First things first: This is not a review. The official OS review will come around release day. This is just a hands-on preview and random thoughts of someone who spent this past weekend playing the game and nothing more.
I only played exhibition games and a couple of hours of My Player so this preview will mostly focus on gameplay. Very few people have the game at this point so while online is available there is no one around to play against to try out features like Crew mode.
If you want specifics about features like Lebron’s Path to Greatness mode, which I played 20 minutes of and could be fun, there are plenty of previews floating around which discuss that mode.
Over the past two days I have played eight exhibition games. I completed four of them and the rest I played up to a half. I played each game with 11-minute quarters, in simulation mode with a few tweaks to the foul sliders.
-Giving credit where credit is due, the gameplay features 2K has been promoting (improved pick and roll, blocking, better CPU AI) are all things which have been greatly improved. The first thing you will notice when playing the game on default is the game is a lot more physical. You will constantly see players hit the floor and getting knocked off balance when driving the lane, contesting a shot or battling for rebounds.
-On default, the players feel a bit heavier and have more momentum when driving than in past games.
-CPU AI: I swear every time I read one of these previews for a new NBA 2K game, the author is talking about how the CPU is so realistic and how each team plays like it does in real life. For the first time, I honestly feel like this year that statement is completely true. There are several examples I noticed:
- Rockets v. Lakers- The AI consistently looks for Howard in the post, Lin in the pick and roll and Harden on Isos and pick and rolls. Shooters like Parsons hang out on the perimeter waiting for kick outs by Harden and Lin off picks. Houston also shoots a ton of threes like in real life.
- Cavs v. Wizards – Irving absolutely destroyed me with the pick and roll(40 points and a game winning layup) but he didn’t ball hog. CPU ran several post plays for Bennett and Bynum. Waiters also got a few touches but he struggled in the game.
- Grizzlies v. Thunder – CPU looks for Randolph and Gasol consistently in the post. Randolph plays like he does in real life. For example, he went to work in the post on two straight possessions. One ended with a baby hook in the lane. The second was him pivoting to face up Ibaka and sinking a 17ft jumper in his face.
-I was very impressed by the CPU’s defensive rotations and double teams. For example in a game with Clippers v. Heat, I had a mismatch with LeBron posting up Redick. Dudley came over to double to force me make a pass. The key here is that when Dudley left Ray Allen, Griffin rotated over to make sure that Allen didn’t have an open look.
-The improved help defense slightly improves the number of turnovers. What impressed me was that it didn’t feel cheap. If you dribble into traffic, there is a chance that you will turn the ball over because of the help provided by the CPU’s teammates.
-The CPU will also occasionally trap players in the corners and off of pick and rolls. In the Cavs’ game, Irving got really hot in the third and my CPU controlled teammates started to trap him. They did not do that in the first when he only had 8 points. It got so bad that Otto Porter (SF) started to cheat off of Alonzo Gee (All CPU controlled) to help Wizards PG John Wall keep Irving out of the paint.
-I absolutely love the “2k Best Play” feature. Instead of having to scroll though pages of plays to call the right play, you can rely on the AI to call the best play available based on the personnel on the floor. You simply press L1 and the CPU will call a play. The best thing about is that it doesn’t seem to be random. For example, I was playing with the Heat and Wade had the ball with 14 seconds left in the quarter. I pressed L1 and instead of selecting a play that could take longer than 14 seconds to develop, the AI chose “Quick Isolation” which is basically a clear out for Wade.
-NBA 2K14 has added a ton of new plays, increased the pace of several of the old plays and improved player movement and intelligence during most plays. An example of this is the ”Punch” play. Punch is a straightforward play where the C/PF sets up on the block and the PG/SG will pass the ball to him from the 3-point line. In past years the PG/SG would pass the ball to the C/PF and would just hang by the 3-point line allowing the man guarding him to potentially double team the C/PF. This year, the PG/SG rolls through the paint after he makes the pass thus creating space for the C/PF to work or potentially pass it to him as he cuts through the lane.
-There are also different ways to run plays. For example, I was playing with Wizards and called the “Triple Dragg” play. This play gives you the choice of running Beal (SG) or Wall (PG) through picks to free up for a mid range jumper. It starts with Wall having the ball. At the top of the key, he can choose to pass it to Beal on the wing immediately. If he does, he will run through a series of picks set by Porter (SF) and Okafor (PF). If he doesn’t, Beal will run through the picks.
-Every year I purchase the 2K series, I have to spend the first week tweaking sliders to get the right game pace, realistic shooting percentages and a realistic number of fouls and turnovers. That hasn’t been the case this year. In the ten years I’ve been playing the NBA 2K series, I have never made less slider tweaks than I have with 2K14. I’m not saying you wont have to change some sliders (I will list the few I had to change in the negative comments) but there won’t be as many tweaks as you had to make last year.
-Some sounds have been improved specifically the on-court sounds. Players now scream “OH” occasionally when there is contact in the paint in an attempt to draw the foul. Default In Arena music is also better.
-The AI is more aware in late clock situations. Instead of holding the ball and taking deep threes when the shot clock runs down, the AI will recognize the clock is low and attempt to drive for a layup or midrange pull up.
-In My Player, specific stats are now connected to draft stock. For example, if you have a PG, getting assists in the draft showcase will affect your draft stock more than rebounds.
-Slight change to the Draft. This year’s version uses the actual audio from this past year’s draft. I laughed when I heard Bill Simmons shouting “Whoa” when Bennett was picked #1 by the Cavs.
-Norris Cole and Iman Shumpert now have their Flat Tops.
-Loading time on PS3 is slightly longer than what I remember on the 360. This is not a big problem but it is noticeable.
-No improvements seen in crowd sound. Delayed reaction on some big plays like 3’s and dunks, which has been an issue for years.
-Presentation is pretty much the same as last year without Jay-Z and all the gold.
-I said earlier that the game needed very few slider tweaks but there are still some tweaks which are needed for realism purposes:
- Fouls: I upped the fouls to 95 for both the CPU and user and I’m still not getting enough fouls in my opinion. At 95, I’m expecting teams to hit the bonus regularly but I’m seeing 3-4 fouls per team. Not bad but not enough.
- Passing and Ball Control: You will need to lower both in order to get a realistic number of turnovers.
- Inside shot tendencies: This is the biggest one in my opinion. At default, you have to work to keep the CPU out of the paint. The CPU will occasionally take midrange jump shots but needs to take more.
-I don't know if this was in last year’s game but there are no optional controller settings in this year’s game.
-Euroleague: I couldn't be more disappointed in the implementation of the Euroleague teams. Playing games with these teams feels nothing like Euroleague in real life and there is very little difference between the in-game environment in an NBA game versus a Euroleague game. No team specific chants like in real life. Each Euroleague team only have ten players each instead of 12. While the NBA teams in NBA 2K14 each have their own play styles, Euroleague teams do not play similarly to their real life counter parts at all, as there is not enough passing and ball movement.
-Last year’s substitution bug still remains but it isn’t as bad as last year. Anybody who watches NBA games knows that coaches rarely substitute more than three players at the same time but coaches in NBA 2K14 would constantly sub in four and sometimes five players at the same time. This year, the most I’ve seen is four and it happens less frequently than last year but 2K should still adjust it.
-No changes to the halftime show except for announcing the monthly award winners.
-Graphically, NBA 2K14 is pretty similar to last year’s game and I still have issues with some of the cyberfaces. Chis Paul looks nothing like he does in real life.
-Disappointed that Andrew Bynum still has a low haircut in 2K14. I wanted to see 2K’s take on his perm or the blowout afro.
-No updates for Madison Square Garden. MSG has been renovated for the last three years and looks significantly different than it did during the renovation but for some reason 2k hasn't updated the arena.
-Some strange music choices like John Legend’s “Who Do We Think We Are.” Its just strange hearing a love song playing as the game begins. Thank God for custom music.
Other Random Thoughts
-I went into 2K Share and saw that new rosters are available almost daily. Transactions weren’t updated (No Xavier Henry or Shawne Williams on the Lakers and Caron Butler was still on the Suns) but ratings were adjusted. There also appears to be some bad starting lineups like the Pacers starting Granger at PF over David West and Luis Scola.
-The AI ran Chris Paul and Blake Griffin pick and roll is kind of hard to stop. Trap Paul and he throws an oop to Griffin. Roll with Griffin and Paul will take a mid range jumper.
-There are new stat overlays like “Heating Up” for hot players and “Points In The Paint” totals for players as well.
-I am not sure if last year’s foul bug is still in the game or not. For example, lets say Greg Monroe has three fouls in the middle of the second quarter. In last year’s game, the CPU would take out Monroe but he would return with 2-3 minutes left in the quarter, which would never happen, in real life (Monroe would be out for the rest of the half in real life). This occurred in a game I played against the Pistons and while Monroe did not come back at the 3 or 2-minute mark, he did attempt to check in with 1 minute left in the quarter.
-Sub rotations are much better. Bench players play the majority of the second while starters play the majority of the fourth even when tired. I’m not sure if this is a good thing but Bennett played the entire fourth even though Thompson was the starter. The CPU usually defaults to playing the starting lineup the last two minutes of the game unless it’s someone like the Spurs with Ginobili.
-One substitution positive: I never saw a time when there wasn’t at least one of the big 3 on the court for Miami. This would happen all the time in 2K13 using rotation subs and I would be stuck with Norris Cole being the best player on the floor. Rotations also seem better. For example, GSW has Harrison Barnes off the bench and playing the small ball four just like in real life.
There are enough changes and improvements to this year’s game that a purchase is completely justified if you are a fan of the NBA. Its by far, the most realistic NBA basketball game I’ve ever played. The biggest question for me is going to be whether I buy the current gen version or wait until the next-gen version.
Either way, I expect owners of the current gen or next-gen version will be very happy with this year’s game when it releases on October 1 for current-gen and PC owners and also on next-gen launch day in November.