Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! This is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to basketball video games, the real NBA or another area of interest to our community, either as a list of five items or in the form of a Top 5 countdown.
So, I finally have my hands on NBA 2K15, albeit a little later than expected. My copy for PlayStation 4 is still in the mail, and the PC version didn’t unlock until earlier today, which was a day later than originally advertised for Aussie gamers. Nevertheless, I do have it now, and I was able to spend some time playing it today. As such, I thought that I’d offer up some of my early impressions.
As I mentioned in last week’s Friday Five, I had a “To Do” list in mind for when NBA 2K15 arrived. I’ve more or less ticked off everything on that list, though I’ll naturally be diving deeper into each of those areas in the coming days and weeks. For now though, here are my thoughts on NBA 2K15, after the first few hours of playing the game.
1. There are some pleasing gameplay improvements
In last week’s Friday Five, I mentioned that my initial impressions of NBA 2K14 were tainted by a few frustrating experiences, which were at least partly my fault. I was a bit rusty when I first picked up NBA 2K14, which resulted in some poor performances. Some bad losses and a feeling that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do on the court did affect my early take on the game, but I was also annoyed by some longstanding issues, as well as teammate AI that felt somewhat dumbed down.
Fortunately, my first impressions of NBA 2K15’s gameplay are far more positive. I took a more patient approach in my first few games with this year’s release, and I’m pleased to say that I’m not really noticing the same issues that I was irritated by last year. CPU teammates will make the occasional defensive error, but they don’t seem to purposely scoot out of the way to give an opponent a free trip to the hoop. Likewise, their movement on offense feels a lot smarter. Shot distribution is fairly good, and patient play will allow you to chip away at a deficit. I’m really liking the new shot meter, too. Overall, there’s a noticeable improvement over NBA 2K14.
That said, I do have a couple of gripes after my first few hours playing the game. While the shot meter is a nice addition for jumpshots, it appears as though it’s not in effect for free throw shooting. I’m not a huge fan of the “just hold shoot” method to begin with, so that’s a bit frustrating. CPU players still seem a bit more agile, and stick to your player like glue on defense, while managing to brush you off much easier at the other end. There are still some moments where players feel a bit heavier than they should, and I think that I’ll always prefer NBA Live’s approach to dribbling controls. Having said all that though, I’m really liking the gameplay so far.
2. MyLEAGUE and MyGM should satisfy Association enthusiasts
These two modes are so deep that I won’t pretend to have already discovered absolutely everything about them, or done as much tweaking and testing as I would like. However, I’ve run through the options, explored the stats menus and whatnot, and I can tell that I’ll be getting heavily invested in at least one of those modes this year. Echoing my sentiments from last week, I’m still making up my mind as to which one will suit me best, though I’m leaning towards MyLEAGUE. I’ll definitely give MyGM another try, but I’m more interested in handling basketball operations, rather than the other management functions.
I really like that the development team listened to the negative reaction to VC paywalls in MyGM last year, and opened up all the coaching functions in NBA 2K15. Again, MyGM has some elements that I’m not particularly interested in – although I think they’re crucial to have for the people who do want to manage all that stuff – but the new approach is most welcome, and provides a strong incentive to give the mode another shot. Even if MyLEAGUE turns out to be my mode of choice, I can certainly appreciate what MyGM brings to the table.
Speaking of MyLEAGUE, I figure that I’ll simulate a few seasons and mess around with some settings to see if there’s anything I want to change. When it comes time to start my main playthrough, I won’t be making too many changes to the league as I want a realistic experience, which is what the default sliders and settings are geared towards. I also want the challenge of having to win over the CPU with trade offers, and make do with the reality that the game presents me with, so I probably won’t be overriding any moves. Still, it’s nice to have the option, and MyLEAGUE certainly isn’t light on customisability. Fans of these modes will definitely enjoy them.
3. MyCAREER is worth another look
I’ve spoken about my stance on the current direction of MyCAREER at length on the Podcast and in the NLSC Forum, but I’ll quickly summarise it again for those who haven’t heard my take before. In a nutshell, I’m kind of iffy on the mode being heavily story-driven, especially if there aren’t significant branching options, or your actions don’t seem to have much effect on the way the story progresses. I’ve had a slight change of mind recently though, and I’m still interested in seeing what it has to offer.
Having played through the very early stages of MyCAREER, I’d have to say that it’s definitely worth trying out. I’ll assuredly gravitate towards MyLEAGUE once a few roster updates have been pushed through, but MyCAREER is something that I’ll come back to throughout the year. I feel that NBA 2K15’s narrative is better than the tale that NBA 2K14 tried to tell, which was something of a hybrid between the new concept and the traditional career mode. I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of the player’s character – he’s a bit too arrogant and whiny for my liking – but the story fits the concept a lot better, the scenario is more realistic, and the presentation is fantastic.
So far, I haven’t had too many moments where I’ve felt that the storyline has intruded on the gameplay experience, but I do have a few complaints. First of all, the face sculpting features are fairly deep, but I still couldn’t quite get my player to look the way I wanted. Obviously, face scanning will alleviate that issue on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. My debut was also deemed to be a poor performance, even though it was a fairly solid game for having only played a handful of minutes, with a teammate grade of B. The grading system still feels a bit flawed and doesn’t seem to take your role into consideration, but it’s not completely broken. It’s still a mode worth checking out.
4. The approach to MyTEAM is much, much better
To be blunt, MyTEAM in NBA 2K14 wasn’t as appealing as it should have been. The basic features and functionality were fine, but the packs were very poor value for what they cost, and the amount of MyTEAM Points that you were rewarded with game-to-game was simply unfair. It probably wouldn’t have been too bad if you played the mode exclusively, but for gamers who divided up their time between MyTEAM and the other modes, it was difficult to make much progress, or build a decent team without spending a lot of Virtual Currency.
In NBA 2K15, MyTEAM should be more accessible to both hardcore fans of the mode, and more casual users alike. You’re still handed some fairly low cards when you start out, but you should get at least one reasonably good player, and you’ll even receive an additional free pack just for watching the MyTEAM tutorial video. The ability to select a specific team’s starter pack also means that you can immediately pick up some jerseys and a couple of players from your favourite team.
The cost of the different packs is also significantly reduced from the (quite frankly) ridiculous prices in NBA 2K14. The amount of MyTEAM Points you can earn in games also feels a lot fairer, so there should be less grinding, and hopefully fewer disappointments with your haul once you open a new pack. Like Ultimate Team in NBA Live, I find MyTEAM to be a fun break from the more traditional season and career modes, so these are some very welcome improvements.
5. I’ll need to upgrade my PC
From the moment NBA 2K15 PC was confirmed to be a port of the PlayStation 4/Xbox One version, I figured that I’d need to invest in a new system. Mine is starting to get a bit long in the tooth, and at this point, I’ve basically upgraded it as much as I can. I could invest in a new video card, and possibly find a slightly better quad core processor on eBay, but if nothing else, my motherboard’s already maxed out at 4 GB of RAM. Now that the games I want to play on PC are demanding higher specs, a brand new machine is the wiser investment.
NBA 2K15 runs well enough if I lower the video settings, and given that I’m not the harshest critic when it comes to graphics, I can certainly still enjoy the game despite sacrificing visual quality. However, I would still like to play the game maxed out, and for the sake of my future PC gaming in general, a new system is the way to go. To be honest, it’s as good an excuse as any to start shopping around, and treat myself to a 30th birthday present.
As I mentioned before, I’m also picking up NBA 2K15 on PlayStation 4. The likelihood that I’d find myself wanting to get a new PC is one of the reasons that I ultimately decided to double-dip. I probably won’t be racing out to get a new system straight away – I’ll want to budget for it first, and shop around – so having NBA 2K15 on PlayStation 4 as well should tide me over if my PC’s performance ends up detracting too much from my enjoyment of the game.
That’s all for this week. What are your initial impressions of NBA 2K15, on whatever platform you’re playing on? Sound off in the comments below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! Thanks for checking in this week, please join me again next Friday for another Five.