Another year has gone by in which 2K Sports has claimed the market for the only basketball simulator available. Without EA and the NBA Live series, NBA 2k14 proves yet again that they have made one of the best (if not greatest) basketball video games of all time, hands down.
From the overall presentation, small improvements to game play, details in facial and body contact animations, 2k14 delivers in every way, but some might feel this is just the same exact copy of 2k13, only with roster updates. To an extent, that’s true but you have to appreciate the small tweaks that veteran gamers will understand.
The biggest thing this year is the corrections and modifications mainly on defense. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cheesed with doing some quick dribble moves, and turbo button my player all the way to the basket for an eventual dunk or automatic foul on every possession. The AI has been corrected to take away some of the spacing between you and your defender, so those dunks down the lane won’t come as easy anymore.
Calling plays have become more easier to manage with the press of the Y/Triangle button and isn’t as clunky when the D-pad menu pops up. With that said the playcalling is so improved down to the last detail, you can fake out the defense on one play and then execute set two sets of screens the next. You get more control running the fast break, and with the left-trigger-right stick combo, you can perform flashy, no-look passes that was one of the main selling points. Granted it looks cool in slow motion, but it doesn’t do much else in getting buckets.
With the assist pass takes away the training we’ve done last year to use the left trigger-right stick for shooting the ball. This year, 2k14 has users learning all over again to shoot with just the right stick. But be warned: you might throw passes when you meant to shoot and vise versa, so the pain here is not easily picking up from 2k13, some training will have to be done…again.
Lastly, a newer feature this year is the ability to chase down defenders and block their shots from behind (a la Nic Batum). Blocking, poking the ball away and sizing up now feel more realistic and feel like it’s making a difference, rather than sticking someone in front of the offensive player.
As for game modes, the hugely successful My Player is back but little to nothing has been changed from the previous title, so it’s lost its luster. My Team and My Crew both have improvements but where NBA 2k14 stumbles a bit is the Path to Greatness mode, which lets you control LeBron James’ career. Unlike the fantastic Jordan Challenge in 2k11, you can pick to win more titles with the Heat, or bolt in free agency to any other team and create a dynasty to a city of your choosing. It’s a fantasy basketball idea, but other than watching James tomahawk a dunk wearing RIP CITY across his chest, there’s nothing much Path to Greatness offers, which is pretty disappointing.
Aside from already adding the same legend teams of the Jordan-era Bulls, Sonics and the Dream Team, you can pick from over 14 Euro league teams (sadly BC Nizhny Novgorod featuring Luke Babbitt isn’t included). But again, there’s no mode that comes along with it, so unless you’re crazy about Euro league ball, it doesn’t add anything.
Presentation wise, 2k14 looks fantastic and has the real broadcast feel of watching a match on TNT or ESPN. I wasn’t a big fan of the look from last year from the menu to the colors and font typeface, but everything has been cleaned up. With Jay-Z out of the picture, the soundtrack thankfully doesn’t bore you within the first hour of play with Jay-Z’s greatest hits. LeBron was given the reigns to pick out songs and does a much better job in my opinion than Hova (Black Keys, Phil Collins, Imagine Dragons). The bad part is Rob Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” manages to find its way into the PA system along with the continued thought that Coldplay music equals basketball.
Can’t forget to mention that the commentary is as better than ever, bringing back Kevin Harlan, Clark Kellogg, Steve Kerr and Doris Burke who rarely repeat the same conversation that keeps up with what’s happening on the court. With over hundreds of hours of recorded dialogue, everything sounds fresh and up to speed. Aside from that, player’s faces, body movements, shot styles, and even reactions from the crowd make the on-court experience more alive than it has ever felt. I was really impressed with the “Beat L.A.” chants that rocked the Moda Center to players whining about no calls.
Overall, while NBA 2k14 can simply be thought as a rehash of last years’ title, it has done enough to improve the biggest flaws and make a highly enjoyable basketball sim that doesn’t get old. The biggest drawback is the lack of new and advanced modes, but it’s no doubt that NBA 2k14 is the best sports game on the market, and it shines.
NBA 2k14 is available on both PlayStation3 and Xbox 360.