and flicking the right analog stick in the direction you want to pass the ball, throwing flashy, no-look, fancy passes are a breeze. If done at the right moments, it can be highly effective.
The biggest major change comes with the new “LeBron: Path to Greatness” career. It’s a mode that partially resembles 2K12’s Jordan Challenge except without the storied history. In Path to Greatness, you have the option to choose between Heat Dynasty and Fantastic Journey. Upon choosing from the selection screen, I was hoping to be embraced by the awesome that is LeBron James’ basketball career and relive his greatest moments… but didn’t have such luck. Fantastic Journey plays out a fantasy route, placing the Heat in a finals matchup for a potential three-peat, following James through free agency and continuing his path. Heat Dynasty mostly centers around the “Big Three” and co. in their mission to solidify themselves as one of best teams to grace the hardwood.
Though you are virtually getting the same presented game, the differences from last year show through. It's authentic to the bone: Notice Lebron’s receding hairline? Yeah, Bron, we see that headband inching higher and higher. The commentary, possibly being one of the most underrated aspects, has been updated. It’s refreshing especially to yearly sports titles, whose scripts are often recycled and overly used. Here, finely detailed descriptions follow the action as Kevin Harlan and team announce each game with enthusiasm and knowledge. Even custom dialogue engages at times when key guys match up against each other, such as making comparisons to Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant in their ability to score the ball from early in their careers.
Another new element, which shows not only the popularity of the NBA, but the game of basketball as a whole, is the addition of a few Euroleague teams: Real Madrid, Panathinaikos Athens, Fenerbahçe Ülker Istanbul, and a handful of others.
Jumping right back in the flow of NBA 2K shouldn’t be a problem for past fans of the series. There are plenty of new moves and plays to delve into, though new players may have some time getting used to controls, as the way the game moves can be somewhat of an acquired taste. Without any sort of current competition, NBA 2K14 offers what it does, and we have to take it. But with the close return of EA’s brand of basketball, NBA Live will soon put pressure on 2K to produce an NBA game worthy of next-gen consoles. For now, though, NBA 2K14 is much more than enough to get us through to next year.