For everyone looking forward to some next gen NBA this year, all I can say is Visual Concepts has delivered. The players look sharp, the commentators actually sound interesting, and Shaq is in the building. There is no question the NBA 2K franchise is back and back again in a big way.
I’ll start by commenting on the improvements made to MyCareer. First of all, the story is actually kind of interesting. I was really into making my own player and trying to earn a spot on a pro team. Unfortunately, you start with terrible stats and I found it a little tough to get on my team of choice. I failed my first couple try-outs. Frustrated but not defeated, I ended up playing for the Wizards after I stopped trying to shoot for threes and just stuck to lay-ups to keep a decent rating.
Once you’re on a team, you interact with the members during cut scenes between games. I tried to earn their respect but every now and then I just came off looking like a jerk. It’s usually easy to tell which is the “nice” option, so if you want to keep morale up you shouldn’t have a problem. Those options didn’t always jive with me though, and sometimes I just had to speak my mind. Maybe you guys should feed me the ball, I just spent a bunch of points so I can shoot better now. Sorry Beal, but that’s the way it has to be.
During downtime the court-side camera from the bench is pretty cool, and helps sell that live basketball game feel. You won’t miss any of the action as you wait for your shot to prove yourself. One problem I found with the camera settings before I adjusted them was the view I had when defending. Players who were standing further out weren’t onscreen. This made it difficult for me to keep track of everything, and I don’t think it should be the default camera. Yes the players look great, but I’m much more interested in knowing where the ball is at all times.
Speaking of defence, I’m terrible at it. No matter what I seem to try, the AI just gets right past me. I’ve got to figure out what I’m doing wrong. So far pumping my ability to shoot free throws isn’t cutting it. Overall, the shooting and controls in general feels good and intuitive. Changes made to the shot meter are great and I think it makes a lot of sense. Having a variable shot window is a much more realistic approach, and it gives players more variety. Sometimes you can afford to be a little early, but in those tight situations you’re going to need to bring your ‘A game’.
One of the biggest distinctions of NBA from other sports franchises is the experience you get. NBA 2K15 feels like an extension of ESPN at times. Interesting UI, great wipes between replays and gameplay, and an overall flashy style really sold the energy you get with the NBA as opposed to other professional sports. Bringing in Shaq is kind of cool, and the commentary actually feels unique for each game. It’s so hard to make canned responses sound real. Visual Concepts has really brought that to the table this year. Playing 2K15 looks and feels like a live game a lot of the time, but the sound design is what really brings it alive.
As far as the online experience goes, it’s not bad. I had some troubles with the servers myself, but once I finally got into MyPark it was a fun experience. As limited as it was, the sort of open world style of it was refreshing and the areas outside the courts looked nice. A menu-based matchmaking system might ultimately just be easier, but hopefully with the tweaking they can really make this mode shine.
Not everything can be great, and the biggest problem I have with this game is the load times. The videos of Shaq and Ernie are fun, but there are a lot of instances where all you have to stare at is a counter ticking up to 100. They just take way too long by today’s standards. That coupled with how the servers are currently behaving is enough to drive me away a bit, as I found myself getting lost in my phone while I tried to connect or just get into a game. These aren’t deal-breakers though, and the 2K NBA series really has come a long way.
On the flip side, I have to make sure to mention the nice touch of still putting in a controls manual with the physical copy. A lot of games seem to be slowly opting out of this but for those of us who remember reading the book on the drive home or as someone else plays first, it does mean a lot. I spend enough time staring at screens and I don’t want to look at the menu if I’m trying to remember how to do a specific move. I know it probably doesn’t even register to most people, but it made a pretty big difference to me.
Ultimately, NBA 2K15 is another step forward for Visual Concepts and 2K. This year brings a nice upgrade and meets the new visual standard of virtual sports. Sure, there are a few bugs and errors. Yes, the problem with the face mapping is a thing, but it’s hilarious. I hope to see some scary faces out there, and it would be great if 2K had some sort of contest like who can make the scariest face. If the team can just spin this small set-back in a positive way, who cares if one small part of the game doesn’t work that well? Everything else is rock-solid and super fun. So if you want to wreck the opposition online, or you just want to rise up and become a pro on your favorite team, pick up NBA 2K15 and get started. Legends don’t just write themselves.
***This Game Was Reviewed on the PS4***