Basketball is by no means the most popular sport in South Africa, but when I got the opportunity to get some hands-on time with NBA 2K14 at gamescom I wasn’t going to say no given the critical acclaim of Visual Concepts’ long-running sports franchise.
My time with the game consisted of a 20 minute presentation and hands-on demo with the PlayStation 3 version of NBA 2K14. The game’s producer told us that NBA 2K14 will be available on next-gen consoles at launch and will have a different feature set to the current-gen versions. Details about the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One builds of the game will be discussed in late September when we’ll also get our first glimpse of them in action.
Due to the popularity of the NBA 2K series in Europe, 2K Sports has added fourteen top teams from the Euroleague and ensured that this league’s ball, rules and courts are 100% authentic. The exteriors of the Euroleague stadiums aren’t true to life due to licensing issues but everything inside the arena is.
Miami Heat star LeBron James is this year’s cover athlete and in addition to hand-picking NBA 2K14′s soundtrack, he also lent his expertise to the project by providing feedback on gameplay, graphics and sound, and also spent plenty of time in the recording booth for the all-new LeBron: Path to Greatness mode which charts a seven-year, speculative journey into the future of the NBA where getting LeBron into the NBA Hall of Fame is the ultimate goal. In this mode each match has various objectives which will boost your star rating at the end of a game should you fulfill them.
The game’s producer took us through some of the new features in NBA 2K14 including Pro Stick and 2K SmartPlay. Pro Stick allows you to precisely dribble and pass the ball with the right analog stick, with the movement of the right stick being reflected in how your player moves with the ball. For example, if you want to bounce the ball through your legs then you just press the right stick in the direction you want the ball to move. Furthermore, if you want your player to spin to the left then you just rotate the right stick in the direction you want him to move. The only restriction as far as this feature is concerned is that pressing back on the right stick in relation to your player will set him up for a shot. 2K SmartPlay, on the other hand, displays a circle on the ground to show casual gamers or beginners where to position their player during an offensive play in order to set up an effective attack.
Other new features and improvements this year include 3 000 new animations which were made possible thanks to a breakthrough in Visual Concepts’ compression technology, along with an overhauled AI system which anticipates players’ actions better, and dynamic rosters which update every night and reflect real-world players’ hot and cold streaks. The game’s producer also told us that the development team responded to fan feedback by rebalancing certain aspects of post-game presentation, tuning steal success, and improving the targeting system used for passing.
So how does NBA 2K14 actually play? I played a couple of games against a gentleman from Greece and am pleased to report that the new Pro Stick feature feels very intuitive, and isn’t compulsory for passing if you would prefer to use the old, button-based method. The game looks great from an animation and collision physics perspective, but the player models and stadiums are starting to look a bit dated compared to what we’re seeing in upcoming next-gen sports titles such as FIFA 14. Hopefully the PS4 and Xbox One versions of NBA 2K14 will look the part, and I’m intrigued to discover what new features and modes the game’s producer teased during his gamescom presentation.
NBA 2K14 will be released for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC on October 1st in North America and October 4th in European territories. A PS4 version will follow on November 15th in the US and November 29th in PAL regions, and the game will also be available on Xbox One when the console launches sometime during November in major territories.
Let us know if you’re looking forward to trying out NBA 2K14 for yourself, and stay tuned to El33tonline for more coverage of this promising basketball game as we draw closer to its release date.