By Terry Randolph
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2k Games
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Rated:E for Everyone
Platform: PlayStation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
It’s opening night of the NBA Season, and the game has been electrifying. After being down by 20 points with less than 6 minutes left to go in the game, my team has clawed its way back to only being down by 2 with 23 seconds to go. The opposing team has started to slow down, missing the last 8 of their 9 shots while my team has hit the last 9 out of 11. They inbound the ball; the clock is live. My team is playing suffocating, physical defense in the hopes of forcing them to get a shot off. They pass the ball to their center, who’s been missing free throws all night. My coach gestures to my center to foul him. The foul is called and my center fouls out from the game. 15 seconds to go.
The center gets the ball at the foul line, taking a moment to breathe before putting up the first attempt; it bounces off the rim. Everyone is on their feet hollering in hopes that he’ll miss the second free throw. As the ball goes up in the air and closes in on the basket…it bounces off the rim and to the left. My back up center jumps up at the right time to secure the ball, immediately calling timeout. 12 seconds left on the clock. Now the question is who do I give the ball to take the shot? Do we go for the tie or for the win? My small forward has shot an amazing 10/15 from 3 pt land – 4 of those coming in the last 5 minutes. We know who the ball is going to.
My team inbounds the ball and the clock is rolling. 8 seconds left. My point guard dribbles towards the basket to pull the defender off my small forward towards the hoop. 5 seconds left. The small forward catches the ball and shoots. Two seconds left. Everyone is watching in silence for the moment that defines the game.
Clang. Brick. The buzzer sounds: game over. My team loses 123-125
Even though I lost the game, there’s one thing I can say; NBA 2k15 brought it’s A game.
Basketball Skills Matter
At its heart, and to its greatest strength, NBA 2k15 is unapologetically all about providing the closest experience to playing basketball. From a player’s ability to make plays on offense to how good their perimeter defense is, every trait is important to take into account when handling a player. Now do that, but with 4 other players on the court. Knowing your players’ strengths and weaknesses is pertinent to helping you get a feel for the team’s flow, shooting and playmaking ability, as well as preferred defensive scheme. Essentially, NBA 2k15 demands for you to know and keep a lot of determinant factors in mind with each game.
For example, there are a lot of factors going into the possibility of the jumpshot a player takes going in. These factors include the real life statistical ability the player would be able to make that shot, the likelihood of them taking that shot in a normal game, how well they shoot with a defender in their face, how good the timing was between the dribble and the jump shot, and the shot timing mechanic NBA 2k15 has. If the bar in the circle under the player is red then the shot isn’t going in. Yellow means there’s a possibility, but don’t bank on it. Finally, if it’s green, it’s all but certain it’s going to go in. While that may seem like the factors I listed before blanket a timing mechanic, that’s hardly the case. Even timing a shot perfectly doesn’t guarantee the shot going in.
During timeouts, or even in game, you can change up offensive/defensive schemes, aggressiveness, tempo, and matchups. The small forward is getting beat to the rim when on defense? Set up a scheme to double him as he’s driving to the paint to force the ball out onto the perimeter. Man-to-man defense isn’t working? Switch to a 2-3 Zone. Need to slow down the offensive tempo? Switch it from ‘Average Temp’ to ‘Patient Offense’.
Those offensive/defensive tempo, schemes and matchups are dependent on the opposing team’s style of play; no two teams feel the same when playing against them. In fact, they feel like they mirror how the team in real life would act. It really forces you, the player, to take a step back and try to figure out how to stop the team.
NBA 2k15 demands you give your attention to the intricacies of the sport that determine how a game is going to go. There’s no hand holding, and there are going to be a lot of mistakes made as you try to adjust to what the game throws at you. It wants you to learn from the mistakes in order to command the floor better. That’s a good thing; basketball is all about building together a solid, cohesive unit that plays to each other’s greatest strengths to diminish each other’s weaknesses; essentially, team chemistry.
The other major strength to the gameplay is how intuitive and natural it all feels. All of the motions feel fluid and swift, from ball handling to shooting and passing. Nothing feels more satisfying than starting a fast break transition, lobbing two-three passes down the court for a smooth layup. It just adds to the already immersive experience NBA 2k15 has going for it.
If the game does prove to be too difficult, you’re more frustrated, or just want to play a more laid back game, you can adjust the game settings that affect how often your team can make a three point, get a steal, endurance, etc. The game even allows you to edit the opposing teams abilities too. There are also other modes that allow you to get used to the game as well.
This is also the game’s weakness as well; it can be too damn tough sometimes. If you haven’t played an NBA 2k game before, it is a pretty steep learning curve to get used to the way the game handles. There’s so much demanded of the player that isn’t explained that basketball games can be more frustrating than entertaining. While there are tips while in-game that are supposed to help you understand the game mechanics, they’re not something a player will really take the time to look at.
Adding to this is the fact that NBA 2k15 has a punish/reward system going for it; for example, trying to simply drive down the lane and not pay attention to floor spacing is going to end up costing you points. However, patiently taking the time to examine the spacing on the court, any offensive mismatches or open lanes is going to net you a reward. Some people might find this frustrating to the point where any fun is sapped out from the experience. However, minor criticisms aside, the gameplay for NBA 2k15 is a solid, challenging effort.
Like a Veteran in its Prime
In terms of game content, the game hasn’t really changed from the last two installments and focuses on improving the modes it already has. Instead of having Association Mode, the game has a MyLeague mode which is a fully customizable season or franchise depending on which you prefer. Draft preferences, salary cap, season length, and other various factors are up to you to build your dream season. (Note: this is an exclusive feature on the PS4/Xbone – I am unsure of whether or not there’s a feature similar to this on the PS3/Xbox 360 and what it is called.)
MyCareer, the one where you create a character and attempt to bring him to NBA Stardom, is like a mix of social simulation and basketball. You decide what the player is going to say in press conference, interviews, and in talks with your agent. This mode is also challenging in that you only control that one player and not the whole team, so it demands extra attention to how the other players play around you.
MyPark mode is an online-mode play where you can play pick-up games with other plays on any of the 8 courts available to you. While most people have complained from last year that people will take up courts for a long time, points have been limited to 15 a game. It makes games go faster, and allows players to get to enjoy more play time than wait time.
There’s a MyTeam mode, which is a card based system that allows you to buy, trade and sell cards to build your ultimate fantasy team. The challenges in this mode offer some fun situations to play through to bolster a pretty rich game mode. MyTeam is to NBA 2k15 what Madden’s Ultimate Team is to Madden 15.
Lastly, there’s the MyGM mode – the most intense, immersive, and content rich experience of the game. MyGM mode has you controlling a team through the role of a general manager. Not only do you handle the salary cap, monitor trades and keep a close eye on free agency, you also have to handle player morale, your media presence and owner’s expectations. You’ll also have day-to-day responsibilities to juggle while either playing a game or simulating it. It can be fun, but even more overwhelming than playing an actual game.
Overall, NBA 2k15 is sticking with the right motto: “What isn’t broke doesn’t need fixing.”
The Looks Aren’t Deceiving
Graphically speaking, NBA 2k15 doesn’t change much in appearance to its predecessor, but it still looks pretty damn good, especially when comparing it between last-gen and current-gen systems. On the PS4, players faces look like their real life counterpart, especially in emotive reactions. Movement looks swift, fluid and natural; for the most part awkward movements don’t happen as often. It adds to that sense of realism that the NBA 2k series has strived for.
The only criticism – both because it’s hilarious and downright scary – is the face scanning ability. While I personally haven’t had a chance to try it myself, there are plenty of reactions to it online that you can read on.
Fundamentals are Always Key to Strive Towards Greatness
NBA 2k15 is a great game…for fans of the sport. It’s not a game that welcomes new players in easily unless they’re willing to take on the complexities of a basketball game. There’s so much demanded of a player it can be pretty overwhelming. However the game runs, plays and handles beautifully, especially in the current-gen systems. It also has a high replayability factor thanks to the several modes you can play in the game. In the end, 2k Sports knows it has a solid foundation under it that it can keep improving on to enhance the experience; NBA 2k15 is a prime example of that.
So if you’re willing to take on the challenges demanded from this game, or to have something to play while waiting for your next major game release, I recommend it. This one is worth sinking your money into.