The NBA 2K series has been an industry standard for virtual basketball since 1999 when it released on the Dreamcast with Allen Iverson on the cover. Since then 2K has continued to tweak and adjust their formula year after year in an effort to find the perfect balance. While this year's title continues the series' attempt at approaching perfection, does it reach its potential?
To start, the game opens with LeBron James giving a motivational speech about greatness which is supposed to inspire you for some epic basketball. Naturally, he's the cover athlete for this year's release, and that means he's the one featured in this year's special new mode which is titled Lebron: Path to Greatness. In this game mode you have the ability to ‘control’ the fate of LeBron, one of the most talented players to grace the NBA. Despite how intriguing this mode could've been, it's a mildly entertaining series of different challenges where your team is judged by your performance in every match. There are also little bits of story layered in for sports fans, but it never feels like a fully refined product. It's an okay way to spend your time in NBA 2K14, especially if you're a fan of LeBron, but it's outdone by the other modes.
Before you can even play as LeBron or other professional players, you get an opportunity to create your own basketball player which will be your conduit to fun in MyCareer mode. The game presents a fair amount of different features to define your player, although the options are limited in many areas. If you want to make a funny looking player, you can do that. If you want to look good, well, that's going to be hard since the faces are a bit funny looking. But you aren't going to be staring at your character's face once you're on the court, you'll be too busy trying to prove yourself.
The home screen shows two teams that are set for a featured game, and if you want you can jump straight in. If not then there is a notification towards the bottom of the screen telling you how to access the rest of the game modes. Options include The Association, Season, Playoffs, NBA Blacktop, MyCareer, and various Practice and Training modes. This release doesn't go out of its way to tamper with the content of previous releases. Well, except for the gameplay.
The new form of gameplay is sure to capture your attention. To break away from previous releases, NBA 2K14 has a new system for controlling its virtual basketball stars. Anyone that has become comfortable with the mechanics of previous releases may find it difficult to adjust to the amount of finesse the latest setup requires. If you find yourself struggling on the court then a trip to the Training and Practice modes goes a long way. After some practice you'll admire the fluidity of NBA 2K's new style. It's successful and is sure to carry over to the next few releases.
While the changes to gameplay mean that the minute-by-minute experience is a departure from last year's game, it isn't supported by content. The presentation, audio, and content package are extremely similar to NBA 2K13. Your complete satisfaction will rely on whether or not you're in the mood to play a season in The Association or MyCareer mode with the new controls.
For those of you that are debating on whether or not NBA 2K14 would be a fantastic game to get you back into the mood for basketball, the answer isn't as concrete as in years past. Visual Concepts have given LeBron James a mode of his own, kept familiar ones to bulk up the experience, and thrown the gameplay on a mortar and pestle to make controlling a basketball player better than ever before. The series' yearly release syndrome is in full-force, though, and if your gaming collection has a stack of NBA 2K games, this release is unlikely to be a standout of your collection.
Kyle Ames is a News Contributer for CraveOnline's Gaming channel.
We received one review copy of NBA 2K14 from 2K Sports for PS3.