Publisher: 2K Sports | Developer: Visual Concepts
If this is the future of what sports games look like then this is going to be one hell of a generation. NBA 2K14 is a stunning combination of highly detailed character models, near-flawless physics, great player animation and the kind of depth and connectivity that will have fans salivating. 2K hasn’t rested on its laurels with this game one bit and its love of the sport is apparent from every corner.
We seem to remember a similar story when the Xbox 360 launched with NBA Live, quickly followed by Fight Night. Unlike those EA Sports titles, though, this isn’t a question of simply having shinier, sweatier characters. It’s about the cloth of player uniforms moving around like genuine objects sitting on a body and not just painted onto a model. And this runs right through every roster and every team in the game. Some of the facial animation is fantastic too. There’s none of the plasticine madness of FIFA and PES here. There’s elasticity and a bone structure. It’s very impressive.
The other side of this is some great physicality to the game. For a sport that’s not supposed to be about contact, there’s a great sense of impact and solidity to the players on the court. The sound design is excellent too, helping to establish the sense of a real basketball atmosphere. The now-familiar squeak of sneaker on varnished wood is complemented by the creak and snap of the boards as you slam in another two points.
It’s a pretty unforgiving game in a lot of ways, though. For a start it begins with a tough match between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat without so much as a ‘Here’s your buttons, by the way’. No trouble for fans of the series in recent years, but new players might have a little difficulty. What’s more is that physicality we mentioned does make for a slightly slower, stop/start type of game. It leans heavily towards realism, so if you’re looking for some light arcade fun you’re out of luck.
MyGM and MyCareer are a couple of new gameplay additions that you won’t have had in the Xbox 360 version of the game, if you’re considering the upgrade. It’s a rare and welcome change from the norm where the next-gen game loses game modes for some reason. Here we’re getting a fuller package with even greater attention to detail and fan service. It may exclude the masses, but as a tech showcase of things to come, it’s very exciting.