Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of some of the most useless features and functions that we’ve seen in basketball games.
We’ve come to expect a significant amount of depth in basketball video games, not only in terms of the modes and gameplay, but also features and functionality. Be they big or small, glamorous or mundane, frequently used or just handy to have when we need them, there are numerous features and functions that go a long way in providing a well-rounded basketball gaming experience. And then, there are the features that aren’t so useful. Of course, usefulness can be subjective. If you enjoy outfitting your player in different clothing, for example, you’ll find that feature a lot more useful than someone who has no interest in that aspect of the career modes.
Taking a look at features of questionable usefulness, some are good ideas that just haven’t been executed well, while others are pointless at best. Certain features have seen their usefulness decline over time, either due to neglect or redundancy. Whatever the case may be, sometimes you’ll see a feature or function in a basketball video game, and wonder why the developers spent any time implementing it. Other times, you may wish that they spent a little more time on a feature, in order to make it more worthwhile. Without any further ado, here are five features that we’ve seen in basketball games – past and present – that I would rank among the most useless.
1. Rotating Menus with the Right Stick
Have you ever fiddled around with the right stick while in the menus of NBA 2K15 or NBA 2K18? If so, you’ll have noticed that the menus will move and rotate according to the direction of the stick, in turn revealing that they’re actually rendered in 3D. This allows you to see the rest of the background environment, and discover that even aspects such as the roster listings are not just flat menus. It’s a cool visual, and the type of discovery that might make you say “hey, how about that?”, but that aside, there’s no real point to it. There’s no tangible benefit or practical use for it, as it doesn’t improve usability or provide any other function.
I’m guessing the main purpose of this feature is to surprise gamers who idly play with the sticks in the menus, or perhaps to simply show off the work that’s gone into the menus. With that in mind, I suppose it’s the modern equivalent of being able to play with Mario’s face in Super Mario 64, only not as amusing. In all fairness, it’s really more of an Easter egg; it’s not as though all the developer blogs and Momentous trailers make a point of spotlighting the fact that you can rotate the menus with the right stick. All the same, it’s unquestionably a useless feature that’s only been included for the sake of it, and as such, it’s as good an example as any to tip off this list.
2. Menu Options Referring to External Content
It may seem pointless to include the ability to rotate 3D rendered menus, but an even better example of uselessness in the frontend would have to be menu options without a real function. That is to say, they will take you to another screen or display a pop-up message, but you won’t actually find any content. More specifically, NBA Live 06’s My NBA Live menu features an option that looks as though it should bring up an instructional video on Freestyle Superstars, but instead directs gamers to visit the official website to watch it. There is a direct URL, though it isn’t actually an active hyperlink that can be opened from within the game itself.
Regardless of the video’s usefulness, it’s certainly less convenient to not have it right there in the game. The menu option is also somewhat misleading. Furthermore, EA Sports has tended not to archive their official NBA Live websites as new games have been released, quite often completely removing the older sites after a few years. As such, if you’re trying to locate that video today, you’ll find that the in-game link is no longer helpful. My guess is that it was done to save space on the disc and also drive traffic to the official site, but looking back on it now, it certainly makes me appreciate the comprehensive in-game manuals that can be found in recent NBA 2K games.
3. Sprite Vending Machine
While shooting around in NBA Live 09’s practice arena, you’ll no doubt spot the Sprite vending machine standing off to the side. Sprite advertisements are quite prominent in NBA Live 09 in general, but when you approach the vending machine, a button prompt will appear, indicating that you can interact with it. Doing so will allow you to punch in a code – spriteslam – that unlocks Super Dunk Mode. Upon being activated, the cheat will allow you to perform big dunks with anyone and everyone in the game. It will remain active throughout your current session; in fact, you’ll actually have to restart your console to clear the code’s effect.
Granted, that means it does technically have a use, and the code is kind of fun if you want a change of pace and feel like turning the game into a complete dunk fest. It’s obviously a promotional tie-in with Sprite, so it makes sense conceptually, and it is more visually appealing than a standard codes menu. Of course, there is only the one code to enter, so at the very least, it’s somewhat of a wasted opportunity. If you don’t have any interest in Super Dunk Mode, then you’ll have no use for it whatsoever. As you’ll see, however, it’s not the only largely useless feature that was included for the purposes of unlocking new content.
4. Promotional Videos & Similar Features
It’s something that appears to have fallen out of fashion, but for a time, it wasn’t all that uncommon to see promotional videos in NBA Live games. It began with NBA Live 2002, which featured a “Season Preview” video under the “Inside EA Sports” menu (where the Credits could also be found). The video featured promotional clips of EA Sports’ 2002 season lineup, basically encouraging gamers to check out the entire range of titles. It’s somewhat interesting in that the clips of NBA Live 2002 included in the reel appear to be taken from an earlier build of the game, but apart from that, it’s pretty useless. You’re probably only going to watch it once, if at all.
Similar promotional videos were also featured in some of the later NBA Live games. NBA Live 07 took things a step further by adding some other videos, including a handful of highlight reels featuring various stars of the era. It wasn’t a terrible idea as such, but once again, you likely weren’t going to watch many of the videos more than once. They certainly weren’t as useful as the tutorial videos, which contrary to the NBA Live 06 example noted above, were included on the disc. That kind of bonus content likely wouldn’t have taken anything away from the rest of the game, but as far as features are concerned, they weren’t anything to get too excited about.
5. Locker Codes
When Locker Codes were introduced in NBA 2K14, they had a lot of promise. Released via NBA 2K’s social media pages, Codes unlocked either a specific item or a random reward upon being entered. In theory, they were a good idea and a fun social media promotion, but more often than not, they’ve been a disappointment. Limited quantity rewards tend to disappear within seconds of Codes being released, while a lot of random rewards have been either been useless items, or pitiful amounts of Virtual Currency or MyTEAM Points. As a feature, they haven’t been utilised fairly or to their full potential, making them more useless than they should be.
Frankly, a grinning photo of Ronnie 2K flipping the bird at us would be less insulting than being told “Happy Spending!” upon being “awarded” 100 VC or 200 MT, or having a Code reach its quantity limit within 30 seconds of being posted. It doesn’t help that fewer and fewer Locker Codes have been released each year, or that 2K seemingly went back on a promise to make them timed instead of limited. In NBA 2K18, they’re mostly used for promotional tie-ins with brands 2K has partnered with. Locker Codes could have been so much more, but unfortunately they stand as yet another example of NBA 2K’s continually declining goodwill towards its fanbase.
What are some other features in basketball video games that you find to be rather useless, or less useful than they should be? Have your say in the comments section below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.