2K Sports is brewing a new breed of sports games for next-gen consoles. And it shows in NBA 2K14, which captures the sports experience better than any game from the current generation.
We don’t think of sports games as leading us into the next generation of gaming — that’s usually the arena of flashy first-person shooters or effect-filled fantasy games. Many gamers would probably question you if you said sports games could do this as well. Part of this skepticism stems from the annual nature of sports titles, which can not only detract from the development but also depreciates it. That’s because for some, the additions that come from yearly cycles can seem minuscule.
This perception, however, became blurred when we saw 2K Sports’ next-gen version of NBA 2K14. This is no port, 2K tells us. What we saw during a single 2-minute quarter (that’s all that 2K permitted us to play) is arguably one of the most accurately depicted sports titles to ever grace a new console generation.
The 4 pillars
NBA 2K14 is fueled not only by next-gen hardware but also a new game engine, EcoMotion.
Making NBA 2K14 “more alive than ever before,” as developer Visual Concepts executive vice president Jeff Thomas puts it, begins with four game pillars. The first, NBAToday, marries the real-life happenings of “The Association” (as the pro hoops league is known) with the game. Through a partnership with Stats Inc., one of the biggest sports statistics companies in the world, NBA 2K14 gets real-time updates and stats such as division standings, injuries, suspensions, and streaks, all of which effect a player’s and team’s performance.
Another pillar comes from EcoMotion. If the real Kobe Bryant isn’t scoring as well as the Lakers future Hall of Famer normally does, then EcoMotion adjusts to reflect this behavior in the game. Even A.I. coaches have their own personalities based on their real-world equivalents. Coaches will adjust game strategies based on a game’s progression. Together, 2K’s engine and Stats, Inc. add a new level of dynamic play that Visual Concepts claims has never been in a sports game. This means real-world sports are not only better simulated in NBA 2K14 but better incorporated, too.
Making it personal
The second feature, MyCareer, displays a deep level of progression and decision-making. Like in role-playing games such as Mass Effect, you’re not only tasked with paying attention to conversations but interacting with them, too. During story mode, you’ll talk with agents, on-court rivals, and teams in addition to playing hoops. The goal is to become a desirable asset in the NBA Draft — and 2K says players can fail to do. How you respond to other characters dictates certain reactions and consequences, which could affect things like contracts and endorsement deals (should you earn them).
2K says the story mode runs on a nonlinear path, containing 40 hours of play within the first season alone. This means there’s plenty more for fans who wish to go deeper with MyCareer.
Contrary to career mode, MyGM plays from a team management perspective. Player contracts, concession prices and trades all rest on the player’s ability to manage the organization. A good general manager finds himself well received by the team and owner; bad GMs likely get fired. Furthermore, like in a RPG, it has a level progression that unlocks special abilities, increasing your effectiveness as a GM. Think of MyGM as NBA 2K14’s version of Madden 25’s owner mode.
2K Sports didn’t speak about MyTeam’s functionality, but it did briefly preview a special mode dubbed ThePark. This massive online setting, as 2K explains, is where players go when they want a break from the offline modes. Using your custom player from MyCareer, you and up to 100 friends per court square off in a street ball-like environment. Again, 2K didn’t share much about this besides a snippet of footage, but we’re told that ThePark feature street rules such as “calling dibs” and “who’s got next.” 2K promises to divulge more details in the coming weeks.
Looks like a champ
NBA 2K14 wouldn’t be next gen without the visuals to back it up. It has an almost lifelike look. Character models have never appeared so accurate to their real-life parallels before. Visual Concepts brought in nearly every NBA player for motion capture, and this shows on the screen.
2K’s goal to re-create the NBA experience became more apparent when noticing the finer details. Backboards depict all the same wiring and dimensions of their real-life counterparts. They even have the dunk cameras behind the glass. How detailed is the presentation? You can even see the fingerprints on a phone behind the broadcast table (2K pointed this out).
NBA 2K14 looks like a true next-generation experience. It appears to go well beyond the standards of today’s sports games. You see this in its graphics, functionality and gameplay, but more importantly, it’s reflected in its impactful, real-world connectivity.