When it came out last month for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, NBA 2K14 saw rave reviews from critics and fans alike, thanks to its improved gameplay and abundant features, including a mode dedicated to Miami Heat superstar LeBron James.
That doesn't mean 2K Sports will let up for the remainder of the year. The team has been working hard on a next-generation version of NBA 2K14, specifically built from the ground up for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. We'll see the final results in a few weeks, but for now, the game definitely shows promise.
Obviously, the first thing gamers will see are the spruced-up visuals, with improved player modeling, realistic court designs (just check out that Pepsi Center) and ball physics. It's not just about the looks, though.
NBA 2K14 will also bring improved ball handling. Sure, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions play just fine, but with a few touch-ups, 2K Sports could redefine the nature of the game.
The first important factor is ball physics. We've all seen our fair share of b-ball games where the ball handling was all over the place, even to the point that it went flying out of bounds. With NBA 2K14, it's much more concentrated, so that it comes across as it would in the real sport. Players can roll back on their dribbles and perform a bounce pass with ease, then add a little finesse as they go up for the shot, or find the open lane to deliver a powerful dunk.
That's not to say the controls will change much. The game will still feel like the basketball sim we've come to love, and these additions will be little touch-ups to make you a more natural performer on the court. Blocks will feel more like you earned them, and when you make shots, it's a thing of beauty, especially in the closing seconds of a playoff game.
Player physics also underwent improvements. As we mentioned, blocks will feel better, but general player movement will also have more balance. No longer will you see awkward transitions from jumping to running down the court, as some previous b-ball games demonstrated. With the help of smoother animations, a player does this in one easy motion, without losing a spring in his step. Fatigue and possible injuries still play a part in the game – provided you don't adjust them in the sliders menu beforehand – but overall, it emulates how a real player would perform on the court.
Most of the on-court actions are controlled with buttons, but you can also use the right analog stick for transitional purposes. By flicking it, you're able to launch in a multi-directional dribble, which could throw off your opponent and have your player get closer to the basket.
It's a risky move, though, because as you go through this motion, you could leave yourself open to a possible steal – the moves between offense and defense are balanced enough to where both players could stand a chance. Even the mighty LeBron could have the ball swiped away if he isn't careful.
You can also change plays on the fly with some off-court shuffling, clicking in the sticks and seeing how you can set up your team offensive and defensively, without interrupting the flow of the game. This worked really well in the current-gen versions, and this feature should continue to find its groove on next-gen machines.
2K already confirmed that the LeBron-oriented Path To Greatness mode won't be included in the next-gen versions of NBA 2K14. That doesn't mean gamers will be left empty-handed. Several new features are being prepared for this new game, and while 2K hasn't revealed all of them yet, it's sure to be a well-rounded effort. Don't forget that you can take it online via Xbox Live and PlayStation Network as well, if you feel like challenging friends.
Finally, the PlayStation 4 version – which will launch alongside the system next week – will have some form of exclusive content. More than likely, it will be tied in with the MyTeam mode, where you can modify options and create an ideal legacy with a rookie player. We'll let you know once Sony confirms these options.
NBA 2K14 looks like a sweet game on next-gen consoles, but it also has the gameplay and features to back it up. It'll need them, too, because EA Sports wants to contend again with NBA Live 14. We'll see who rules the court in the weeks ahead.
NBA 2K14 arrives on November 15th for PlayStation 4 and November 22nd for Xbox One.