The NBA 2K series from 2K Sports and Visual Concepts has been the reigning champ in the basketball simulation for the past couple of years. It helps that EA's NBA Live series have dropped the ball (no pun intended). But even then, NBA 2K has simply been playing a mean game, consistently delivered the most realistic presentation and gameplay possible.
Everything you loved about 2K14 is here in NBA 2K15 for Xbox One and 360 and most of it has been improved upon. This year's version of 2K on Xbox One is easily the best so far, but that doesn't mean it isn't hiccup free.
Lights, camera, action
One thing the guys over at 2K take pride in is the presentation of their games. The first thing you'll notice when launching the game is the completely revamped menu system and the new 2KTV notification system. The new set up displays menu choices along the bottom of the screen while serving up with a weekly dose of 2KTV up above. 2KTV will take you behind the scenes of the making of the game as well as feed you new tournaments and challenges within the game.
Upon starting the game you will see two familiar faces, Ernie Johnsons and Shaquille O'Neal, the stars of the new Pre-Game Show. In the show, they often talk about the game's key match-ups as well as give advice as in how one team should go about dominating the other. It's a rather cool addition and helps distract from 2K15's atrocious loading times.
As welcome as the pre-game stuff is, the in-game presentation is still the cream of the crop. First off, they've added new pre-game animations such as the starting line-up announcement and the singing of The National Anthem. They've also updated player's pre-game rituals such as Tim Duncan hugging the ball and Kobe Bryant wiping his feet on the sticky tape. My favorite new presentation feature is the slick animation for the Jordan Player of the Game. This reveals stats for the game as well as highlights for that player. All in all, I think I could easily say that NBA 2K15 is my favorite sports game presentation-wise.
If you played NBA 2K14 you will be right at home with 2K15. The game feels familiar and similar, although 2K Sports has rebuilt the movement and shot release systems. The new movement is quite noticeable, in fact. At first, players feel a bit stiffer and slower to react to plays. It takes a while to get used to, but it gives the game more of a simulation feel.
The new shot release system feels the same, yet the way it gives feedback is smarter and more streamlined. Instead of displaying feedback at the top of the screen, it now shows a status bar underneath the shooting player. If the shot is too late or too early, the status bar appears red. When you release a slightly late or slightly early shot, the bar appears yellow. For a perfect shot, the status bar glows a bright green and allows you to make it easier to start a hot streak.
So many ways to play
2K15 has a game mode for every type of gamer. These have all been revamped and improved this year.
First we have MyLeague, which is pretty much The Association from past games on steroids. This time around instead of using stock rosters and controlling one team, you can control as many teams as you want as well as import any roster.
Second, there is MyGM. This mode allows you to take full control of any one team by making you the General Manager. You get to scout players, hold press conferences, and create chemistry with the teammates via the new conversation system. If there is any one mode that was made for simulation fans, this is it. MyGM will have you playing non-stop.
Next we have MyTeam, which is basically 2K's version of FIFA Ultimate Team. If you've played FUT then you will be familiar with the premise. Basically, you earn or buy decks of cards that give perks to both you and your players. You then assign players to your active roster by giving them contracts which allow them to play in a certain number of games. It sounds easy, but putting together a winning roster is hard. And keeping a winning roster is even harder.
MVP or bust
Last year, NBA 2K14 took everyone by surprise with the brand new MyCareer mode. It had you fight your way through the Summer League to allow teams to scout you out and then one team would end up drafting you. This year, instead of being handed your NBA career, you have to fight for it.
MyCareer mode starts by allowing you to create your own player so that you have a personal connection with him. Taking it up a notch, Kinect owners can scan their faces into the game. This helps your player look like a virtual you.
2K Sports states that this feature should take a minimum of three minutes using natural light. In my own experience, it took about 40 minutes and loads of ingenuity to get it right. I had to move my lamp behind my television as well as have flashlight shining in my face just to get an "above average" rating.
Next the game says that you were skipped in the draft and must now try out for teams just to get signed for 10 day contracts. If you perform well enough under a 10 day contract, the team will sign you to a contract for the rest of the year. Once the offseason begins, you get to experience a free-agent summer with teams from every direction trying to get you to play for their team. And the beauty of it is that you ultimately get to choose who you want to play for.
One of my favorite things about the MyCareer is that it plays more like a standalone interactive game and less like a basketball simulation game. The cut-scenes this year are not cheesy like last year's version, and the voice acting is actually bearable this time around. Like many narrative driven games nowadays, MyCareer mode has conversations in which you choose the response. Instead of having an effect on the story, the choices you make will impact things such as your team chemistry and fan base.
MyPark, or should I say "NoPark"
MyPark is the online game mode in which you take your created player to the streets to play against other people's created players. You get to choose one of three factions, and whichever team you choose will give you a special boost certain abilities. Over time, there will be weekly tournaments against the three factions that can net you huge credits for player customization.
MyPark sounds great, but the sad truth is it doesn't work yet. As many times as I've tried, I've only been able to choose my faction because the servers are completely unreliable. It's a shame because this is one of the features I was really looking forward to.Hopefully 2K Sports gets things smoothed out soon.
NBA 2K15 plays and feels just like NBA 2K14 gameplay-wise, and that's both good and bad. You always expect some new gameplay mechanic from the game each year, but this year they instead focused on revamping the movement and shot release systems. That said, the new presentation is completely jaw dropping. Any NBA television show could use the presentation from 2K15 for their own program, because it is top-notch.
There is so much variety in NBA 2K15 that it can easily keep you playing right up until to the release of 2K16. The new GM mode will satisfy any sports simulation fan. The depth in the mode alone is just astounding. It's probably the "sleeper" mode of this year.
As great as MyGM and other modes are, MyCareer is the cherry on top. The face scanning feature is awesome (but a hassle to set up). Once you finally create your player though, you won't be able to play anything else. The story behind MyCareer is engaging and believable thanks to this year's improved voice acting and writing. You will spend hours upgrading your player's abilities as well as fine-tuning your play style to help your team win.
The MyPark aspect of MyCareer has been crippled so far due to server issues. But it shows lots of promise and should become a standout feature once they get everything up and running smoothly. All in all, if you are a NBA fan or a lover of sports games, NBA 2K15 is a worthy buy. This is the best 2K since NBA 2K11 thanks to its varied and deep game modes. NBA Live 15 has a lot of work to do if it wants to compete with 2K Sports' offering.