Visual Concepts’ vaunted NBA 2K franchise has a reputation for its high standards, and the series’ latest entry on the PlayStation 4 continues that sequence of slam dunks by towering over its PlayStation 3 counterpart. Not content with a mere visual upgrade, NBA 2K14 on Sony’s next generation system plays a totally different ball game to its existing sibling – and while some of these enhancements undeniably have niggles, they’re still terrific additions to an already excellent game.
This is a title that’s drenched in more authenticity than a players’ vest at the end of a high-octane quarter. Recognisable commentators Kevin Harlan, Steve Kerr, and Clark Kellogg narrate with considerable clarity, while Doris Burke interviews various athletes at half-time. Meanwhile, sponsor video transitions pop up alongside NBA logos and help to sell the television broadcast feel as if it were real.
And this is, of course, where the visual prowess of the PS4 comes in, with each court feeling alive due to the varied crowds and immaculate models. There are moments where the immersion is so great that you’ll forget that it’s a game – even if the uncanny valley will creep in eventually when a player fails to convey the right emotion, or a couple of identical twins pop up in the audience and make the same cheering motion. The issues are more noticeable due to the outstanding achievements elsewhere – but the game sure does hint at plenty of promise for the future.
In fact, given that sports games have historically struggled with the generation jump, it’s amazing how realistic this title looks and feels. Animations are much more fluid and realistic, and there’s a sense of physicality to the play that wasn’t quite there before. In addition, the artificial intelligence is competent and, at times, lifelike – and that’s without even mentioning the wealth of new modes and features.
For starters, My Career now plays out like a more structured narrative – a soap opera even. Cutscenes, dialogue trees, and personal objectives form part of your career and the story of your player. Upon picking a likeness, you’ll start shooting some hoops in the Rookie Showcase, discovering a rival that will follow you through your career and sculpting a personality that affects your team interactions and fan support.
Throughout your career, you can chat with your manager, coaches, and fellow players, having general conversations as well as more meaningful, life shaping ones. You’ll begin by watching matches unfold from the bench, ready to jump in should an injury impede the game or the coach decide to take a chance on you. Then it’s all up to you to prove that you’re worth a place in the starting line-up. It’s a neat addition that provides a sense of progress to the campaign – even if the voice acting is weak and the coach interactions are restricted to text.
There are other issues, too. You’ll encounter some of the same conversations with your coach multiple times, while you’ll often be given strange mid-match objectives that don’t necessarily gel with your team’s playing style. For as cute as the idea is, it’s not an especially engaging narrative either – but it’s at least a refreshing change from the bland campaigns that are otherwise so common in the sports genre.
Other modes include My GM, which allows you to manage an NBA franchise in a socially interactive style. You’ll be able to converse with the team’s owner, players, coaches, media outlets, and other executives to solve problems, help grow your franchise, and try to find the right balance between keeping everyone happy and managing your players on the court. As with the campaign, though, the dialogue is atrocious throughout.
Online, you can now play The Park street matches with buddies, as well as the standard head-to-head option. Meanwhile, the collectible card game My Team makes a return, which challenges you to create a fantasy squad in a similar style to FIFA’s popular Ultimate Team. One new addition includes Domination, which allows you to pit your assembled squad against all-star teams and real-world rosters.
NBA 2K14 on the PS4 is a stunning digital facsimile of basketball. The title’s visually jaw dropping, technically stunning, and represents a whole different ball game to its PS3 counterpart. The new My Career and My GM campaigns don’t always score a slam dunk, but they’re engaging enough to dribble your way through, making this is a top option if you’re eager to shoot some hoops on Sony’s next generation console.