AFTER adopting a retro theme in its last three editions, NBA 2K, the best-selling basketball video game franchise from developer Visual Concepts, is giving us a glimpse of the future in its 14th edition which hit local shelves on Tuesday.
Well, at least as far as the future of Miami Heat superstar LeBron James is concerned.
In the smash-hit NBA 2K11, ‘His Airness’ Michael Jordan reintroduced himself to today’s generation of hoop fans. With the ‘Jordan Challenge,’ gamers were tasked to play some of the greatest games Jordan took part in during his glory days. In NBA 2K12, cyber Jordan brought along pals Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson and Larry Bird and some of the greatest teams assembled in the history of the NBA for a unique ‘Legends Tournament.’ In last year’s NBA 2K13, the 1992 US Olympic Dream Team and the 2012 United States Olympic basketball team debuted in the series to settle the debate as to which team is better.
In NBA 2K14, James takes over as the game’s poster boy. While Jordan and the legendary teams from NBA 2K13 remain (unfortunately, the US Olympic dream teams have been removed in this year’s edition), James is the focal point of this year’s edition and it’s all about playing out his future. In real life, James is on the verge of becoming the most lucrative free agent next year unless he inks a whole new deal with the Heat this season. NBA 2K14 decided to cash in on the guessing game by introducing the ‘Path to Greatness’ mode where you step into James’ shoes and take part in scripted events that roll out all possible scenarios relating to LBJ’s future (i.e., staying in Miami, moving to New York to join forces with Carmelo Anthony or returning to Cleveland).
Other than ‘Path to Greatness,’ there is the ever popular ‘My Player’ mode. The legendary teams are basically the same as the ones in NBA 2K13 but this year, in the absence of the US Olympic dream teams, NBA 2K14 is introducing fourteen of the top teams in the European league as part of an exclusive, multi-year deal forged in July. Make no mistake, these Euro teams play like their real-life counterparts and are far from being mere ‘guest’ teams. The only problem with these teams is that they are only available in the ‘Quick Game’ mode; there is no special tournament where they can actually mix it up with the top teams in the NBA.
In terms of graphics, NBA 2K14 is basically the same as NBA 2K13, although the faces of some players (guys like Manu Ginobili and James) have been re-mapped to make them look even better. You can say that NBA 2K has maxed out the power of the current consoles and the major improvement in graphics is likely to be showcased this holiday season when NBA 2K14 debuts in the next-generation consoles (Playstation 4, XBOX One).
The stellar gameplay has also been twitched and the first thing you will notice is the improved defense and passing. Dig this: As a defender, you can run after an offensive player in the midst of a transition play and swat away his shot. The player-collision/momentum is more realistic; executive a pump fake and a defender with very poor balance is likely to crash into you. Amid the physical and rugged play, the referees are not that quick to slap fouls, allowing for continuity in the gameplay. Oh, with the improved defense, don’t expect the slam dunks to come easy. Passing has been made more fun with the ability to throw fancy passes by clicking ‘L2’ and then pointing the right stick (on the Playstation 3 console) to the player you wish to give the ball to.
The controls have also been modified with the introduction of the ‘Pro Stick.’ Tapping or holding the right stick will release a plethora of patented moves. The in-game commentary featuring Clark Kellogg, Steve Kerr and Kevin Harlan remains top notch. The overall presentation (the cool, light-colored opening menu) and the music personally picked by James (Starting from the Bottom by Drake is this writer’s favorite) are definitely better this year.
NBA Live, once NBA 2K’s fiercest rival, once again decided to skip the current-generation consoles this year to focus on the Playstation 4 and XBOX One. Despite having the court all for itself, NBA 2K14 did not sit on its laurels and once again produced a brilliant game.