This is The Tuesday Triple, where I attempt to break down random topics into three points, and maybe an “and one” if I need it. Similar to the established Friday Five by Andrew, the topics will be related to basketball video games and their communities as a whole.
With the return of competitive releases in the simulation basketball video game genre, we can once again take part in the age-old tradition of comparing and contrasting the main two NBA games against each other. While NBA Live 14 still plays like an NBA Live game, and NBA 2K14 is still very much a stereotypical NBA 2K game, I have noticed some old complaints from years ago that have seemingly swapped sides. While there are certainly more important compliments and criticisms that can be given to each game, lets take a look at some that have been traded between the competing franchises.
Free Throw – NBA 2K14 Got More Fun, Live 14 Got More Serious
Again, this is not saying that 2K14 is an arcade game with a lack of simulation influence, or that Live is completely sim without its shades of NBA Lives of old. It just seems that the default settings the games ship with, well in NBA Live 14’s case the game period, that the old assumptions that NBA Live is an arcade game and NBA 2K is strictly simulation have switched places.
NBA Live two generations ago (PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, PC) was a very arcadey game, especially with default settings. Whether it be due to the explosive dunk sound effects of 2003 or 2004, the spin-spin-dunk adage, or players doing literal flips and 720s in the dunk contest; the games weren’t completely grounded in reality. With tweaks to the gameplay the user can definitely get a sim experience with these games, but the default settings concerned themselves with having fun over proper statistics. The NBA 2K games were instead heralded as the more simulation-oriented game, despite some over-the-top rare animations and fantasy modes like Blacktop and 24/7. These extremes were pretty decently held in check during that generation, and were almost completely absent for the past few years this last generation (Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC).
Now take a look at NBA 2K14, what was one of the biggest control changes this year? Fancy Pass Stick. That seems like something straight out of NBA Live 06 or 07’s freestyle superstars. Whether it be due to cheesey tactics or not, it is not uncommon to see highly unlikely dunks to take place in NBA 2K14 with default sliders (have you seen the NLSC Top 10 Plays feature?). At the same time, NBA Live 14’s gameplay is trying to replicate the real NBA. The game outright expects the user to run plays and play on-ball defense or else it may completely break with AI lapses. The only non-traditional mode the user can play with is Ultimate Team, and that is still very much bound by the same gameplay, despite the fantasy lineups. A far cry from having a jump over the defender canimation sequence or specific button combinations for self alleyoops.
Layup – User-Player Responsiveness
The biggest difference that most of us felt when playing both Live and 2K in years past was the responsiveness and control the user had over the virtual players. I feel there is no mistake in claiming NBA Live games gave the user much more control over the players during the PS2 generation, while NBA 2K games animated their players better at the cost of control. This transitioned into the initial Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the games as well, even though both games began switching places.
In the current games, it really shows how far 2K has come, and how NBA Live needs to focus on user control in the coming versions of the game. NBA 2K14 is far more responsive in terms of dribbling, movement, rebounding, passing, essentially all aspects of gameplay. There are still silly animations the user can get stuck in, but they are far less likely to occur than in NBA Live 14. EA’s game this year, despite the other issues that have affected it, has players jumping out of bounds to catch balls, having users get stuck in steal, movement, or other defensive animations, and most recently making additional passes with no input. Whether it be due to a feeling of input lag, slow animations, AI quirks, or even legacy issues like the random rebounding watch-a-thon, NBA Live 14 just isn’t as responsive to user input as NBA 2K14.
Three Pointer – Unlockables
Pinch me, but I may say something nice about NBA 2K’s Virtual Currency (VC). There is no doubt that how VC is implemented in the MyCAREER and MyGM modes is flawed. By playing the game normally, the user simply does not earn enough to justify the amounts needed to boost ratings or unlock managerial abilities. The good part of VC, that is often overlooked in my opinion, is its usage for unlockables.
It is strange since the unlockable parts of NBA 2K14 are so limited, but I do feel they are at least implemented well. Using VC to customize your player’s attire is something I feel has worked out well. Despite my frustrations with having to use VC to unlock NBA players for Blacktop mode, I actually have no problem with 2K ‘charging’ for the legends in the mode. In fact, I would be okay with VC being required to unlock retro teams for play now, alternate and classic uniforms, or even as a replacement for the cheat codes like using the ABA ball. Of course using VC to unlock features that were previously unlocked just by owning the game is tough, but I really do feel the idea is fine, even if the implementation is so terrible.
So if unlockables are limited to MyPLAYER things in NBA 2K14, why would I feel the two series have swapped places? Because NBA Live 14 has no unlockables. Progression of the user’s XP nets nothing more than Achievements/Trophies and some packs for Ultimate Team mode. NBA Live used to have an NBA points feature, which would give the user that currency to unlock retro and practice uniforms, or shoes. Again, this is kind of a wishlist topic since I do want to see unlockables show up more in these games outside of the MyTEAM and Ultimate Team modes, but having that basic store system becoming nothing, and 2K’s VC existence, does show another way the series have changed places.
There are of course other modes and features that have switched sides between the games, including the Dunk Contest and franchise mode scrimmages. Is there anything in particular that you can think of that has changed between NBA 2K and NBA Live? Let me know in the comments below or in the Forum Thread. Thanks for reading!