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NBA 2K14 Impressions, Videos and Q&A From the Vegas EXPO (JasonWilliams55)
Let me start with some background then I'll dive into the questions from my original Vegas thread.
So I arrived at the EXPO with the other billions of people and finally made it over to the 2K booth were they had 8 stations setup with 2K14, all first quarter 6 minutes long and only Spurs v Heat, you could switch between teams though. The build itself was extremely basic, no PnR action, no Playcalling, broadcast cam, pro settings.
So I get there at 11am, play until 1230-1'ish when Ronnie and LD2K arrived, so I stopped playing (somewhat) and talked to them for the most part until PG arrived (115ish until 230ish iirc) PG thoroughly whipped Ronnie. After PG left, Ronnie was floating around the booth, LD2K was sitting in a chair where Lids (OS) and I had surrounded him and was picking his brain and just general chatting about all things 2K/NBA, future of, visions, etc... Very enlightening talk, Chris and Ronnie are both standup peeps, very down to earth (as Lids said), they believe in the product (not just business belief either) but truly want the best basketball sim (yes SIM) possible, but alas they are not the makers nor the directors. They both want to be as transparent as possible but they still have strings attached (so to speak) to them. Don't look into the 'strings' part, its the best wording I can think of this morning.
So back to the chatting, from 230 - 4ish it was LD2K (Chris), Lids and I, straight up, no one else. At 4-415ish, they had to get ready to leave, and so, by the graces of all things 2K, Lids and I were both invited to come hang while they spent their free time before having to leave for PAX (oh yeah, some info will be dropped there, so be ready for that). So from 415ish until 715, I was able to talk to Ronnie and Chris (unfiltered) (Lids had to bounce for a bit but made it back around 7) so it was literally Ronnie, Chris and me for roughly 3 hours. Alot of things were discussed, some I can talk about some I can't, so much intertwined that I feel for how the Czar has to choose his words when he posts.
On that 3 hours... we talked/discussed current gen, next gen, future of both, marketing for both, gameplay ideas, whats doable, what not, etc etc etc... but let me get straight to next gen since its very easy to talk about. I got no info on it, they would not discuss it, period, but, let me say, they were bursting at the seams wanting to talk about it, more so than a 300lb man at an all you can eat.
They were honestly giddy about next gen and what its gonna do, but at the same time they had that childish fever about it, they also didn't want to dismiss want current gen has to offer.
Man, there is a lot I want to say, but just can't quite say outright and will wait until after some more official things are said.
Current Gen (CG)
CG is the culmination of 2k11 - 2k13, the best of each one mashed together, ironed out, tuned and balanced on both sides of the ball. Even with the lame demo build that was there, it was smoother, cleaner and more polished feeling than 13, yes that noticeable even on the demo build.
The build Ronnie and PG played on, made the demo feel a year old, it was 10x smoother/cleaner than the demo build. It was played on PS3 throughout the EXPO, with no noticeable jaggies anywhere, that is how smooth it looked. I was surprised by that, since the PS3 versions have always had that noticeable lack of graphical quality than the Xbox versions, that was no longer apparent. But I also did not get to see a Xbox version either, so take that for what it is. Just know that 14 is not a 10x increase on graphics (they are maxed out of memory on CG) but it is cleaner and more polished looking.
Graphic wise I guess one COULD say 14 is NBA2K13.5, but I wouldn't worry about that aspect, 14 gameplay wise is >>>> 13.
So while 14 might look like 13, it definitely does not play like it.
Not gonna get into details quite yet, but will when I go through and answer the questions, that's where you'll find the meat and potatoes. And at the end of the q/a section, I will leave y'all with one MAJOR TEASE. Yes... yes... hate me now.
Control is the name of the game in NBA 2K14
As NBA 2K developer Visual Concepts attempts to continue the series' stellar recent history with NBA 2K14 this fall, the studio is keeping its focus on refining existing systems and mechanics as opposed to making wholesale changes. It's a strategy that makes sense when you approach a new generation of consoles — and when you've had as much success as Visual Concepts.
With NBA 2K13 last year, the studio made a major change to a couple of fundamental mechanics — shooting and dribbling — by putting both on the right analog stick, with a modifier button used to toggle between them. Dubbed the "Control Stick," the setup made complex dribbling moves more accessible for casual NBA 2K players without getting rid of the depth that die-hard players craved. But the modifier button, the left trigger, occasionally caused problems in the heat of battle.
"We never want players to feel stuck in a canned animation or out of control at any time," said NBA 2K14 producer Rob Jones in an interview with Polygon. "Basketball requires split-second reaction time, and even the slightest delay can cause you to give your opponent a huge advantage."
This year, Visual Concepts removed the modifier but left both shooting and dribbling on the right stick, a control scheme the studio now refers to as the "Pro Stick." Flicking and rolling the stick will produce dribble moves like crossovers, and if you want to shoot, you just hold the stick in a particular direction. The modifier button is now used in conjunction with the right stick for flashy passes. According to Jones, this setup "makes quick twitch actions in the heat of the game much simpler."
The change seems significant enough to warrant a renewed focus on tutorial elements. The tutorials in previous NBA 2K games have allowed players to practice the complex variety of controls on offer, but haven't done a good job of teaching players how to use those moves in a real game setting. Jones said this year's tutorial "includes all of the latest moves to make the player experience better than ever," but didn't mention any changes that could potentially fix the issue by putting that training in the context of an actual game.
In addition to revamping controls, Visual Concepts also wanted to tweak the way players move, with an eye toward "improving smoothness and responsiveness." Basketball games really suffer if players get caught in animations and can't branch out of them. So the studio worked on animation transitions to reduce the frustration associated with poor responsiveness, which, according to Jones, will be appreciated on defense in particular.
During our interview, Jones repeatedly said that Visual Concepts wants to take individual NBA 2K14 features, and the franchise itself, "to the next level." We haven't played the game yet, so it's unclear if the aforementioned changes that the studio is making will accomplish its goal. But considering the NBA 2K series' esteemed pedigree, Visual Concepts has earned the benefit of the doubt.
Gamescom 2013: NBA 2K14 Hands-On Preview – The Path to Greatness
Last year, Jay-Z was the man producing NBA 2K's music. For NBA 2K14, cover star and Miami Heat forward LeBron James hasn't just been involved in hand-picking the game's soundtrack, but his fingerprints are all over this year's iteration, with a massive career mode entirely dedicated to the NBA All-Star. Make no mistake, with LeBron on the cover, NBA 2K14 is all about his continuing rise.
It seems that helping the Heat to two consecutive NBA Championships is just the start for King James, and in NBA 2K14, you'll actually be able to play through what's next in his NBA career, thanks to the new, modestly-named 'LeBron: Path to Greatness' mode. Looking ahead to LeBron's fantasy future, you'll play a hand in the next seven seasons as the man himself, either shaping his status as an NBA legend who makes it into the Hall of Fame, or as a failure who limped through seven seasons of air balls and bricks after ten years at the top.
LeBron: Path to Greatness is the backbone of NBA 2K14, but there's a lot more being crowbarred into the game beyond this new addition. Crews are back for starters, giving you the chance to pit your MyPlayer against other MyPlayers online in 5v5 games for the first time since NBA 2K11, complete with leaderboards, stats and such. MyTeam also returns, with new single and multiplayer modes and tournaments to participate in. Then there's the 'Dynamic Living Rosters', that ensure everything is kept bang up to date, reflecting a player's performance with daily stat updates from Stats, Inc. Actual real life hot and cold streaks will effect a player's rating in the game, keeping a player's attributes true to their real NBA counterparts.
This feature sadly doesn't apply to the 14 new Euroleague teams, although you will be able to pit the likes of Real Madrid, Olympiacos Piraeus, CSKA Moscow and FC Barcelona against any of the teams in the NBA. Classic NBA teams also make a comeback for NBA 2K14, meaning legends like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson are still in the game, even if they don't get to star in their own mode anymore.
Obviously, NBA 2K14 couldn't tack that all-important '14' bit onto the title were it not for a glut of new gameplay refinements, which this year starts with the honing of the game's 'Pro-Stick'. Now you use the right analogue stick not just for shooting, but you now tap it in any direction for dribbling moves, whereas holding the left trigger down and tapping the stick will execute a stylish pass for some razzle dazzle in your game. Passing targeting has also been improved, while steal success has been tweaked, post game has been rebalanced, and blocking animations have been made more fluid.
In fact, the entirety of NBA 2K14 has been made smoother thanks to a breakthrough with compression freeing up extra space on the disc for 3000 new animations and more realistic collisions between players. There's the 2K SmartPlay feature too, that makes calling a play far simpler thanks to the AI sorting it all out for you at the touch of a button. Of course, if you fancy yourself as a Pat Riley, Phil Jackson or whatever, then you can still orchestrate your own plays.
Going hands-on, the new Pro-Stick gubbins prove hard to get to grips with, making shots almost impossible to sink, even when you're wide open and free of defenders waving their hands in your face. In fact, playing against the San Antonio Spurs as the Miami Heat, we were subjected to a 14-2 drubbing in the first few minutes, as LeBron failed to even finish a lay-up and Dwyane Wade consistently failed to deliver from the three-point line. Frustrating stuff.
We're told there's a learning curve to the new Pro-Stick controls, so perhaps in time mastering its intricacies will unlock a multitude of instinctive moves and accessible tricks, but currently it feels like there's simply too much being assigned to the right analogue stick. A short hands-on can't really do justice to what is historically a multi-faceted and detailed basketball game, so only time will tell whether the increased functionality of the Pro-Stick will cause NBA 2K14 to fall flat on its face. It's still one of the best-looking sports games on the market, and the wealth of aforementioned features ought to keep all but the most demanding basketball fans happy. Even the ones who hate LeBron James and/or the Miami Heat.
NBA 2K14 is full to bursting with modes and features like pretty much every iteration before it, and while the LeBron James: Path to Greatness mode might polarise the audience, the return of Crews (not for the Xbox One version) and MyTeam (also not in the Xbox One version) will keep the majority of fans happy. We just have misgivings about that over-subscribed analogue stick, and hope that some proper time spent with the controls will dispel any worries we have about the game. With Visual Concepts delivering a great NBA 2K title year in, year out, however, we see no reason why NBA 2K14 won't bring its A game to the hardwood once again.
NBA 2K14 is out on October 1st in North America and October in 4th in Europe for Xbox 360, with the Xbox One version to follow.
NBA 2K14 Crew Mode to Include Team Jerseys, Unique Courts Crew Mode will be new and improved this time around, with leaderboards and five-on-five games.
Crew Mode, a fan-favorite feature that’s making its return to the NBA 2K franchise this year, won’t just be a retread. The competitive, team-based mode is looking to up the ante in a few key areas for NBA 2K14, and a new analysis video by community leader IpodKingCarter has been released to explain what the developers are doing to improve something players are dying to jump back into.
In NBA 2K14’s Crew Mode, there will be online leaderboards for the best teams to display their skills on a global stage. Crews can consist of five players, and no matter the surface the game’s being played on, the competition will be balanced. The developers are unsure at this time whether or not the competition will take place in an arena or the blacktop, but wherever it does take place, the locations will be unique compared to what’s been seen in last year’s game.
One of the other unique features coming to Crew Mode is the ability to customize jerseys for your squad. Instead of looking like a ragtag group of street players without any aesthetic consistency, NBA 2K14 allows players to have all five team members match as they block dunks and drain threes on the court.
If you want to dig a bit deeper into Crew Mode and hear what the real masters of the game have to say, check out the full video on his YouTube channel. The game will be launching on current-gen platforms Oct. 1, with the PS4 and Xbox One versions planned for a November release.
I hope there's an arena. I can't see crew on a blacktop.
Buy NBA 2K14 For 360, Trade it in later for the Xbox One version for $9.99
“It’s more fun to be the big guy” we’ve got My Player details for NBA 2K14
While we were at NBA 2K14 developer Visual Concepts, spending hours with the game for our massively in-depth preview, we got the chance to sit down with several members of the team to chat all-things-basketball. We covered new features, LeBron’s involvement, motion-capturing real NBA players, the return of Crew and--oh yeah--the always popular My Player mode.
We love My Player, and we know it’s the most-played mode in the 2K series. So, we wanted to know how it was changing this year. That’s why we asked senior game designer Mike Wang the simple question: “what’s new in My Player?”
"We’ve spent a lot of time in 2K14 making sure that you feel as if you’re playing with real people"
“We have telemetry data that tells us what the most-played mode is, and My Player always comes out way on top,” explains Wang. “From the gameplay side--we’ve spent a lot of time in 2K14 making sure that you feel as if you’re playing with real people. In the past it felt like you were on your own, and that your AI players were just getting in the way. You know--you’d create a great opportunity for one of your team mates, you’d kick it out to him for a shot, and he’d just pass it away or not really know what to do.
“So a lot of the changes I’ve been making are based on how to make the gameplay smarter. Especially in offense. If you kick it to a guy and he’s a good shooter and he’s wide open, you want him earn you an assist. You’re always thinking about your stats, right? So they’re a lot better at recognising opportunities in general. So My Player is more fun to play as a point guard this year.”
That inevitably leads us to ask about what that means for different positions. After all, because 2K13 is weighted so heavily towards rewarding offense and penalising defense, does that mean the big guys are getting some love?
"For every attacking move, there’s a defensive counter"
“Ha--yes, it’s much better when you’re playing as a big-guy too. You can rebound the ball and block-shots as a specialist defender--like a Serge Ibaka character--much more easily. You can have fun doing that, something we felt was really lacking until 2K14.”
“That philosophy has been applied to the whole game, so it isn’t just My Player that’ll get the benefit,” he continues. “We looked at everything you could do and tried to make it one-to-one between offense and defense. So for every attacking move, there’s a defensive counter. One example is that you can now block dunks. In 2K13 you just couldn’t, but now--if you see a guy coming down the lane--you can challenge that shot. Defense is half the game. We didn’t want My Player sessions to feel like you’re just waiting for offense. We want players to have fun all the time.”
Ok, that all sounds great. However, when you introduce a great new feature like chase-down blocks and the ability to block dunks down the lane, there’s always a temptation to over-power it, just so people get to experience this awesome new feature as quickly as possible. Wang acknowledges this, but explains why that shouldn’t be a problem in 2K14.
"Whenever we add something new the tendency is to crack its frequency up because it’s exciting to see that new feature in play"
“It’s definitely a temptation. Whenever we add something new the tendency is to crack its frequency up because it’s exciting to see that new feature in play. We saw this with one thing I call ‘dribbler smash’. So this is… if I’m jumping to block and the guy has pump-faked me, what happens in the past is that you’d land on him and push him back a little. There’d be no foul or collision. So what we did this year is add a feature where you can actually collide with that guy, and you might just fall on top of the ball handler.
“It looks really cool because the two guys topple each other, and they’re both on the floor… but when we first put it into the game it happened every single time you jumped to block. At the start it looked cool, but when it started happening over and over it stops being fun and all of a sudden you’re not having a good time any more. You’re always falling over. So we’ve got a dedicated QA team who are constantly testing to make sure we’re not over-using new features, and the design team play a hell of a lot too. We just want it to be true to real life.”
Speaking of realism, we noticed a load of new animations during our hands-on session. Specifically, we pulled off a hugely satisfying circus shot with Paul George that earned us a 3-point play. Even in the relatively short time we spent with the game, these new animations made it feel more like real-life NBA.
"NBA players come through to the studio and ask us to add their unique moves. So we do"
“Yeah, a lot of the features that we add are actually born in the mo-cap studio,” says Wang. “That’s because we’ve moved away from structuring everything. So we bring in these NBA-calibre athletes, and just let them go at it. They play five-on-five, one-on-one, and what comes out of these sessions is priceless for us. We see them do things that you can’t do in the game, so we retrofit it in. You see something and think: “Oh my god--the move that guy just did is amazing--how do we fit that into the game?”
“It comes from talking to the talent too,” continues Wang. “NBA guys come through to the studio and tell us stuff like “Hey, I have this specific move that I like to do on the court, but I can’t do it in NBA 2K--can we add it?” And we say “Yeah, sure.” So we’ve obviously got our vision for what the game should be each year, but the design comes from all kinds of directions and changes over the course of the year.”
While we’re on the subject of change--one of the things that fascinates us about My Player is how the team at Visual Concept simulate NBA teams and player transfers 4-6 years into the future. With the exception of the occasional bizarre transfer, or deep play-off run by a currently low-winning team, the simulation holds up after several seasons.
"We don't want silly-looking teams or mad trades in My Player"
Rob Jones, gameplay director on NBA 2K14, chips in: “Most of the transfers, and all the stuff that happens in the back end, is handled by Eric our features lead. And he’s always looking at the data to see ‘where did we start failing’ in that area. We always aim to get the basic stuff right with simulation. We don’t necessarily want more frills--we just the basic stuff to happen as we’d expect it to. You don’t want silly-looking teams or mad trades.”
We agree. We don’t come away from Visual Concepts with a list of specific My Player stats--like how many new jackets you’ll be able to buy, or whether they’ve finally got more than two character models for the post-game press conference journalists--but we do get a sense that the team are working on the important stuff first, frills second. Good.
Check back next week, when we’ll be dropping details about the LeBron-fronted Path To Greatness mode, and discussing what happens when real-life NBA players don’t think their stats are high enough…
NBA 2K14 review As polished as ever, but a little less magical
For years, the NBA 2K franchise has consistently stood head and shoulders above most sports games because of stellar gameplay, star power, and the addition of fresh, new ideas each season. NBA 2K11 set the genre on fire with the Jordan Challenge, then followed it up in NBA 2K12 with the amazing Legends tournament. While the NBA 2K13 Dream Team didn’t sizzle as much last year, it still garnered plenty of conversation. As the PS3/360 generation closes out, NBA 2K14 arrives as a superbly tight gameplay experience--but it feels like it could have been so much more.
On the court, NBA 2K14 plays beautifully. In particular, defense is more interesting because of the ability to play the ball more effectively; well-timed reach-ins result in knock-aways more than fouls, and the fact that you can block a ball as a trailing defender is a welcome addition. There’s an undercurrent of nastiness in the paint, too, as bodies loudly and violently collide, accented by screams of fouled players and "thumps" of 7-foot hulks of men slamming into the floor.
The improvements are more subtle on the offensive side, though no less appreciated. Passing is crisp, and only particularly poor decisions result in you coughing up the rock. A nifty left-bumper tap automatically calls a play, without the need for the game-invading tap on the D-pad to pull up a list of options (although you can still do that too). Calling for picks is still the best way to create a moment of opportunity, but doing so this year is executed via a button press instead of the aforementioned bumper--one of many control changes this season.
Oh, yes, the controls.
For the third straight year, the basic shooting and passing mechanics have been significantly altered. The right stick now handles shooting and skill moves with no left-trigger modifier; unlike last season, when the left trigger controlled when you shot, it now dictates when you pass. The initial experience for veterans of NBA 2K13 is confusion and comedic ineptitude. All of the finely honed skills you’ve burned into your brain need to be thrown out, and that is not an easy thing to do. While you might say “just use the button passing and shooting, dummy,” the fact that the right stick controls all your crossovers, sidesteps, and spins as well as shooting means that you have no choice but to re-learn the basics. Otherwise it’s impossible to play the game.
They key is a tap instead of a hold. If you flick left-right and then let go of the stick, your dude will make a nifty move and then continue dribbling. If you don’t let go immediately, though, he’ll shoot the rock--quickly. It’s initially baffling. However, once you become comfortable, the opportunities for success seem infinite. It’s most apparent in the post, where a talented big man like Brooks Lopez or Chris Bosh can make defenders look silly with a fake-left-to-a-right-handed-layup move that’s easy to pull off with the stick. More complicated to execute are moves in the mid-range area, where a spin move chained to a drive to the basket are the meal tickets for stars like LeBron and Kobe. Ultimately, the ability to chain skill moves directly to a shot is terrific, but it takes a lot of effort to forget what you knew to get there.
The newest showcase for all of this on-court action is the Path to Greatness mode featuring LeBron James, an interesting but flawed combination of traditional franchise and single-player modes. Much of Path is ingenious, from its scripted events which put LeBron in all sorts of compelling scenarios (none of which we will spoil here) as he completes the upcoming season then deals with free agency afterwards. You can re-play events to achieve higher scores and unlock dependent games, and while there is no true fail state--if you lose, you simply move on to the next game available--you need to overcome some major obstacles to win championships and experience everything. Clearly, the development team is having some fun here, as all sorts of delightful but implausible developments involving players past and present happen along the way.
While there is much to enjoy in Path--especially jumping from one huge matchup to the next without playing dozens of unimportant games in between--its appeal begins to wear off as you realize you’re not in as much control as you may have thought (at least when you choose the option that has LeBron bolting the Heat at the end of this season). When it was announced, there were visions of being able to participate in some sort of “Decision 2.0,” picking and choosing where LeBron would take his talents. At no point was that made available, as those events simply happened as scripted afterthoughts--a bummer in an otherwise fun and forward-thinking way to experience a sports game.
Other than Path to Greatness, there is not a lot new to experience this season. The wildly popular My Player returns virtually the same as last year, and while the on-court improvements certainly help its case, the fact that almost everything else surrounding it is a carbon copy of the last two years is depressing. So much is the same--the awkward pre-draft interviews, the David Stern-led NBA Draft (replete with pictures of current Net Kevin Garnett proudly displayed in Celtics garb behind him), the post-game interview scenes, GM sitdowns, and so on--that if you’ve spent any significant time in that mode the past year or two you’ll be hard-pressed to start it again.
One thing that is the same in a good way is the amazing commentary. From the story-driven discussions in Path to Greatness to excellent (and new) interactions between Clark Kellogg, Steve Kerr, and Kevin Harlan, NBA 2K14’s in-game announcers are top-notch. In fact, the overall presentation continues to be extremely tight and polished, and with the absence of Jay Z as producer this season feels a bit more understated.
The most puzzling aspect of NBA 2K14, though, is its lack of juice. While some legendary teams and European clubs are available to use in Play Now games, there is no mode with any persistence in which to experience them. In fact, with the continued refusal of 2K Sports to keep the Jordan Challenge, Legends, or Dream Teams in their games moving forward, you could argue that there is less to do in 2K14 than in previous seasons. While Path to Greatness is fun, it pales in comparison to past modes that have served to transform the overall franchise from a good hoops game into the cultural icon that it has become.
NBA 2K14 could have--should have?--been the defining hoops game of the generation. Instead of building on the remarkable experiences its predecessors offered, however, the overall impact has diminished even as the on-court gameplay has improved. While it still exudes personality, style, and class, some of its key areas are in need of fresh ideas. NBA 2K14 is great, yes, but somehow feels like a missed opportunity.
This game was reviewed on Xbox 360.
Choose LeBron's future in NBA 2K14's Path to Greatness mode
When Michael Jordan appeared on the cover of 2010's NBA 2K11, developer Visual Concepts built one of the game modes around him: the Jordan Challenge, which took players through his storied career. When NBA 2K12 featured three different covers, each adorned with one of the best ever to play the sport — Jordan, Magic Johnson or Larry Bird — the studio created the NBA's Greatest mode, which let players relive NBA history.
The single-player mode, which is exclusive to the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows PC versions of NBA 2K14 — it won't be available on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One — breaks out the crystal ball for James. And why not? Basketball fans love to talk about him, to debate his accomplishments thus far and to predict where he'll go from here.
That's the ultimate question, after all: What will LeBron's legacy be? At age 28, he's already one of the top players in NBA history, a four-time MVP and winner of back-to-back NBA championships the past two years. Will he approach Michael Jordan's total of six championship rings, or perhaps even surpass it? Which NBA records might he break along the way? Will he spend the rest of his career in Miami, or take his talents out of South Beach?
Path to Greatness provides two sets of answers to all those questions. It lets you choose from two vastly different career arcs for James, both with the same basic setup. You play into the future of James' career, progressing through a variety of scenarios — mostly full games, along with some partial games — and needing to complete each event to move on to the next one.
Both paths have the same overarching goal: to win five more NBA titles and thus eclipse Jordan's mark. You'll also have other objectives that you can complete to earn stars; that adds to your overall score for the mode, and you can compare your version of James' future with those of other NBA 2K14 players on a leaderboard.
"Continue Heat Dynasty" is the simpler option and the shorter one. If you go down that road, you'll be presented with one game or so per season — usually Game 7 of the NBA Finals — as you attempt to win the championship every year. This path contains about 10 different scenarios.
The presentation value we've come to expect from 2K Sports is in fine form. Each season's introduction, read in a voice-over by James himself, provides context for the events of that particular year. The games themselves kick off with sepia-tone montages of footage featuring James' Miami Heat and his opponent. During games, you have full control of the entire team, just like you would in a normal game; you don't only play as James.
More notable is the creativity Visual Concepts exhibits in its various scripts for the future, a factor that applies to both choices in Path to Greatness. It seems like seeing the studio's prognostications will be half the fun, so I won't spoil them all, but here's a sample. For the first scenario, the developers posit that Dwight Howard immediately leads the Houston Rockets to a 2014 Finals showdown against James and the Heat. One much farther down the line sees Kevin Durant put together his own "Big Three" on the Oklahoma City Thunder, with James facing off against Durant, Roy Hibbert and Anthony Davis.
The NBA 2K series offers maybe the best commentary of any sports game, and that's still true in Path to Greatness. In addition to discussing the action on the court for each scenario, commentators Kevin Harlan, Clark Kellogg and Steve Kerr bring up the fictional history of the mode. That becomes even more apparent with the second Path to Greatness option, "Fantastic Journey."
One of the most widely debated aspects of James' future is whether he'll stay with the Heat. Next summer, after the end of the upcoming NBA season, he can opt out of his current contract and sign with a different team. The way Visual Concepts draws it up in Path to Greatness, he decides to move to Broadway and join the New York Knicks, while Carmelo Anthony leaves for the Chicago Bulls in order to free up space for James under the league's salary cap.
Fantastic Journey is where the developers really go nuts in imagining the next seven years of basketball. Current NBA stars move around, fictitious young guns rise through the ranks and a number of older players even come out of retirement.
For this sequence, the developers create a star with a storyline: John Trice, who starts out as the No. 1 overall pick for the Washington Wizards and is touted as the next LeBron. The brash youngster crowns himself the new NBA king, and you repeatedly attempt to put him in his place and cement James' legacy as the greatest of all time. And the commentators mention the rivalry between the two, as well as plenty of other developments. Fantastic Journey offers about twice as many events as Continue Heat Dynasty, maybe more.
I really enjoyed checking out a few of the scenarios in both paths, if only to see the roster shake-ups for the teams involved in a particular game. ("Is Kevin Garnett really going to still be around in two years?") Unfortunately, you won't be able to use those fake future squads outside of Path to Greatness, although the historical teams from the two-years-gone NBA's Greatest mode are still available.
It remains to be seen whether the wild future put forth in Path to Greatness will be as enjoyable as playing through salient moments we remember from Jordan's career or from NBA history. At the very least, it seems like the mode will add more fuel to the fire in the never-ending debate about LeBron James.
Correction: A representative for 2K Sports told Polygon after the publishing of this article that, contrary to previously provided information, Path to Greatness will be available in the PC version of NBA 2K14 as well as on PS3 and Xbox 360. We've updated the article to reflect this.
NBA 2K14 Review IGNFrom way downtown... BANG!
When I drove the lane as LeBron, drew the defense to me, and kicked a no-look pass to the wing for an open trey by Mario Chalmers using the new Assist Pass modifier on the left trigger – after which a camera close-up showed Chalmers making the “Okay” symbol with both hands (the NBA’s current three-pointer salute), NBA 2K14 proved its worth. The worry is that without competition, a series might adopt an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy and grow apathetic. But in the time I’ve spent with it, 2K14 confidently walked the line between not enough change and too much.
First and foremost, 2K14 continues to get the core basketball systems almost dead-on right, and that’s the key to its success. Unlike hoops sims from early in this console generation, it simply has no major weaknesses. Fast breaks are fun to execute but not too common or exploitable – you can thank the tightened-up defense for that, which also stops you from charging wildly to the basket for a hoop and/or a foul every time down the floor. Play-calling is a snap via the D-pad, and the Y/Triangle-button-based post-up game again feels intuitive and allows you to pull off a bevy of moves in the paint.
Perhaps as a side-effect of that defensive upgrade, goaltending is far too prevalent on both ends of the floor. I also saw an excessive amount of players on both sides either stepping out of bounds or catching a pass out of bounds in ways the pros just don’t in real life.
Counterbalancing that are two key areas of improvement this year, both coming in the ball-handling department. The Assist Pass lets you throw no-look and cross-court passes by holding LT/R2 and tapping the right stick in the direction you want the ball to go, resulting in highlight-reel-worthyl fast-break finishes and beautiful kick-outs to wide-open spot-up shooters when you drive down the lane. If you utilize it correctly, that is; the Assist Pass is easily punished, with ill-advised attempts practically guaranteed to result in a turnover.
Also better is the Shot Stick. A wider variety of more precise dribble moves are made possible by twiddling the right thumbstick in various directions and combinations. It’s a natural evolution of the feature, and it gives you even more control in a game that already offers a wealth of it. The popular online Association mode also returns effectively unchanged, along with the same crop of online features. Regrettably, the Dream Team mode has vanished, though as a (weak) apology, Euroleague clubs have joined the NBA 2K party.
In fact, the lone major new mode this year is LeBron: Path to Greatness, a thematic opposite of 2K12’s revered Jordan Challenge. Rather than allow you to recreate and virtually relive King James’ biggest career moments the way His Airness’ mode did, it instead lets you play out LeBron’s hypothetical future, either by staying with the Heat and building a dynasty or, far more appealingly, testing free-agent waters. The latter option takes James from the Heat to the Knicks and eventually back to the Cavs, putting him in fantastical scenarios both with and against even more fantastical superteams, such as a LeBron/CP3/Howard-led Knicks roster against a Rose/Melo/Wade-fronted Bulls squad. It’s fun, but it’s nowhere near as compelling as playing out some of the greatest moments in NBA history in Jordan Challenge. Puzzlingly, this mode doesn’t allow you to save your progress mid-game and come back later the way the rest of 2K14 does, and that’s a needless annoyance.
Yet again this year, presentation matches gameplay. In addition to uncanny signature animations – Kobe’s shot looks exactly like it does in real life, as one of countless examples – the little ones are what fool casual passers-by into thinking you’re watching an actual NBA game. Guys complaining about getting fouled after making shots with contact, “Beat L-A!” crowd chants when leading late against the Lakers at home, sarcastic “Air-baaaaall” serenades by the fans when a visiting player launches up a shot that doesn’t draw iron, and many more all add flavor, personality, and texture to an already-realistic hoops sim.
The King is coming for you!
The commentary is equally impressive, with the three-man Kevin Harlan-led booth not only keeping up with the on-court action, but offering specially recorded dialogue for Path to Greatness. For instance, when one scenario pitted LeBron against Kobe in the Laker legend’s final game – coincidentally when James was trying to break Bryant’s record for youngest to reach 25,000 career points – they weren’t matched up against each other on defense. But when I took control of James and chose to D up Kobe for the first time, Harlan chimed in with, “Here we go; This is the matchup we’ve all been waiting for!” He wasn’t wrong.The Verdict
It’s a credit to NBA 2K14 that despite not one but two new basketball sims looming on the next-gen horizon, it still managed to draw my attention squarely to the current-gen court and keep it there. Though LeBron’s new mode doesn’t manage to bottle the same magic of MJ’s from two years back, the new Assist Pass, and re-tooled ball handling have made what was already a finely tuned on-court experience even tighter. NBA 2K14 is simply the best hoops sim I’ve ever played.
NBA 2K14 Review GameSpot
By offering further refinements to already impressive controls and animations, NBA 2K14 is one step closer to bringing the real sport to the digital world.
You have to feel a little sorry for Tim Duncan. Labeled as boring throughout his career, The Big Fundamental captured four rings but never the hearts of the basketball-loving public. And there's no secret why; the man lacks style. A 12-foot bank shot may be an effective tactic, but it's not going to convince a casual fan to jump out of his or her seat to bellow a rowdy cheer. It's why a high-flying underachiever like Vince Carter was so highly touted while a multiple champion could elicit a collective shrug. Style is everything in basketball. NBA 2K14 embraces the artistic expression that surfaces only when trading baskets with sweaty men, and in doing so, it's an impressive and exciting representation of the real sport.
You can't blame Bucks fans for not showing up.
Last year's edition of NBA 2K tinkered with right analog stick control, but 2K14 goes full steam ahead with this initiative. Depending on what direction you move the stick in and how long you hold it, you can mimic the movements of a real NBA player. It's a worthwhile improvement that gives you greater control over how you attack defenders, letting you infuse your own personality into the action. Smoothly performing crossovers, jab steps, sweeping hooks, and even flashier moves such as behind-the-back passes with ease lets you orchestrate a show so entertaining even Miami Heat fans would show up on time to watch.
There's an extensive tutorial to guide you through the vagaries of your basketball repertoire, but you're better off ignoring it completely. Oddly enough, the practice floor is the worst place to learn how to play. Fiddling with the stick to pull off specific moves is frustrating, because if you're off by just a few degrees, you do something completely different. Basketball is all about context and reacting to what your opponent is doing, and the stiffness present in the tutorial smothers that freedom. So just head straight to the court. The only way you learn is if you're pushing yourself against the NBA elite.
Defensive players swarm like rabid hawks, relentlessly attacking entry passes and hounding ball carriers. And the only way you're going to consistently score is by being smart with both the ball and your positioning. Lazy passes are turned into fast-break baskets faster than you can flop for a foul call, and the added defensive intensity forces you to play smart or lose miserably. Master your back-to-the-basket game, and you can demand a double team. Pass to your open teammate for a couple of wide-open jumpers, however, and your defenders have to concoct a new plan. There's an enticing chess match going on as you and your opponent size each other up, implement strategies, and then readjust on the fly.
Are you ready for the Evan Turner era in Philadelphia?
The improved controls are paired with diverse animations that make anything that could happen on an NBA court seem possible. Fouls happen because of how you and your opponent are positioned, so you know when you're smartly gambling for a steal and when you're just being stupid. Subtle body movements are important in creating (or eliminating) space between two players, and you usually feel in complete control of how things play out. Blocks are now a formidable weapon for a long-armed big man. Driving point guards can't expect to glide effortlessly to the hoop for free layups. If you're just trying to overpower your opponent, you're going to lose. You need finesse to get open shots, which makes you learn the intricacies of your players' skill sets and plan offensive sets accordingly.
There are still some oddities that detract from the realistic action. The most glaring quirk is that players often don't know how to react when there's a loose ball. They may stare longingly at a deflected pass instead of diving to control it, which would be worth a benching in real life. Plus, the ball doesn't always react like it should. Sometimes it might bounce as if covered in glue, or randomly ricochet like a Ping-Pong ball. These hiccups stand out starkly against the otherwise impressive visuals in 2K14. The franchise has always done a fine job of replicating the faces and movements of players, but now the rhythm of the action so closely mirrors the real thing it's almost eerie.
Someday there will be a mode designed exclusively around Gail Goodrich.
New in 2K14 is a mode called Path to Greatness that lets you follow LeBron James as he tries to elevate his place in the NBA's hierarchy. Two paths--one realistic and one zany--are on offer, and seeing the crazy hypotheticals play out is certainly interesting. Unlike a similar mode in NBA 2K11 that let you fill Michael Jordan's shoes, Path to Greatness doesn't require you to reach a specific stat line to progress. Because you need only win to proceed, you can play your way, which is a lot of fun given LeBron's wide assortment of talents. More fanfic than historical document, this mode is a good way to explore The King's options. And who knows, maybe he will end up back in Cleveland some day…
Despite the occasional technical missteps, NBA 2K14 is a great experience that deftly captures the essence of what makes the NBA so appealing. Nothing could perfectly replicate reality, but 2K14 has almost as much personality, and gives you the freedom to perform how you wish. With lifelike animations, realistic player models, and an assortment of moves that would make even Dwyane Wade blush, NBA 2K14 further blurs the line between the real game and its digital equivalent.
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