The NBA 2K series has been king of the virtual court for more than half a decade now thanks to extremely tight gameplay and presentation values that’ll leave pretty much every other sports game in the dust. Last year’s next-generation iteration of the game continued to further enhance both those aspects, but it left much to be desired online. Unfortunately, despite the somehow improved game of basketball it features, a lot the issues that crippled past installments still rear their ugly heads.
What Is It?
NBA 2K15 is this year’s installment of the annually acclaimed NBA 2K series that has really started coming to its own in 2010 with fantastic improvements year after year. Now that we’re almost a year into the next-generation with platforms such as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One finding their way into more homes, gamers’ expectations of the great series have risen, considering every sports game released from here on out should not and will not receive lenient launch title treatment that gamers have been accustomed to with every major platform release.
Why Should I Care?
As stated multiple times, what makes NBA 2K so successful (aside from the fact that NBA Live simply cannot hold a candle to it right now) is the fact that the features in succeeding games in the series are more than just simple tweaks. They’re often changes that work well with the understandable need to adjust. While some of them are indeed just tweaks, especially the constant changing of the trick stick to the shot stick and vice versa, they were just enough to at least make each subsequent release seem different.
Gameplay-wise, on the court, there are two distinct features that instantly give NBA 2K15 a unique feel. The first of which are the new shot mechanics. Previous versions of the game forced you to know each player inside and out when it came to his shot release. It’s still the same case in 2K15, but now there’s a meter at the bottom that’ll tell you whether you released too early, too late, or whether a made shot is inevitable. On my part, it took quite a bit of adjusting because I was used to releasing the ball as soon as the cursor at the shooter’s feet flashed. This little strategy from previous games no longer matters, but it’s also a lot more accessible to people that might be newcomers to the series.
The other glaring change in gameplay is the emphasis on creating space, which is definitely one of the best things that the series has finely tuned in a while. Previous games in the series have constantly made improvements to the game’s defense, which makes it even more essential to get that extra bit of space. Even the slightest movement of the left analog stick should make a big difference in an offensive player’s positioning for a shot. It makes performing these smooth moves with little guys like Isaiah Thomas all the more enjoyable.
While the best moments in the game will be on the virtual court, it’s the MyPlayer mode that’ll also receive a good amount of the attention. Unlike previous career modes where you just work hard, get drafted, and move your way up to become a star, you literally start from the bottom as an undrafted, rookie free agent. Nobody wants you. The playoff teams don’t want you, and even the bottom-feeding teams want nothing to do with you. This all makes for some hilarious dialog that we’re accustomed to seeing in uncensored sandbox games upon signing your 10-day contract to prove your worth, making MyPlayer constantly entertaining on and off the court. The role models from every NBA team also feature the actual NBA players offering their vocal talents, and for better or for worse, it’s a nice touch. Speaking of nice touches, you can use the PlayStation Camera or the Kinect to take a selfie and use your mug for your player in the game—except you’ll probably end up with monstrous results, so it really isn’t a nice touch, but we can’t fault them for trying. If anything, it adds to the comedy, but it shouldn’t surprise people to see this feature patched up in the future.
Another highlight is MyGM’s return to the series, and it’s about as involved as ever. The biggest change comes in the contract negotiation meetings where it’s more than just “No, I this is not enough money,” or “I’ll take it.” The answers are still automated, but it still adds some much-needed variety.
MyLeague creates a fresh, online take of the old Association Mode. Unfortunately, there are no RPG elements that players might be used to with other franchise modes, including NBA 2K‘s very own. On top of that, upon writing this review, online matchmaking proved to be a painful process. MyTeam features the same issue that has plagued previous versions in that it’s nearly impossible to rack up enough VC to create good teams in a short time without shelling out actual cash. That being said, it’s tough to even want to shell out cash for a mode that’s probably broken in the first place.
Speaking of broken, that’s the current status of the MyPark mode, which is an extreme letdown because this was probably going to be one of the best parts in the game. It supposedly allowed you to team up with other MyPlayers to form communities to play both games on the street and on the court. Unfortunately, at the time of this review of the PS4 version, it would constantly freeze and reset, and when it didn’t do that, all you could do was run around the screen with nine or so other users. This is a $60 game that surely profits every year. There can’t be any oops moments like these.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
As expected from 2K, the game definitely looks good. Player models are a lot more lifelike and less shiny than in 2K14, and the action runs smooth at a constant 60 frames per second. In addition to that, the menus have finally been upgraded as each deck looks different, rather than in the last few games where the game unsuccessfully tried to streamline everything through the same menu. It’s a nitpick, but I’m not a fan of the team selection screen in the quick game mode. While it’s nice that every team showcases its marquee player in the background, I wouldn’t say it’s one of much value or authenticity. Yes, there’s no doubt that you’d use the ’95 Bulls headed by Michael Jordan, or any Lakers team this past decade headed by Kobe Bryant, but I don’t think players will choose the Boston Celtics featuring Rajon Rondo. There’s less than a 50-percent chance of him being on the squad this year, so why would he be featured? If and when he gets traded, I’d expect that particular photo of him to change.
As for the sound, 2K Sports is once again having an actual artist curate the game’s soundtrack. This year, it was done by Pharrell Williams, who’s been in the music game for quite a while. Yes, both he and his crazy hat make an appearance in the game along with some great singles such as his and Snoop’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and “Scenario” by A Tribe Called Quest, but there’s also a bunch of randoms in there such as Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop” or even “Team” by Lorde.
While I praise it every year, I can’t help but feel a bit dismayed by the game’s commentary. Yes, it’s still excellent. It still probably features the best broadcast team in sports gaming with Kevin Harlan, Clark Kellogg, and Steve Kerr—but therein lies the problem. Steve Kerr? The man is the coach of the Golden State Warriors. He’s no longer a commentator, and it gets even more ridiculous when the game being played features the Warriors, yet he’s still sitting there talking about how great Stephen Curry’s three-point shot is all the while seeing him coach up the team and sitting Curry. The developers simply messed up there–either that, or they simply want to troll Warriors fans.
NBA 2K15 on the PS4 and Xbox One is definitely an improvement over last year’s entry level release. The gameplay remains rock solid and is easy to pick up and play, and the presentation is still as good as it ever was—even with Steve Kerr somehow managing to call and coach the same game. The main problem with the game is that it still falls victim to connectivity issues that have hampered it in the past, and these problems can’t help but make you wonder whether 2K is simply content on being the best local NBA game in the market when it can easily be the best NBA game on the market. Period.
From The Editor: This is a review of the PS4 and Xbox One versions of NBA 2K15. The criticism here is not and should not be mistaken for the PS3, Xbox 360, PC, and mobile versions of the game.