Far be it from me to call myself a video game aficionado. It would be a stretch to even call me a big basketball fan.
Sure, Sam Hinkie has regenerated my interest in the sport as the first patient and intelligent GM to properly rebuild a Philly sports team since the oft maligned Ed Wade but my interest in the sport is still casual at best.
Nonetheless, NBA 2K14 has captured my interest, attention, and a majority of my free time since purchasing a Playstation 4 and scrounging for titles worth playing.
On the surface, 2k14 seems outdated. The interface is dull and unimaginative. Some of the controls are counterintuitive. Just seeing the face of LeBron James plastered all over the game is a turnoff to some — especially in comparison to EA’s decision to put Kyrie Irving on the cover of the most recent iteration of its NBA Live franchise.
That all pales in comparison to what 2K14 was able to do with My Career mode.
As a fan of sports games, this has always been the biggest attractor for me since its inception around the beginning of this decade.
In My Career, a player starts out as a prospect and works his way into the lineup, improving as a player as he gains more experience. It is a nice feature that is the core behing the career mode in all sports titles but the lustre wears off after a couple of seasons.
2K separates itself from its competitors by making the mode much more interesting and sustainable.
My Career begins with your character practicing on a blacktop court where he is approached by his manager and longtime friend who informs you that you received an invitation to the NBA rookie showcase.
There, you encounter your local rival, Jackson Ellis, to whom you will be compared throughout your career. When you face off in games, there is trash talking, and bets are made between the two players (ie. the player who gets outscored the other has to follow him off the court doing the “I’m not worthy” thing.)
The showcase is followed by interviews with teams interested in drafting your player.
From there, the game is packed with cut scenes, interactive press conferences and meetings with the GM, coach, and even the star player of the team as you work your way up the ranks.
Your responses to the press conferences and meetings affects the reactions you get from fans, the media, players, and coaches. Even the announcers adapt how they react to you during the game based upon what you choose to say.
Much of this is handled through the Twitter-style social media interface you read between games. Fans will call you out or praise you. Larry Bird may suggest you are not getting enough assists or Michael Jordan may state that you are not scoring enough. Your player gets challenged by opponents and you earn respect and virtual credits for beating that challenging. Even the mainstream media gets in on the action by spreading unfounded rumors.
Of all the major sports games, basketball is the easiest one to pick up in general but also the easiest one to lose interest in. It is the story lines and challenges that keep you coming back for more in NBA 2K 14.
Even outside of the game, you have to make decisions like choosing whether to stay loyal to your childhood friend and agent or sign with a big-time agent. Additionally, you are approached about bankrolling various products like sports drinks.
Your player can earn sponsorships or endorsements and show up in billboards or get your own brand of sneakers.
Whether you like him or not, it is satisfying when you get to the point in your career that LeBron James shows up at your house and says he wants you to come play with him on the Heat.
However, the game is not without flaws.
As opposed to other career modes in different tiles, you do not start out at a lower level like college basketball and make your way up to the pros. Right off the bat, you are an NBA player. You are just fighting for playing time and to improve your skills.
After the season ends, the offseason is simulated and the game gives you little information outside of which team won the championship. It is only by rooting around that you may find out that you won certain awards.
Also, if you leave voice commands on and oh say, I don’t know, your wife drops an F bomb while she’s walking by, your player will get a technical foul. Not cool, wife. Not cool at all.
The NBA 2K franchise leaves a bit left to be desired but, on the whole, it is an outstanding and innovative introduction to the next generation of sports games and easily rivals any EA title put out this season.
This game has a lot of potential and is the best next generation sports title of the shallow lot. Here’s to hoping 2K’s developers are already hard at work fixing the kinks for 2K15 and further developing its new features. There is a good bit of momentum behind this game and 2K needs to capitalize on it now.
N.B. If you play the game on a PC, you can download a “Space Jam” mod for the game.