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Updated: October 23, 2013 16:46 IST
the next level

The King is back

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NBA 2K14 proves that it still owns the court

Developing a yearly instalment of a popular video game franchise presents several challenges such as adhering to timelines, controlling production costs, getting into partnerships with sports teams and associations, and from a strictly end-user standpoint, adding features. As a developer, you can’t stray too far from the core philosophies of the previous game or the franchise in general. And when a developer talks about “innovation” or “overhauling gameplay”, they’re not really talking about those things at all — instead, it’s about little tweaks that don’t alienate the existing fan base, while attempts are made to make the game more accessible to new players. If you thought a game such as FIFA gets this right, think again, because NBA 2K14 is the king of the court when it comes to doing this.

I’ll admit it. I haven’t been playing a new basketball game every year. In fact, not since EA Sports’ NBA Street Homecourt (which released in 2007), have I paid too much attention to a virtual game of hoops. But I was a fan in the good old days of NBA Live, and I did play some of the 2K games as well. Basketball games were the first to get a lot of things right — player likenesses, complete licensing, seasons, realistic animation, TV-quality presentation, and the tension of beating the shot clock in the fourth quarter in a closely contested game. In fact, they managed to raise the bar quite high, quite early.

In addition to its NBA roster, NBA 2K14 features fourteen Euroleague teams, including the likes of FC Barcelona, Alba Berlin, and Zalgiris Kaunas (Lithuania), in addition to several classic teams (which basketball games have been way better at including than football franchises). 2K took over the reins from EA’s declining “Live” series in the mid-2000s, and have been the mantle bearers since. NBA 2K14 is no different. Honestly, I can’t think of a single thing wrong with it. If you enjoy the game of basketball, you’ll most likely have a whale of a time playing NBA 2K14 for its authenticity and attention to detail, if nothing else.

Play-by-play is well epitomised by NBA 2K14 — and not just in commentary terms. The controls feel fluid and responsive, with quick access to plays via the D-Pad which allow you to alter your strategy on the fly. Executing fast breaks has never felt better, and the new defensive system means that you can’t waltz your way to the opposition basket to score point after point — this makes nailing that dunk and cleverly planned layup even more satisfying. The new passing system lets you execute no-look passes with great precision (hold both triggers and move the right analog in the direction of the pass). However, you can’t always rely on the accuracy of an over-utilised Assist Pass. You can also pull off some stunning dribbles by manoeuvring the right analog in a variety of directions, in addition to player-specific signature moves. As I said earlier, defences are more organised, so expect to have more steals and turnovers against careless opposition. If you want to familiarise yourself with the all new gameplay mechanics, there’s the newly added “Training Camp” mode. There’s another newly added mode called “LeBron: Path to Greatness”, which lets you play as King James himself, where you can choose to continue representing the Heat or move to a new team. While the multiple paths are interesting, it would have been great if the developers had included LJ’s career defining matches as objective-based playable scenarios.

The presentation is as ever, top class. Led by Kevin Harlan, the commentary team includes Clark Kellogg and five-time NBA Champion and Chicago Bulls/San Antonio Spurs legend Steve Kerr, NBA 2K14 features over 50 hours of new commentary. The play-by-play is seamless, with the veteran commentators all bringing their a-game to the proceedings. You don’t even need to be playing NBA 2K14 to enjoy it — watching your friends play it is as close to watching a game on TV without actually watching a game on TV.

NBA 2K14 is available on PC (for only Rs.499), PS3 and Xbox 360.

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