by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Front row seats
From a visual standpoint, NBA 2K14 runs a bit hot and cold. Like the on-court commentary, the overall match presentation is top notch and you get the sense that you could indeed by watching it live on the small screen...well, when you're not in control anyway. From the opening preview to the half-time report to the match highlight reel, everything is slick and complements the match itself. Player animations do feel a little outdated though. I think too much time has been spent on getting the right tattoo skins on the players, because although the players are reasonable, there are some slightly blocky models. And when at the free-throw line, there seems to be some distance between their hands and the ball when they hold and spin it. During gameplay, the player animations look much more realistic as they move around the court. And they do move around the court quite fluidly as you would expect from professional players.
Controlling the laneway
As with most sports titles on the PC, controls have a console flair. Some of the controls were not totally intuitive to begin with, but they can be altered to suit your preference. Having said that, I simply stuck with the default control scheme and after a couple of games, I became accustomed to them. The offensive controls work remarkably well. Shooting is simple, though it does take a while to master. Finding the right release point for each player takes practice, as each player has various shooting styles. This goes for field play and at the charity stripe. It is best not to concentrate on one player though, as the opposition will inevitably begin to defend a little better on that player. Opposition defenders do well to get into position, and simply charging to the basket will often result in a stolen ball and a fast break.
One problem I encountered on numerous occasions related to the transition between defending and attacking. By default, the same button is used for stealing whilst in defence and for shooting when attacking. On multiple occasions, I would attempt to steal the ball, and would actually do so but because the players are often facing away from the screen, it can be difficult to tell. On these occasions, I would often press the steal button again by accident. This of course would encourage the controlled player to launch the ball towards the basket...at the other end of the court. This would be OK as a buzzer-beater, but more often than not, it was halfway through the period, resulting in a turnover. If the game was close, this was extremely frustrating.
I also got a little frustrated with the Team AI when defending. My controlled player would often keep the opposition's best player in check, but as the clock ticked down, he would ultimately pass the ball to a player that was by themselves, or had a clear run to the hoop for what would end up being a simple basket. And if I went a bit lax on the ball controller, then he would saunter into the paint and perform an easy lay-up or dunk the ball in the open. I was also receiving lots of calls for goaltending, as apparently (according to the commentators) I was a little late on my attempted blocks. Again, after putting more time into the game, you get a feel for what needs to be done to prevent this occurring.
Still the best
The NBA 2K series remains my favourite basketball franchise. Well, it certainly helps that it is the only one of the major basketball franchises to actually have a PC version. But that aside, NBA 2K14 continues to do the main things right when it comes to a basketball game. The gameplay and controls continue to work well. I love the fact that each of the players have different styles and move and play accordingly. There is quite a marked difference between how LeBron plays compared to say, Bynum, giving the game a sense of realism. The game day presentation continues to be superb and the commentary outstanding. I even found myself rocking out to some of the tunes that I was largely unfamiliar with prior to playing. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m heading back to the court to take on Kobe. Let’s hope he has a quiet one.
Great television-style presentation, commentary remains outstanding.
Some player visuals could use a bit of a spruce up, defending can be tough early on.