NBA 2K15 for the PS4 gets better but still has a few issues
What is NBA 2K15?Building on the solid foundations developed for last year’s new generation of console basketball, NBA 2K15 takes a confident step forward, implementing a series of on-court and off-court tweaks that make it a less predictable and better-playing simulation. Much like previous versions, 2K15’s brand of basketball is also a graphical show-piece for its host hardware, producing a stunning quality of authentic TV-style presentation whether you’re taking your created player through the ranks, jumping into a 5 vs 5 park game or pitting NBA heavyweights against each other in weekly clashes.
What’s new?Having nailed the fundamentals of their simulation a long time ago, the changes to NBA 2K15 are unsurprisingly small, but nonetheless noticeable for anybody invested in the fine print.
On the court it’s pretty much the same smooth and heavy experience as previous years, with a working knowledge of common basketball manoeuvres required to obtain anything other than a sense of disillusion when first picking up the pad. It still plays an incredible game once you get used to the animation priority, and the steady stream of authentic player movements is bolstered in 2K15 with the addition of better collision modelling and ball pick-ups. Shooters are now subtly jostled off balance or nudged in mid-air with believable heft, while grabbing a ball off the floor on a fast break is a much less jarring experience. The occasional strange animation choice for a pass or shot still remains, but on the whole it’s a smoother, more natural game of basketball that awaits.
In terms of difficulty, I also found it a much more difficult task to break down the opposition’s defence this year. Hop-step layups are no longer guaranteed points thanks to the aforementioned ability to nudge players off their shot, while even getting close to the basket with average players requires more thought and skill. The all-new shot meter does go a long way towards giving new players a required sense of timing for jump shots and hot spots around the court, but to be honest, after playing upwards of 80 hours in 2K14, personally I found it much easier to switch back to the regular system and judge the release on animation alone.
Elsewhere, Visual Concepts' interface design lottery has come up trumps in 2K15, with the menu system behaving in a slick and intuitive manner. There’s a new weekly TV show that features hints and tips from the developer and interviews with the best of the best in the NBA (some of which are painfully stilted), while pretty much everybody will be pleased to see the ubiquitous Virtual Currency (VC) prompts toned down from 2K14. They still exist beneath the surface however, and you’ll only be able to play a handful of NBA 2K15’s many gameplay modes without being connected to the internet.
In terms of presentation, NBA 2K15 shines above any other sports game on the market. Pre-game intro sequences now capture the TV styling with even greater accuracy, with a vast array of visual effects and cut-scenes layered on top of a suitably eclectic soundtrack. Half-time cheerleader sequences also make their long-awaited début, while the motion-captured announcer desk manned by Shaquille O’Neal and Earnie Johnson is nothing short of hilarious. I'm not sure it actually intends to be funny, but by god, it’s incredible.
How good is the career mode?As the heart of their product for a number of years, perhaps the most extensive suite of alterations are to be found in 2K’s celebrated MyCareer mode. The option to take a young upstart through the NBA ranks has always been appealing for newcomers to both the game and the sport, but the systems underpinning gameplay are now further refined, providing a raft of feedback and communicating exactly what’s demanded in each position. Whether you want to play a huge centre or a nimble outside shooter, 2K15 not only gives you the tools but also shows you how best to use them.
As an example, your coach will frequently issue specific attacking or defensive instructions during the course of a game, but rather than the simple check-list thrown at you during games of 2K14, each of those demands is now explained and reinforced with video coaching and tactical sessions that pop up throughout the season. If you do something wrong on the court you’re also now left in little doubt as to what happened. Bonuses for good player spacing and distribution are clearly communicated and heavily weighted when considering your overall grade, while the performance penalty while being ignored when calling for a pass has finally been removed.
Playing well during those games still earns you currency with which to purchase upgraded stats and clothes, but rather than juggling the 50+ attributes you had last year, 2K15 simply asks you to dump points into categories such as "Athlete" or "Jump Shooter", leading to a much less min/maxed experience. And while your on-court skills are now built in broad strokes, your off-court persona is given slightly more agency. Interviews are also much more engaging, with the addition of named journalists to lock horns with throughout the season, while storyline cut-scenes are far more frequent (and just as silly as ever). You can also now sim through to important dates within a few hours of beginning your career, rather than needing to play through a full regular season before doing so.
Make no mistake, MyCareer is still the dumbest of the dumb RPG modes, but it’s got so much heart that it’s impossible not to enjoy. There’s so much content here that it’s a wonder Visual Concepts is able to cover all the angles, but they've done an admirable job. Real-world voiceovers are now provided by key players in most NBA teams (as opposed to the silent treatment last year), and while the selection of dialogue for your own player leans a little too heavily into cocky territory, it’s still a fun system to play with. Rivalries are again built up through the fake social media smears that accompany wins or losses, and the sense of pride at winning the respect of a real-life legend is tangible. The only downside comes with the otherwise excellent on-court commentary, which becomes a little repetitious after 10-15 games.
Is 2K15's online gameplay fixed?No matter how engaging that storyline is, at a certain point you’ll likely want to take your created player back to the streets in the MyPark online mode, testing your mettle in quick pick-up games or forming a squad with other real-world chums. Indeed, online play is actually required to lift your stats above and beyond the caps imposed by the Career mode, and so it’s unfortunate that 2K15 still exhibits the strangely problematic network code that’s plagued the series for a good three or four years now.
The first few weeks of launch saw the same types of sporadic server-side issues that cropped up in 2K14, and with their cross-mode currency still tied to 2K’s network, that made playing anything but season and vs modes as troublesome as you can imagine. Sure, it wasn’t as bad as last year’s release, but that’s still no excuse for an area that regularly draws so much ire from fans. As we stand at the time of publication, server issues are sporadic but still noticeable, while the patch to improve input lag during online games seems only partially successful. Player movement still feels sluggish compared to their offline counterpart modes. I wish, just for once, 2K could finally get this right.
- Superb simulation
- Stunning graphics
- Excellent presentation
- Career mode
- Virtual Currency
- Poor online performance
- Uncanny valley
NBA 2K15 PlayStation 4 ReviewAs things stand, NBA 2K15 is a thorough success in all but one, unfortunately crucial, area. This is a game of unparalleled TV-style presentation that captures the atmosphere of the sport like no other, backed up by the same best-in-class gameplay we've come to expect from Visual Concepts' newly-spruced engine. This year's tweaks and additions are almost universally good, and there's little about the core of 2K15 that can draw any serious complaint. The RPG-like MyCareer mode is still the highlight of the package, and deservedly so.
But alas, the same server woes that plagued 2K14 still rear their head, and although their impact has been greatly reduced this time around, they still make their presence known once too often. While Visual Concepts is tied to the idea of a cross-mode currency that constantly requires a server connection, it's almost unforgivable for this stuff not to work seamlessly.
It's testament to NBA 2K15's considerable strengths then that I'd still consider it worthy of recommendation despite the sporadic connection problems and persistent online input lag. If you're into basketball then 2K remains a slightly-blemished but unmissable yearly treat, and if you're into sports games in general then you really should give this a try. 2K15 has depth that few other simulations can muster.
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