NBA2K14 was widely accepted as being almost perfect on current gen consoles. A snap shot of court excellence which built upon all previous iterations of the franchise and ticked all of the right boxes. When games with that level of praise make the jump to Next-Gen, especially during the period of generation straddling, we as gamers are often left wanting. Very often we see lazy ports which do nothing for a gamer, but helps someone’s financial bottom line.
With better hardware available on the PlayStation 4, it was clear that 2K sports wanted to break the mould for generational ports after they sank over 17,000 man hours into the next generation version of NBA2K14 and provide not only the next step of evolution in the basketball franchise but set the bar for future sports titles.
Let’s get this out the way straight away. The easiest way to impress is visually. This is true in most walks of life. It’s the first thing we experience and can hook you or make you turn away instantly. NBA2K14 is simply jaw dropping. Given that I have Need for Speed: The Rivals, Black Flag and Lego Marvel on my shelf as well a number of other titles on my hard drive; how can it be that the most visually impressive game I have played is but a simple basketball game?
It really is an amazing experience watching those 60 frames per second making full use of all 1080 of those P’s. When you start playing the game and a room of 11 people all stop to stare and couldn’t work out where the cut scenes end and the gameplay actually starts you know a lot of time and effort has been placed into making this aspect as jaw dropping as possible.
However a visually polished performance does not a good game make. Can the actual gameplay of the various modes keep you entertained after the amazement factor of the graphics has passed? Simply put, yes but it’s not without some potholes in the road. Firstly this game is hard. After being battered around the court for my first few games I eventually found the tutorial explaining some of the moves that would come in handy, you know like shooting, blocking and passing. I returned back to the court.
Feeling confident of now obliterating the competition with my new found skills, I was somewhat stunned when these skills made no difference whatsoever and I ended up with my arse being handed to me over the next three games. After a small twitter rant I quickly learnt that I wasn’t alone – everyone was struggling. It was then that it dawned on me. I was a Rookie in MyCareer mode. I was learning my craft. I may have known how to have performed some amazing moves but I didn’t have the ability to execute them.
Hell, you don’t even get a full match to perform them. As the young upstart in the franchise you get about 8 minutes maximum per match to make a name for yourself. You can either do this by going for glory or being a team player. Get it right and you handsomely rewarded, get it wrong and you’ll get your game minutes docked by your coach.
MyCareer mode runs like a biographical movie. Akin to a cheesy made for TV film shown on a weekday afternoon on the Lifestyle Channel rather than a Triple A blockbuster, but a biographical movie none the less. Every choice has a consequence; carry an established stars luggage and he will take you under his wing and invite you to additional training sessions allowing you to earn Virtual Coins (more on this shortly) to either improve your wardrobe or your players abilities. However accept a social media challenge from a rival, lose and you will have to embarrassingly backtrack “on twitter” which may cost you some fans.
Now here comes the first of those potholes. The biggest drawback of the MyCareer mode is the lack of vocal talent of player characters for the locker room sections. It is nothing short of jarring when you go from cutscenes involving you and your agent or major rookie rival which are fully acted and voiced to a cut scene where you are the only one speaking and the “NBA Star” uses subtitles to communicate.
My second gripe with MyCareer mode, and I’m yet to decide if this is a pothole or sinkhole, is the ability to purchase Virtual Coins in the form of Micro-transactions. You have the choice on whether to grind through matches and cut scene choices to earn Virtual Coins or you can buy your way to greatness. At the current rate that I am earning Virtual Coins it’s going to be a long grind to get anything close to an above average player but I cannot work out if that’s because I am sitting here reviewing a “pay to win” game or if I am just still that bad.
The jury is still out on this one for me and I need to experience the balancing when I actually get good at the game. For the lazy amongst us, I did a little bit of searching online and it appears you can max out your player without actually playing the game by dropping about 150 dollars on Virtual Coins. This would be about 90 British pounds and would be equal to 300,000 Virtual Coins.
Outside of MyCareer, the Next-gen version includes MyGM, A new take on Franchise mode. MyGM can be pretty much what you want it to be as you try to steer your club to success. Whether you want to be as hands on as possible or take a back seat and simulate the main points, the choice is yours. At the end of the day however you do miss out on some of amazing moments that you only get by actually playing basketball in NBA 2K14.
MyPark is a new feature which does exactly what it says on the tin as you take your created player, literally, to the park where you can jump in and play some street basketball online. A couple of latency issues aside (I was only hitting 4.5mb on my broadband which may explain it) it was simple and easy to jump in and have some fun online with 9 randoms. Occasionally these matches do turn into a “chase the ball” match where everyone wants to keep the ball and go for glory.
MyTeam is the bottom line enlarger for 2K as it is simply their version of an Ultimate Team mode. I am sure I have explained Ultimate Team modes in enough reviews over the last 12 months that should allow me to just say it is everything you would expect. Card Collecting and Trading, card packs (in the three standard flavours of Gold, Silver and Bronze) and an opportunity to spend far too much real life money purchasing Virtual Coins to buy the next pack when you get sick of grinding.
While the game isn’t perfect it is certainly commendable both graphically and game-play wise for how high 2K have set the bar for future sports simulation titles. However the pessimist inside me has a gut feeling that a bitter after-taste may be to come with the micro-transactions. As the Virtual Coins have not spoilt my enjoyment of the game as yet my score will reflect that and once I can confirm one way or the other then I will give you all an update.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Format: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One Release Date: 29/11/13
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of NBA 2K14 for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of Seven days on a PlayStation 4. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.