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2K Sports
Visual Concepts
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Release Date:
October 1, 2013

When it comes to basketball, 2K Sports has things covered. We should be seeing the return of NBA Live but at this point, b-ball fanatics are perfectly happy with the NBA 2K franchise, which has typically moved in the right direction. I still maintain that the sports genre is in dire need of the new hardware on the horizon, simply because it seems developers have hit a ceiling in terms of visuals, animation, AI, etc. That being said, developer Visual Concepts continues to impress.

The current trend in video game sports is to present the player with a highly believable presentation. Designers want the game to look as much like the TV broadcast as humanly possible, and NBA 2K14 definitely appears authentic. With the exception of a few questionable animations and some lingering hitches and jerks, this is a smooth, exceptionally detailed graphical display. The arenas are perhaps the most realistic and dynamic, as they’re jam-packed with lively fans, plenty of immersive, ambient effects, cheerleaders, and various camera angles. I still say some of the player models aren’t 100% accurate, though.

The audio faithfully reflects the NBA community and culture, as those arenas sound great, the on-court effects are just about right, and the commentary is professional and energetic. In some of the EA Sports offerings this year, I’ve heard plenty of repetitive, inaccurate commentary. But 2K’s effort doesn’t suffer from the same drawback, as the color men are usually spot-on, and they’ve got the appropriate amount of energy and excitement, too. The soundtrack is highly subjective; if you like hip-hop, you’ll enjoy the music selection. All in all, from a technical standpoint, NBA 2K14 is one of the more accomplished sports titles of the year.

In terms of gameplay, most fans will know what to expect: Yep, tons of depth and micromanagement. That’s a given in this day and age. They can also expect the aforementioned technical prowess and a wide variety of distinct modes. That’s all here in abundance but above all else, when it comes to the ceaseless, often hectic action of the NBA, control is a paramount. With sluggish, unreliable controls and crappy AI, a basketball game goes downhill fast . But despite some total brain fades on the part of the AI, and a gameplay mechanic that is somewhat demanding, this one strikes an appreciated balance between simulation and plain ol’ fun.

Those of you who remember last year’s iteration will recall the developer’s use of the right analog stick. This implementation was initially designed to add complexity and intricacy to a player’s skill set, and 2K has pushed even further this year. At first, I thought this would cause some problems, because an overcomplicated mechanic can shut down my interest level. But it really works incredibly well, as it not only increases the realism but it amps up the immersion as well. Determined by the direction and length of time you hold the right analog stick, your crowd-pleasing moves go into full effect. Crossovers, shake-and-bakes, ankle-breaking drives; it’s all here.

And it’s not too difficult to pull off, either. It takes a little practice, as it should, but a robust tutorial guide will help out. Well, it’s designed to, at any rate. Personally, I found simply playing games made me a more effective player on the court; trying the practice mode didn’t do much for me, mostly because it seemed far too sensitive. If the analog is off by a hair, you mess it up. But that frustration didn’t translate during actual game situations, as I seemed to be able to learn from my mistakes relatively quickly. Given a pretty competent athlete, you can do some amazing stuff. Obviously, controlling someone like LeBron James gives you an automatic edge.