NBA 2K is back, boasting lots of new features, graphics, and game modes. Lots has gone into the game and it shows, but does the popular franchise live up to its highly-acclaimed predecessors?
Control your team in MyGM mode
If you want to play with a team normally through a season, NBA 2K15 has the revamped MyLeague mode. Similar to the association mode in 2K13, you can completely customize your league, right down to the A.I.’s intelligence regarding player trades. MyLeague features all the NBA teams, but you can also select classic teams such as the ’90-91 Trailblazers and 25 teams from the Euroleague are also available. Ever wonder what it would be like to have FC Barcelona in the NorthWest division or a young Michael Jordan to face off against Lebron? You can manually adjust the teams in the association or season modes to make your dream league.
Unlike 2K14 where you were a first round draft pick, you’ll have to earn your spot on a team through a 10-day contract in the MyCareer mode. You also have more of a choice in which team you play for which will prevent situations where (based on your position) you could get drafted to a team and stuck on their bench behind players like Kevin Durant or Lebron James.
Another interesting feature of MyCareer is the mentor system. When you a join a team, one of your teammates will take you under their wing and give you advice. The game uses actual voice recordings from the players which adds a nice dimension to the game. Granted, the voice-acting ability varies from player to player but it still adds a nice touch of realism.
If you’re interested in being the mastermind behind a successful franchise, NBA 2K15 offers up the MyGM mode, which gives you plenty of control over a franchise. In this mode you’ll speak with players and owners as you try and build a championship team. Essentially, this mode is similar to the popular Football Manager games. The game offers plenty of control of the team without it becoming tedious. But if you’re into micromanagement, you can change things such as the athletic trainer and ticket prices.
Being GM means that you have to deal with the needs of the players. Sometimes players will approach you and complain about the intensity of practice or their role on the team. These are displayed through dialogs that take place in your office. During games, you can watch a play-by-play counter of what’s happening and decide to jump in at any point.
Dribble, dribble, shoot!
If you’ve played 2K14, then you should be at home with the controls. From a gameplay perspective, controlling your team’s offense and defense have been updated. NBA 2K15 has a “points of emphasis” system which provides an excellent way to manage style of play. For example, a point of emphasis on offense could be running all plays through Derrick Rose. A defensive point of emphasis could be crashing the boards.
You have the option of setting these manually during timeouts, or you can let your coach adjust it throughout the game. This an underrated feature of the game which allows you to set the tone or follow the coach’s direction while keeping the game ever-changing and dynamic. It's a welcome change from past 2K games, which struggled to find a balance between no control and micromanagement of plays.
The sometimes painstaking process of learning a player’s shot motion has been simplified with the addition of a shot meter in NBA 2K15. Previously, you had the highest chance of making a shot by releasing the ball when the player was at the peak of his jump. This proved to be incredibly troublesome with players who have an unorthodox shooting motion like Kevin Martin. Now, an intuitive meter is displayed below each player with a line that indicates how long you should hold the shot stick. This makes playing with random players satisfying rather a frustrating experience.
The graphics aren’t a huge step up from the next gen version of NBA 2K14, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t still spectacular. The astonishing level of detail that has gone into players is remarkable: sweat builds up on their brow, goose bumps appear on their arm, and Chris Andersen’s tattoos and beard pop off the screen.
The players aren’t the only ones who have received the graphical upgrade in NBA 2K15. Coaches, cheerleaders, and even the mascots have all been improved. The players still look strikingly better than the coaches when they stand next to them, but it’s nice not to have HD quality players standing next to their bland and expressionless coaches, as in previous versions.
NBA 2K15 sounds as good as it looks. It features the best commentary that you’ll find in any sports game with realistic play-by-play and color commentary from the returning team of Clark Kellog, Kevin Harlan, and Steve Kerr. Another excellent touch to the game is the addition of pre-game commentary with Inside the NBA’s Ernie Johnson and NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal. Thousands of audio clips have been recorded by both of them. Coaches are also interviewed (with their real voices!) during half time.
The soundtrack for the game is another shining point of the game. Unlike last year’s soundtrack which was curated by Lebron, NBA 2K15’s tunes have been chosen by ultra-popular musician/producer Pharrell Williams. It features an eclectic mix of music featuring artists and groups such as No Doubt, A Tribe Called Quest, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. You can listen to the music while playing games through the settings menu.
The makings of a champion
It would be easy to knock the down score for NBA 2K15 for its – and let’s be frank – inexcusable online problems. However, every other area of the game has been drastically improved compared to its predecessors and in this case, the pros far outweigh the cons.
Online issues are back, too
The online MyPark mode has returned in NBA 2K15. It features you taking your player to team up with others and face off against other teams at parks. I didn’t have much of a chance to test this feature because I had trouble finding other players. The idea of finding a virtual pickup basketball team does sound promising. though.
Unfortunately the online problems aren’t limited to the MyPark mode; the game is hampered across the board by the notoriously bad 2K servers. Players have reported that they have had to wait through long connection times and suffered through laggy games. These aren’t new issues and have plagued previous NBA 2K games. 2K has said it's working on it and hopefully it will be sorted out soon.