Review: NBA 2K15 (PS4)
NBA 2K’s Basketball series has been the pinnacle of sport games for some time now. Their second new-gen edition of the game looks to bring all the attitude that comes with playing in the top NBA leagues, back into the game once more. 2K knows what you want in your basketball game, but have been at risk of hitting a ceiling with no place to go. Has that ceiling been hit, or did they just raise the game once more?
The visuals are the easiest thing to start with when looking at NBA 2K 15. It’s quite simply one of the best, if not the best looking games on the new-gen consoles (and ever). The player models are spectacular, the crowd is alive and watching replays to see all the detail is something special. 2K have worked their magic once more in terms of visuals. I honestly just want to reach out and touch James Harden’s beard (it’s glorious, see image above).
If you think the visuals are good then words are lost on the player animations. 2K have it near perfect in terms of the way players move. Transitioning from jogging to sprinting is seamless, while pulling off tricks, blocks, steals and shots is the most fluid thing I have ever seen in a video game. There is just no break in the animations whatsoever. How do they do it!?
Obviously a big part of a game like NBA is around the controls. It’s a very technical sport with lots of styles and different techniques that, when putting them all into a game, could easily be problematic. NBA 2K continues to be the pioneer of amazing control setups as NBA 2K15 follows on from the innovations brought out in last year’s game. The pro sticks return with pretty much all major functions being controlled with the analogue sticks.
Different shot types are dependent on where you are, coupled with the way you use the right analogue stick. This refers to lay-ups, dunks and simple jump shots. There is just an amazing amount of variety in the ability. It once again controls tricks and puts you in full control of your movement from big things like spin moves, to subtle things like moving the ball from your right hand to your left hand to prevent steals and set up shots or passes. The pro controls have now been extended to passing too and flicking the sticks results in some pretty fancy passing abilities to unlock the defence.
The pro sticks do take some getting used to at first, but they are mostly very intuitive. You do have the option of using more simple controls, but it is far more limited in terms of what you can do. Either way works though and experimenting is the way to go. Thing is, the controls are brilliant whichever way you look at it.
The only real issue is that there is no tutorial or training mode, which in many ways may put off newcomers to the game. It pretty much throws you into the deep end and expects you to figure things out. Previous games had long tutorials teaching you how to do different things. Now there are a few instructional videos which you can watch and try on the court. It’s certainly not ideal.
Music / Sound
The music and sound is once again a highlight of the game. The production value is through the roof, this time with Pharrell Williams, the world’s coolest guy, leading the line. The track list is perfectly suitable and varies without losing its essence. It extends to the in-game sound effects too. The commentary is once again a highlight with so much information being relayed through Steve Kerr and his commentary team. There are also very few instances of repeats, if any which makes it so great to listen to and their descriptions of the on court action make it feel alive and real.
The modes are plentiful in NBA 2K 15 and include online and offline. Blacktop returns allowing you to play some streetball. NBA today lets you take on matches happening in the real NBA. There are exhibition matches and custom tournaments and of course the ever popular My GM mode which lets you take control of a team and get them to the glory. The modes all offer something different, but unlike last year’s Lebron story there is nothing drastically different this time around.
MyTeam returns which is much like the Ultimate Teams mode in the EA games. Here you start with a mediocre side and through collecting and purchasing player cards you can improve your side. It’s a great mode but it doesn’t quite have the meat on it to keep you playing for too long.
What does keep you coming back for more is the MyCareer mode which is easily the best career mode you will ever play (once again). 2K continue to improve this mode making it the best thing to play in the game. It’s also much more accessible as you only control your custom-made player and nothing else. That doesn’t mean it’s easy but it is a great way to learn to play, and it’s a brilliantly developed mode.
Unlike previous years, where you start as a rising star in the rookie game and get drafted, NBA 2K15 places you as an undrafted player who will take any opportunity to make teams realize they missed out. You will soon get a training opportunity with a team, if you impress there you get a 10-day contract, impress again and they will either give you another look or sign you up for the season where you can prove yourself. If you fail, it’s back to the jobless life for you.
MyCareer is set out as a story in NBA 2K15. It of course has you playing matches but also gives you opportunities to converse with players and coaches to improve your status and to learn things along the way. It’s great having veteran players at teams interacting with you as you try to impress them. You’ll learn about the locker room etiquette and form relationships with players to help improve your game.
What is a bit tricky is getting used to the expectations in order to do well. When you start you won’t get too much game time and you really need to utilize the time you do get. Based on your performance you get a rating and this can be really tough at the start until you upgrade your player. Once you get going it gets easier and the hard hours at the start are worthwhile.
That brings me to upgrades. They have thankfully been reduced into different groups now rather than tons of different attributes to upgrade. The concentrated upgrade menu makes it easy to focus on where you want your player to improve.
MyCareer is a brilliant mode, and definitely the stand out feature. The online modes do have some issues with the servers making online play a bit dodgy so MyCareer is where you will want to spend most of your time.
What’s wrong with it?
NBA 2K15 improves on many things from last year’s game, but it does have some issues holding it back. The loading times are absolutely atrocious, so much so that you can get very annoyed while waiting to play. They are too long and too frequent, especially when you have to visit cutscenes in MyCareer mode. You will hit a load screen, have a chat with a player, hit a load screen, another chat, hit a load screen and then back to the menu where you can continue. It’s just not good enough.
Another issue is that you need to be online to play all the time. NBA 2K15 connects to a server which monitors how and where you spend your in-game currency. It means that you will need to be connected which is really not sensible at all.
These issues are relatively easily to look past when you have such a wonderfully developed game. NBA 2K15 brings out the best in the series with so many great moments and ideas. MyCareer is honestly the most addictive thing ever and helps with that rather steep learning curve for newcomers. I have been saying it for years that the NBA 2K series is the best sport game, and despite the awful loading times that holds true once again.
I urge you to give some time to NBA 2K15 as I do each year. Every year I convince people to play it, fans and not, and they come back and tell me it was the best advice ever. Perhaps it’s time you gave it a try too.