It seems that there are two main opinions of NBA 2K14 on the next-gen systems. 1) It’s a horrendous first offering, with tons of microtransactions, missing game modes and save-breaking glitches. 2) It’s the prettiest and most fluid basketball game ever made.
The reality is somewhere in the middle. Depending on what you want to get out of the experience, NBA 2K14 will either be great or awful.
- The game’s presentation on the court is breathtaking. The 2K series has always featured solid graphics, but the new consoles open up a ton of opportunities, especially in making players’ faces look realistic. But it’s more than that. Even the arena itself looks fantastic — the fans, the shot clock, the ad banners at midcourt. The damn game is beautiful, and it plays as good as it looks. There’s also a ton of extra dialogue for Kevin Harlan, Steve Kerr and Clark Kellogg, which helps each broadcast feel more fresh.
- Action on the court feels great. Giving the right stick some dribble functionality helps guards and forwards feel like they have more options to get to the rim. There are a bunch of extra animations for setting picks, and your timing is key — setting your feet early in a great spot will give your teammate space, but getting there late leads to a well deserved moving screen offensive foul. Shot blocking has been upgraded to where rejecting a shot feels extremely satisfying. Again, when you’re playing 2K14 between the baselines and not on the menu screen, it is fantastic.
- The MyCareer mode (which is where I spend most of my time) received a few significant boosts. While the core system remains the same, rewarding players with more points to spend if they play smart basketball with their team, the off-court side unveiled a new look. Your player will now get a ton of extra cutscenes, pick up an agent, and develop a Pokemon-style rival who just so happens to play the same position as you and talks trash every time you see him. The dialogue in these scenes oscillates between corny and awesome, but it definitely enriches the mode and makes the rookie season much more enjoyable.
- The soundtrack is much better than in years past, with a ton of recognizable songs that make for great arena music. Sure, a few have been played to death on the radio, but I have to give LeBron credit for putting together an eclectic list.
- The presentation off the court ranges from lackluster to just plain awful. Until you download an update, the boring main menu will consist of exactly four options — it looks like a damn title from the 90s. Menus are slow and unintuitive; why in the hell should I have to exit all the way out of career mode to add a tattoo or change my character’s hair?
- Damn near everything that doesn’t involve career mode or actually playing the game is awful. The first month or two after release destroyed save files and forced them to start over, because you have to be connected to the servers to save your game. Some post-release patches have addressed some of these issues, but the fact that they existed at all reeks of a game that was rushed to be a launch title.
- I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the lack of game modes given that this is the first offering on a next-gen system (and those have traditionally sucked), but…what a mess. No association mode. No create a player or create a team. The MyTeam mode is a dumpster fire where you have to spend in-game currency just to let your coaches SET THEIR LINEUP FOR THE GAME. Online play seems neat (100 players on 10 courts as once!) until you realize that you don’t give a damn what’s happening on the other nine courts and shouldn’t have to have Playstation Plus to join in.
- While the career additions are generally great, a few scripted scenarios yank you out of the experience. Did you dominate your rival in the rookie challenge? Too bad; he’s getting drafted above you anyway. Hell, I had a game where my team (the Kings) was leading by 42 points going into halftime. I was benched the whole third quarter, and when I checked back in starting the fourth, we were down by 20+ and my goal was to bring the team back. When I failed this ludicrous task, my coach chastised me and cut my minutes. Absurd. And while it was cute the first time, having a conversation with my GM about Bob in Maintenance having a birthday probably shouldn’t happen FOURTEEN TIMES IN A SEASON.
It’s really tough to give this game a score. It’s soooo much fun when you’re actually playing basketball, but getting there is a tedious process for some and an impossible task for others. It might be the prettiest launch title available because everything is so damn fluid and crisp on the court, yet it features a hideous menu system. I can’t recommend it for anyone looking for a deep title with a ton of game modes, but if you love My Career or just playing Quick Games with updated rosters, you’ll still get your money’s worth.
That said, if 2K doesn’t step up their game next season, it’ll be the first time I don’t buy their game in six years.