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Wayback Wednesday: NBA 2K14 PS4 & X1 Retrospective

Wayback Wednesday: NBA 2K14 PS4 & X1 Retrospective

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at NBA 2K14 on PS4 and X1.

The age of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S is upon us! Although many of us will miss out on getting the consoles at launch – and I’m in that group – many other gamers will be hitting the virtual hardwood and blacktop in NBA 2K21 Next Gen over the coming days, weeks, and months. The rest of us will have to make do with NBA 2K21 Current Gen, or the hoops game of our choice that’s available on PS4, X1, or PC. That doesn’t mean we can’t get our virtual basketball fix of course, but it does mean that we miss out on the excitement and hoopla of a Next Gen release.

Honestly, it doesn’t feel like it was seven years ago that we were experiencing that with NBA 2K14 on PS4 and X1. After the OMG Trailer more than lived up to its name and blew us all away, we were eager to see if the game played as good as it looked. It seems as though many basketball gamers do have a lot of nostalgia for NBA 2K14 on PS4 and X1, but looking back, did it live up to the hype, and how well does it hold up now? As a new generation launches and Current Gen becomes Last Gen, let’s take a look back…way back…

Before I get into my thoughts on NBA 2K14 PS4/X1 as it stands today, I’ll reflect on my initial impressions from all those years ago so that I can compare and contrast. I pre-ordered my PlayStation 4 months in advance – that was a launch that was well-handled – and was excited to pick it up at midnight. I picked up three games for the new system: NBA Live 14, NBA 2K14, and Killzone Shadow Fall. I didn’t much care for Killzone and traded it in rather quickly, and NBA Live 14 was…well, I’ll get to that very soon in my 25th Anniversary of NBA Live retrospectives. I was hoping that I’d enjoy NBA 2K14 PS4 a lot more, and its fantastic intro certainly hyped me up.

Kevin Garnett in NBA 2K14 PS4

Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed. I wasn’t feeling NBA 2K14 on PC after really enjoying NBA 2K13, and NBA 2K14 on PS4 felt very similar. I remember not liking the player movement, and noticing some of the AI quirks that had been bugging me in the PC version. The game looked amazing, but I wasn’t gripped by the gameplay. As a recent convert to MyCAREER, I didn’t care for the way the story was on rails, leading to contrived moments. The presence of Virtual Currency in MyGM left a sour taste in my mouth, despite being a long-time fan of franchise gaming. I wasn’t impressed by the pack odds in MyTEAM, and the menus were terrible. I didn’t like the game at all.

To that end, I didn’t spend much time with NBA 2K14 when it was new. I believe I’m not alone as far as my opinions of the menus, features, and modes, though I may be in the minority when it comes to my thoughts on gameplay. There are a few factors that I should acknowledge, though. I loved NBA 2K13, and when you really enjoy one of the annual basketball releases, it can be tough to move on. This is part of the whole “new game blues” I’ve talked about before. NBA 2K14 had also brought me nothing but bad vibes, from a bungled PC pre-order and disappointment, to devs at 2K making fun of NBA Live 14 in a rather nasty, condescending, and unprofessional manner.

Suffice to say, when NBA 2K14 came out on PS4 and X1, my feelings towards the brand weren’t positive. First impressions do matter though, and even putting all of that aside, I wasn’t impressed by NBA 2K14 PS4 when I finally got my hands on it in late November 2013. However, that was then, and this is now. I’ve revisited the game over the years, and my attitude towards it has changed; at least in some respects. Without the pre-release hype and expectations, as well as the distaste I felt given the headaches I’d experienced on PC, and off-putting attitude from NBA 2K devs (even though they weren’t entirely wrong about NBA Live 14), I can look at the game with fresher eyes.

Main Menu in NBA 2K14 on PS4

So, do I feel differently about NBA 2K14 PS4 after revisiting it for an in-depth look back, all these years later? I do, but the biggest problems I had with the game when it was new do still stand out as legitimate criticisms today. With that in mind, I’ll begin with the aspects of the game I still feel the same about, and then move on to the parts I’ve changed my mind on. Let’s start with the menus. As I said before, they’re terrible. They’re poorly designed with a lot of back and forth, and most menus can’t be exited unless you scroll to the “Exit” option. To access the options, roster editing, Blacktop, practice, and other features, you need to enter Play Now and back out with Circle/B.

Not only was the menu clunky and rather plain, but the design of the frontend also impacted the save system. NBA 2K14 on PS4 and X1 infamously only includes five save slots, which are shared between MyGM and MyCAREER. There’s also only one custom roster slot. These limitations were the result of the poorly designed user interface, and it was a huge step back from the intuitive menus and robust, plentiful save slot system on PC and prior gen. Of course, roster editing was somewhat limited anyway, with no Create-a-Player or Create-a-Team. Although it was nowhere near as barebones as NBA Live 14, it still stung to have lost a handful of staple features.

The first iteration of MyGM was a flop. It had ambitious ideas with RPG mechanics and the like, but the introduction of Virtual Currency into an offline mode made it a bust. Basic roster management functions had to be unlocked and purchased, which felt like both an attempt at a cash grab, and far too restricting. As I noted before, the new story-driven MyCAREER was very much on rails, making your MyPLAYER’s line in the introductory cutscene about no one controlling their destiny but themselves rather ironic. There were some good ideas there, but they were executed poorly. As for MyTEAM, it did have lousy pack odds, no Auction House, and not much depth.

Powered by Eco-Motion

Still, they were the building blocks for the staple experiences of NBA 2K moving forward, and they were and are playable; well, MyTEAM no longer is, owing to the server shutdown, but MyGM and MyCAREER still function in an offline capacity. The visuals and atmosphere of the game have always been impressive, and I would agree with those who say that NBA 2K14 on PS4 and X1 is still one of the best-looking NBA 2K games of this past generation. There has been improvement to player faces in the years since, but at the time, many of them were a big jump from what we were used to on the previous generation. The lighting effects also hold up.

That brings us to gameplay, the main area where my opinion has actually changed somewhat. Although the issues that bugged me way back in 2013 are still noticeable, once I reacclimatised to the controls and style of play, I found that it was a little more enjoyable than I remembered. Before we get to that, let’s talk about Eco-Motion. Eco-Motion was the new engine that was introduced in the PS4/X1 version of NBA 2K14, and it promised – among other things – that no two animations would play out exactly alike. In other words, the exact way that the players would land after a dunk, layup, or jumpshot would be unique every time, even if a bulk of the animation looked familiar.

To be honest, I’ve never been able to notice any difference. It’s either extremely subtle, or pure marking hype; or maybe, a bit of both. Either way, what’s actually important is the overall look and feel of the game. In that regard, I would say that Eco-Motion is a mixed bag. It’s very responsive and fluid for the most part, but it also features a lot of exaggerated movement. It feels a bit loose at times, which in some ways is better than the current engine, but it does lead to out of control moments of its own. There were less canned moments when it came to blocks, but the physics weren’t a huge step up from the previous generation. Body steals and ball warping were rather rampant.

James Harden in NBA 2K14 PS4

Psychic steals were also out of control, with plodding bigs like Chris Kaman playing the passing lanes like Michael Jordan in his prime. The CPU felt quicker and lighter on its feet, and more adept at making shots and finishing layups that you’d miss at the other end. CPU teammates actively scooted out of the way to let their man past them, or otherwise played poor defense. The game also serves as a reminder of how the shooting mechanics felt much clunkier without a shot meter, and were a frustrating dice roll without Green Releases. Actually, a lot of the things that bugged me about NBA 2K14 PS4 are still issues in NBA 2K21 Current Gen, which is a bit troubling.

Of course, some of these issues are more forgivable in NBA 2K14 on PS4/X1, being a rebuilt game with a new engine. Although I’ve spotlighted several criticisms there, as I said, once I grew accustomed to the game again – especially the shooting – I did find myself enjoying it a lot more. It’s more than playable, which is a huge improvement on my first impressions of the game seven years ago. Mechanics like the shot meter do hold our hand these days, so those games from the early 2010s tend to feel more difficult when you pick them up again. As soon as I was able to be competitive once more, I was able to appreciate the gameplay despite the aforementioned drawbacks.

While there are annoyances in the gameplay, I believe if I’d been inclined to give it more of a chance at the time, I probably would’ve come to play it more often. There’s a lot of satisfaction in making a hard drive to the hoop, flipping it up after drawing the contact, and seeing the ball neatly trickle in off the bank for the And One. Although a Green Release is satisfying in its own right these days, it feels great to properly time a release and win the dice roll, knocking down a big three to extend or cut into a lead. While the physics and contact animations seem primitive now, it feels great to pull off some of the bigger dunks in traffic, or make a crafty pass inside for the quick finish.

Jackson Ellis in MyCAREER

The more I played NBA 2K14 on PS4, the more I felt that the gameplay – despite its flaws – was better than I recalled. I wouldn’t say that it holds up as well as NBA 2K15 or even NBA 2K13 for that matter, but it wasn’t the completely unplayable mess I saw it as when I was ejecting the disc in disappointment, in the early hours of the morning after picking it up with my PS4 at the midnight launch. If anything, right now I feel more disappointed in NBA 2K21 Current Gen, as playing NBA 2K14 PS4 has really emphasised how the game has regressed over the past few years. It was solid enough for 2013 though, and they were clearly able to improve upon the Eco-Motion engine.

As for the modes, while I stand by my criticisms, they had some merit. The franchise team would go on to do a much better job with the separate MyLEAGUE and MyGM modes in subsequent games, but the first MyGM still had interesting ideas. It just underestimated the need to retain the traditional sandbox approach. The MyCAREER story is the thinnest of the generation and the scripted scenarios do encroach on the gameplay experience, but it was their first attempt at revamping the single player career concept. If nothing else, Jackson Ellis has become a fun recurring character to have in what we can probably now call the MyCAREER Cinematic Universe.

I did actually pull a 1993 Michael Jordan in MyTEAM, though I also quickly learned that it wasn’t a mode worth spending money on. Although it’s obviously an enormous money-maker for 2K – meaning a lot of people do think it’s worth spending on – my opinion on that hasn’t changed over the past seven years. The mode has become much deeper (albeit with more ways to subtly and not-so-subtly push microtransactions), but the version in NBA 2K14 PS4/X1 was decent for the time. It definitely benefited from all of the historical content that had been retained, and that as much as anything else provided it with a distinct advantage over Live Ultimate Team in NBA Live 14.

Michael Jordan Dunks in NBA 2K14 PS4

It’s funny to look back at the first iteration of The Park as well. Although there was no way to explore beyond the boundaries of the courts, the urban setting wasn’t unlike The Neighborhood in its aesthetic. Up to 100 MyPLAYERs could enter a single park and take part in the familiar street games. I ventured in there a couple of times with JaoSming and Arcane, but as I wasn’t playing MyCAREER and grinding to level up my MyPLAYER, I wasn’t very effective (nor was I well-dressed for the festivities). Perhaps the most fun I had in NBA 2K14’s Park was when the three of us played a game of tag, which JaoSming captured and appropriately scored with Yakety Sax.

The problems NBA 2K14 faced in the wake of its server shutdown also need to be acknowledged. Gamers found themselves locked out of their MyCAREER saves after promises that they could be continued in offline mode. 2K’s statement on the matter was tone deaf and came across as condescending. The controversy led to the company extending the online support for all of their titles from 18 to 27 months, though a number of gamers still couldn’t access their MyCAREER saves after the servers were switched back on. It was one of the first major PR blunders that the NBA 2K series had experienced, and although it sparked a change in policy, it wouldn’t be the last.

How to sum up NBA 2K14 on PS4 and X1? I’d describe it as a game that looks better than it plays. The leap in graphics was remarkable, but the new engine still had some teething issues, and the gameplay was very reminiscent of the prior gen version. It’s not all bad though, and while I would say that some of the improvements over the course of the generation have made it difficult to go back to, it is possible to dust it off and have some fun with it. 2K definitely erred with the lack of depth and the approach to the game’s modes, though they laid the groundwork for the deep experiences that followed. However, I’m glad to see that they’re avoiding that pitfall this time around.

Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James

Because it’s a game that looks better than it plays, I’d say that NBA 2K14 PS4/X1 didn’t quite live up to the hype generated by the OMG Trailer. It’s still a solid game that holds up decently once you remember how it plays and adjust accordingly, but with its gameplay issues and missing depth, it was a slightly shaky start to the new generation. It wasn’t a bust like NBA Live 14 was, although that’s admittedly a low bar. All backhanded compliments aside, I can appreciate NBA 2K14 PS4/X1 for what it was, and how it set the table for the generation. Through the ups and downs, I’m glad I was able to get in on the ground floor as NBA 2K launched on those consoles.

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beegees
beegees
November 12, 2020 4:57 am

Sorry for off-topic. There is a deal on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (now including the EA Play library) for a $1 now to celebrate the launch of the new Xboxs. It’s really like a theft) I chipped in a buck for a trial month of the subscription today. There are hundreds of games, big and small ones. With EA Play aboard, we can play NBA Live 15, 16, 18, 19 (14 had been removed). So I played some Live 15 today I didn’t buy at the time, just had experienced via EA Access back then. Please discuss such a steal in the podcasts: the NLSC or Derek’s one.