STAFF REVIEW of NBA 2K14 (Xbox 360)

Thursday, October 24, 2013.
by Scott Fowler

NBA 2K14 Box art Michael Jordan was Air. His gravity defying leaps and dunk spawned brand identification, marketing, and legend unlike any other. If Jordan was the best of a generation, or all generations, air-apparent (see what I did there?) is one Lebron James, cover athlete and focus of NBA 2K14 (2KSports, $59.99).

I make the reference to Michael Jordan because it's the obvious choice. Many have threatened to surpass Jordan's impact on the game, but nobody has been successful. I live in Los Angeles, aka Laker town, the one team able to withstand, even participate, in the LA lifestyle like no other. Players like Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neil and Kobe Bryant have all had times laid claim to "the best in the game". But in 2013, after back to back titles, as Kobe's star begins to fade, Lebron is taking control of the sport.

While that may be the case, 2KSports dedication to Lebron in this years title might be the only shortcoming in the whole darn game, and I even say that with reservation. He's everywhere, and not just on the physical game, but all throughout the game, too.

Regular game modes are fairly standard for your run-of-the-mill major sports title. There's online play, franchise-modes, single season modes, single game options, and the like. This year, 2KSports added the "Path to Greatness: Lebron James" allowing players the ability to take control of the player, the legend in his prime, and make different career decisions, taking different paths, and seeing how things might have played out had "The Decision" to bring his talents to Miami taken a different path.

If you're a Laker fan, this is a bit of a tough sell emotionally. Outside of that, it's 2KSports celebrating the biggest icon in the game, and doing it well, if not even a little tongue in cheek toward the backlash that Lebron got in real life surround the Miami move.

Overall, 2K has this Basketball thing down pat.

Graphically, it's about as good as you can expect given the end of life facing the current gen consoles. Customer players seem a little bit limited in appearance related options, assuming you want to look human and not rock the pointy ears and weird cheekbone looks available to you. The real players themselves are very accurately represented. So much so, that even without the accessories or tattoos, knee pads or name tags, if you're fairly knowledgeable about a team, you know who's who just by looking at them. This might seem inconsequential, but compared to football, hockey or even baseball games, the players in basketball look like people. No pads, no helmets, no accessories, so getting the details right is probably more challenging than the rest of the sport franchises out there.

In game presentation is really top-notch, also. The various season modes do a great job with commercials for upcoming games tied into calendar-accurate holidays ("Join us on Halloween for another great Laker match-up against the Golden State Warriors!"), time outs on the floor with cheerleaders to keep the crowd moving, and animated coaching cut scenes and interactions that really make the game presentation as close to watching a game on TV as possible. Player introductions, stadium details, and the like are all really top notch, with a gripping soundtrack and just solid overall recreation of the NBA experience.

2KSports missteps a bit with some of their add-on controls, and probably need to refresh this process from the ground up. In this years iteration, the MyPlayer mode allows users to earn points to upgrade the skills o their player. Additionally, clothing outfits, accessories (watches, jewelry, "bling"...) and the like can be upgraded and added to your players closet. For me, this was just a miss. These sorts of add-ons might matter to many players out there, but it just seemed disconnected. Add in the fact that Skill operates on Skill Points you earn playing the game, unlocking functionality, etc., and the MyPlayer content is based on a separate coin-based system, and the whole process gets a little fuzzy.

You also have the ability to start as a rookie, and play an interactive form of a players career, from rookie showcase, through the draft, and then onto greatness. This path seemed a lot harder playing as an individual, as opposed to a team game, and for me was difficult to really progress quickly. The players skills are so limited out of the gate, that you can't get the mojo necessary to get the milestones out of the way to get more points to make your player better. Run on sentences not withstanding, it's a bit of an evolutionary catch-22. What I do like about it, however, was the off-the-court aspects. Sitting down with GMs prior to the draft and going through interviews with varying outcomes, talking about endorsement, marketing, and licensing deals are fun, and something I hope gets enhanced on the next gen titles moving forward.

All in all, the presentation, the rock'n roll vibe, the graphics, the accuracy to the TV product, and the rest of the features make NBA 2K14 a really great basketball title. The somewhat clunky MyPlayer and difficult career archs muddy the waters a bit, but don't distract from the fundamental product: a really solid, really entertaining, NBA Video game.

Unless you're not a Lebron fan.

Get consistent with the MyPlayer mode, one currency for upgrades, and focus more on being able spend your way to improved player abilities, not prettier wardrobe. Keep exploring the off-the-court aspects of the game in career mode, as that's got some really fun potential. Keep up the great work!

Overall: 8.8 / 10
Gameplay: 8.9 / 10
Visuals: 8.8 / 10
Sound: 8.8 / 10


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