The only way LeBron James will ever visit your living room.
The Pitch: NBA 2K is gaming’s premiere basketball franchise, offering the closest approximation of professional bball that has ever hit the virtual hardwood. NBA 2K14 returns with plenty of refinements, from control scheme to game modes, and shines a spotlight on the future of the NBA with its all-new LeBron James-centric “Path to Greatness.”
What It Really Is: With the exception of NBA 2K14’s newly streamlined pro-stick controls and LeBron’s central positioning in the game’s marketing and narrative (a welcome change from last year’s somewhat inexplicable Jay-Z focus), NBA 2K14 hasn’t changed much. This isn’t a bad thing, because NBA 2K, as a franchise, tends to be excellent year over year, honing the good and tossing the bad even without any competition in the NBA-simulator space forcing it to be better. Focusing in on the biggest changes, we have to commend the guys at Visual Concepts for the intelligent changes to the pro-stick controls, the result of which is a more intuitive, more fluid overall feel to the game. The tinkered-with controls do come with a learning curve where you’ll be bumbling the occasional pass out of bounds or into a steal that’ll likely get dunked home in your face, but the curve is short and mastering it is a more rewarding feat than we’ve ever felt from the NBA 2K franchise. The payoff comes when your thumbstick skills translate into an exacting control of LeBron himself as you set off down his Path to Greatness. Unlike previous iterations that looked back on the history of the sport and its superstars, this path looks forward, letting you decide the fate of LeBron’s career and whether it’ll be building a dynasty in Miami or playing the role of hired gun as he hops from city to city. Fun as this campaign mode is, the choice is binary and only yields two outcomes, but it does reinforce the fact that the only time you’ll ever get to be a hired gun is in video games.
Maxim.com Ready-Made Press Blurb: “Playing NBA 2K14 is like becoming a knight of King James’ table.” -Maxim.com
Fun Fact: NBA 2K14’s soundtrack is produced by LeBron himself. Basically, that means LeBron made the music playlist for the game, and that’s actually kinda cool, but we’re still wondering how often Bron Bron actually listens to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” in his personal life.
Who It’s For: Ballers, straight up. You really have to love basketball as a sport more than you love video games to fully appreciate a simulator like this. It’s a necessary evil that sports sims come with the same downsides as fundamental 5v5 basketball, when arcade-style alternatives like NBA Jam and NBA Street toss out the boring stuff in favor of speed and flair, like ankle-breaking jukes and monster dunks. However, if you do love the fundamentals, the nitpickiness of coaching and play-calling, and all the complexity that comes with pro ball, NBA 2K14 captures it in the best-looking package we’ve seen so far.
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