There’s nothing quite like that first irrational confidence jumper from Jamal Crawford. Nothing. Sure, you probably ripped open NBA 2K14 on release day, popped it into your console and starting gunnin’ with LeBron or Kobe or KD right off the bat, playing iso-ball and leaving a barrage of pissed off pixelated teammates in your wake. That’s ordinary.
But when you start up a game against the computer Clippers and JCrossover checks in late in the first quarter, then IMMEDIATELY launches a 22-footer off the dribble with like 17 seconds on the shot clock? Yeah, if you’re a real gamer, you’re fist-pumping to that… and not because he missed the shot.
2K14 brought the heat again this year, and while right now we’re all watching the “OMG” trailer and throwing money at the screen, let’s take a minute to talk about the little things that make this year’s little brother game (Xbox 360/PS3) so good. Here are 10 of my favorites.
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THE PRO STICK
The new dribbling system is much easier to use this year, and while I’ve heard people complain about it, it should take you all of about three games to figure it out. Trust, before I eventually figured it out, my first few games were littered with instances where I was taking an off-balance fadeaway with two guys on me when I was trying to dribble. But once you get it? Oh man, it feels so much slicker than the game’s past versions. Having to hit a separate button to differentiate between shooting and dribbling was always annoying and now, for once, you don’t have to.
As for the moves, I still do too much stick flicking and not enough studying — seriously, the controls are so in-depth now that it’s hard to get them all down — but that first time you come down on the break and pull-off a sick right-to-left Euro step with Dion Waiters is amazing. It’s smoother. It’s gorgeous. And the only issue I’ve had with it so far was when Omer Asik lost me with a through-the-legs shuffle move at midcourt. Let’s cut that one out next year, guys.
Star guards are particularly fun to play with. Kyrie Irving, for example, tempted me to stand around 30 feet from the hoop and unleash move after move. The first time I got Zach Randolph iso-ed against him on a switch, Uncle Drew gave him a little shimmy and an in-and-out and Z-Bo ended up on his ass. Fun times.
DEFENSE AGAINST THE DRIVE
Defense against the drive has been an overlooked part of video games since I was cutting teams up with Jerry Stackhouse in NBA Live 2001 with the same between-the-legs spin move. But in 2K14, it’s like night and day. I spent an entire quarter seeing if I could take Deron Williams off the bounce with Derrick Rose and he didn’t lose him once — always on his hip, always riding him, always physical. Yeah, Rose still scored on floaters and off-balance shots in the lane but he wasn’t getting all the way to the rim with ease. Williams was there to contest, even after I hit him with crossover after crossover. The shots in the lane are so much more realistic and it actually feels like players know where the contact is coming from, which leads into my next point.
CONTACT AT THE RIM
This has been an emphasis point with the game lately and it really works here. Between people flopping, the possibility of the charge call, and players getting into the lane and flailing around, it’s cool to see guys end up behind the basket station or even better, on the floor. It’s not always the defense, either.
In one game, Tony Allen had a fast break against C.J. Miles and I was controlling Alonzo Gee, who was trailing the ball. I came from behind and got a piece of it as he went up for a dunk. Allen ended up behind the play, getting tripped up by the contact at the rim from two defenders and Miles was actually on the floor after getting hit in the chest by the driving Memphis guard.
Speaking of blocks, this year’s game featured a complete overhaul. Now, as I’m sure you’ve heard, you can block dunks again. It makes a huge difference, especially in the open court. In years past, if someone got out on the break, it was virtually impossible to stop them. Now you can. There’s nothing more exciting than running down a play from behind with LeBron — or even Alonzo Gee, as I explained above. There’s also nothing better than sending some weak stuff into the stands from underneath the rim.
The only problem is that you can become almost TOO good at this stuff and start running around out there like you have five Dikembe Mutombos on the floor. In that case, sliders are your friend.
As the game has improved over the years and gotten more and more complicated with deeper and deeper signature style options, there still have been too many instances where I felt like I wasn’t in control. Guy goes into the lane and gets sucked into the defender’s chest… guy attempts to drive by a player and slips by his side in exactly the same motion… guy goes up for a shot out of the post and throws up some brick because the defender is simply standing there. The rest of the game improved, and when that happened, the canned animations REALLY stood out for me. Around the time of NBA 2K8 was when I first really noticed an issue, and never felt it was totally cleaned up. 2K14 isn’t perfect, but it took a big step in the right direction.
This was actually the first improvement I noticed once I started playing. The gameplay feels so much more smooth.
Every year, developers talk about how this team will play like their real life counterparts and how this player has these specific skills, and every year it never seems to work out quite like we expect. The days of lighting teams up with 15 Kyle Korver bombs or 85 points from a flame-throwing Ben Gordon might be over, but it’s still never fun to take a look at the box score after a game and see that Wesley Matthews took 16 shots and LaMarcus Aldridge took eight. In 2K14, it still isn’t perfect — it probably never will be — but it’s getting very close.
When I played against the Grizzlies, I think every point they scored in the first quarter was in the paint. Randolph was killing me (he’s awesome to watch go to work in this game, probably because he can’t jump at all) and Marc Gasol was doing his thing, dishing from the high post and hitting weird looking hook shots. Meanwhile, when I played the Clippers, they put CP3 in a high screen-n-roll almost every time down and he was slicing up my defense. I’m still waiting for the game when I get one of those box scores with the numbers J.J. Redick: 13-for-18 field goals, 38 points, but for now, I’m content to say this is the most authentic basketball video game experience yet.
This one has by far the biggest selection ever seen in a video game. Everything from new favorite like the LeBron X and the Hyperposite to old school classics like the Penny 2 are available. They even have Russell Westbrook‘s “Why Not?” XX8s so you know I had to equip those joints. Peak and Anta are here for Scola and Kevin Garnett, and they also had Joakim Noah‘s sneakers before he switched over to adidas.
It’s so thorough — check the video below — that I almost miss the days of generic red/white shoes that look like they came off the sales rack at Marshalls. You kids nowadays are spoiled.
Chosen by LeBron, this year’s soundtrack might be the strongest one yet for 2K. Of course, the game’s only been out for a few weeks so we can’t make calls like that right now. I wanted to commit a felonious act after hearing Afrika Bambaataa‘s “Party people, party people/ can y’all get funky?/ Soul Sonic Force, can y’ll get funky?/ the Zulu Nation, can y’ll get funky? Yaaaa, just hit me” for the 877th time in 2K7. Who knows how I’ll react in January now that Drake‘s on here crooning about how he started from the bottom but now he’s heeeaaa?
Still, this year’s soundtrack is dope. It doesn’t get much better than hearing Phil Collins during an end-of-quarter highlight reel. And seriously, “Hate Me Now” is one of the most hype basketball anthems of all time. I’ve been playing that in pregames since my junior year of high school.
Do I hate it in real life? Yes. Back in the day, did I always litter Smack with complaints about Luis Scola or Chris Paul‘s uncanny ability to make anything look like he was just hit by Mike Tyson? Of course. Do I love seeing 2K14 Mike Dunleavy fall over like a drunk when someone off the ball comes through the lane? OMG yes. It was amazing. Then I started double-tapping the B button all over the court on defense and it just got ridiculous. By hey, you wanted realism, right? Now we’re a little closer.
Thank God I’m not in college anymore or someone probably would’ve gotten socked in the face for flopping at a key moment during one of our marathon 2K sessions.
Yeah, he gets his own section. The cover boy is a monster in real life, but in 2K14 he’s like a cross between Karl Malone and Khaleesi‘s pet dragons. Seriously, the first game I ever played with him I jumped out on San Antonio 18-2 because he was just grabbing every rebound, immediately turning and starting a one-man fast break, and then finishing all over whoever was in his way. It was kind of scary and gave me flashbacks of Richard Jefferson‘s magnet dunk from like 2K6 when he’d jump from the foul line and get sucked into the rim. Safe to say, both moves are pretty much unstoppable.
We had to know ‘Bron was going to be good since he’s on the cover — for the first time ever — but still… playing with him is one of the coolest parts of the game. I literally forgot Dwyane Wade is on the same team because I don’t think I ever bothered to shoot with him.
There’s also the Path To Greatness mode that allows you to control LeBron and decide his legacy. Does he start a dynasty with the Heat by signing back on? Or does he go all Decision, Part 2 on us and vanish from South Beach to play with another team? You’ll play spotlighted games with specific goals in mind and while I believe I still enjoyed the past MJ modes better, this is sure to be a hit with ‘Bron stans.
So there’s that. If you haven’t played 2K14 yet, I suggest you punish yourself. And if you have, you probably noticed much of this here without me having to tell you.
We’re all gonna play this one to death. I’ll probably see you online over the next month as we wait for this:
What do you think?
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