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 revisiting NBA 2K14 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
It was only last year that I revisited the PlayStation 4/Xbox One version of NBA 2K14 in Wayback Wednesday. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X had arrived along with NBA 2K21, so it only made sense to glance back at the beginning of the generation that had just been superseded. Since then however, I’ve taken a shine to NBA 2K14 on PS4 (while playing on my PS5), and have enjoyed an extended retro gaming kick with it. Just as I’ve shared my new thoughts on NBA Live 06 for Xbox 360 and NBA Live 10 after revisiting them, I’m now doing the same for NBA 2K14.
I’m sure there’ll be some overlap with my previous retrospective, and I’ll also be talking about MyCAREER and MyGM in NBA 2K14 in articles that are coming out over the next couple of weeks. However, on top of a more positive impression of the gameplay, I also have some personal memories to reflect upon, as NBA 2K14 for PlayStation 4 has retroactively become one of my favourite titles in the series. Let’s take another look back…way back…
Although I’ve discussed it before, I will briefly reflect on my initial impressions of NBA 2K14, and the circumstances surrounding them. Long story short, I wasn’t taken with the game when I picked it up in 2013. I hadn’t been enjoying the PC version after my pre-order was bungled by the store I ordered it from, and it took longer for me to get my hands on it. I was greatly disappointed as I’d loved NBA 2K13, though in hindsight, not being ready to move on probably didn’t help matters. Still, I wasn’t feeling the gameplay in NBA 2K14 PC, and wasn’t filled with confidence that the PlayStation 4 version would be much different. That wasn’t my only issue, though.
NBA Live finally made its return in 2013, following a long hiatus in the wake of NBA Elite 11’s spectacular failure. At first it looked promising, but NBA 2K14’s OMG Trailer quickly outshone it. To that end, a few NBA 2K developers and reps publicly mocked NBA Live 14, with comments that weren’t exactly inaccurate, but were smug, unprofessional, and somewhat nasty; the kind of remarks that fuel petty tribalism, which they certainly did. It soured me on the 2K brand, which I was still warming up to having grown up playing NBA Live in its heyday. As such, I entered NBA 2K14’s Next Gen release with diminished hype, and a distinct lack of goodwill.
Now, I don’t think that I fabricated any issues with NBA 2K14 on PS4 due to my pre-release gripes, but I was inclined to be impatient and unforgiving. When I didn’t take to the gameplay right away, I refused to give it a chance to grow on me. That year, I mostly played NBA Live 14; in large part to give the series I grew up with a chance, yes, but also out of spite. Of course, I was really only spiting myself by doing that, but in any event, it’s why I didn’t play very much of NBA 2K14 on PlayStation 4, and have previously been somewhat dismissive of it. After these past couple of months, I have a very different view to my initial impressions, and even last year’s retrospective.
Truthfully, I wasn’t planning on revisiting NBA 2K14 on PS4 and turning it into my retro gaming kick. I’d simply fired up the game to take some screenshots for future articles, and ended up playing a game. And then another, and another. Then I figured that I might as well produce a retrospective of the first MyCAREER story, and before I knew it, I was playing through the season. In between that, I played several games with retro teams, and even compiled a highlight reel of one of them. And since I was already on that kick, it made sense to dive into that first iteration of MyGM, for fun and to write a proper retrospective. I’m grateful that I followed through on that urge.
Since I’ve shared some clips and screenshots on Twitter, more than a couple of my fellow basketball gamers have commented that NBA 2K14 for PS4 and X1 holds up extremely well. Not just in terms of its aesthetics, which made a huge leap from the previous generation, but also its gameplay. Now that I’ve finally racked up over 600 hours with it, I completely agree with that assessment. Look, I’m not sure if the Eco-Motion engine delivered on all of its promises as far as never seeing the exact same animation twice. If it did, it’s too subtle to notice. However, the animations do look amazing, and on top of that, I’ve come to love how NBA 2K14 feels on the sticks.
That’s not to say that the game is perfect, or that I don’t stand by some of my previous criticisms of it. It’s harder than it should be to make slight movements and reposition players, especially when moving laterally in a defensive stance. There are moments when control and movement feels too loose and exaggerated. Once you’re used to it though – again, something I wasn’t willing to do when I was feeling sour back in 2013 – players “handle” much better, and you can appreciate how unlike other games in the series, it doesn’t feel like they’re running in mud. There was noticeable improvement in NBA 2K15, but I do like the movement in NBA 2K14 far more after revisiting it.
In fact, in many ways, it feels better than more recent NBA 2K titles. An extremely impressive aspect of the Eco-Motion engine is how organic the game seems, even though there are scripted sequences. It produced some of the most satisfying blocked shots in a sim basketball game, though NBA 2K22 is now competing for that honour. There’s less magnetism with loose ball physics, allowing for unpredictable scrambles on steals and deflections. The dunks are genuinely exciting, and I’ve become obsessed with throwing alley-oops. Basketball games will inevitably have canned moments, but NBA 2K14 masked those scenarios superbly with metaphorical smoke and mirrors.
At the same time, ball physics could be extremely frustrating. Upon revisiting NBA 2K14 on PS4 or X1, don’t be surprised if you rack up more turnovers than usual. The CPU was adept at cheap interceptions and body steals, while being able to clip the ball through your defenders at the other end. That’s still an issue as of NBA 2K22 of course, but it was particularly pronounced in NBA 2K14. Like me, you’ll probably appreciate the recent approach to shooting mechanics upon revisiting NBA 2K14. Some might argue that we’ve become too reliant on Green Releases, but they do feel like the better option to bricking wide open Excellent Releases with great shooters.
An aspect of the gameplay that perhaps remains underrated is the aggressiveness of the CPU. That’s not to say that it didn’t produce some contrived moments where the comeback logic wasn’t playing fair, but I’ve developed an appreciation for the way that elite scorers will get enough touches, and be difficult to shut down. The results weren’t always perfect, and I’m sure that heavily customised rosters would produce some odd numbers. It’s something that’s stood out to me during my retro gaming kick however, and it resulted in some challenging games that yielded satisfying comeback victories, as well as some crushing defeats when the clock ran out on a spirited run.
Player rhythm was also well-handled by the Eco-Motion engine. Hot and cold streaks were already a mechanic in NBA 2K, but they functioned well in NBA 2K14 without being overpowering. Signature Skills – the forerunner to Badges that debuted in NBA 2K13 – provided reasonable boosts to player abilities without becoming a complicated meta game, as is the case with their successors. The controls aren’t my favourite in the series, and I prefer the current approach to passing in particular. They still get the job done though, and while it may take some adjustment when revisiting NBA 2K14 after an extended absence, you’ll quite likely quickly adapt and really enjoy the gameplay.
The overall aesthetic remains impressive and appealing all these years later; there’s a reason that the OMG Trailer wowed us the way it did! There were some great player faces in NBA 2K14 PS4/X1, though some rather bad ones as well. Some of the worst could be found among the historical players, though several current players were also in dire need of new models and textures. There’s some tearing with the jerseys and the folds sometimes resemble texture errors, but the cloth physics are otherwise great. Player animations were also generally fantastic across the board, and the lighting is understandably still held up as the standard. I’ve always liked the game’s visuals.
I’m also a fan of the atmosphere and presentation. It has limitations, but commentary was already quite strong by that point, and the general style imitated a TV broadcast very accurately. I wish we still had some of the overlays and stats pop-ups in recent games, such as the “Walking With Legends” comparisons. Sometimes you’d get a bad angle on an automatic replay, but the KIA Slam Cam was almost always on point. The Director’s Cut in Instant Replay did finish too early though, and free cam snaps to fixed angles, which can be frustrating. Sometimes that’s the way it goes with replays even to this day, and I’d suggest we’re all used to working around free cam’s quirks.
Since I’ll be posting in-depth retrospectives of MyCAREER and MyGM, I won’t go into too much detail here. Suffice to say I’ve had a change of heart on both modes, though. The MyCAREER story isn’t quite as contrived and on rails as I’ve always thought it to be. Keeping it NBA-oriented and getting you to the league swiftly was the right approach, and one that the mode drifted away from with mixed results in the years that followed. The offline version of MyCAREER holds up astonishingly well as a retro gaming experience, with ample VC payouts and fair prices. The downside is that accessories and clothing were online elements, and are thus no longer accessible.
It speaks volumes that I played through an entire season on twelve minute quarters, despite feeling burned out on the MyCAREER experience in recent games. Even though I’ve put NBA 2K14 aside, I wouldn’t be opposed to continuing that career when the mood strikes. The moments that I’d always thought of as being on rails and phoney were actually welcome flavour content that broke up the season. Sure, some of the dialogue options were misleading in their tone when my player launched into his full speech, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. The experience I had in NBA 2K14’s mode easily ranks up there among my all-time favourite MyCAREER games.
Glancing back at my retrospective of NBA 2K14 last year, I was incredibly harsh, and frankly completely wrong, when I said that MyGM was a flop. I will however stand by the assertion that the VC paywalls for basic functions such as lineup management were a bad idea. Moving away from that approach was absolutely the right call, as was introducing the sandbox-oriented MyLEAGUE. The concept of being a character within the MyGM universe had merit though, and gaining new abilities by levelling up added depth and strategy to the franchise experience. It’s just unfortunate that it makes a bad first impression by needlessly locking standard roster functionality.
Once you get past that, you’ll find an engaging franchise experience that I would’ve really enjoyed back in the day. As it stands, I’ve messed around with a Chicago Bulls MyGM and will keep that save file on standby as well. I’ll go into more detail in my forthcoming retrospective, but on top of being fun to play while I’m revisiting the PS4 version of NBA 2K14, it’s rekindled my love of franchise modes, and encouraged me to begin a MyNBA in NBA 2K22. There were drawbacks to the approach and as I’ll explain in my article on MyGM, the franchise team perhaps tried to change too much too soon. They had some great ideas though, and it paved the way for better modes.
Obviously I can’t play MyTEAM now that the servers have long since been shut down, so I don’t really have anything new to say about it. I will echo my thoughts from my previous retrospective and note that it was solid, but lacking in the depth that MyTEAM now boasts. The absence of an Auction House and the shallow submodes were weaknesses that have since been addressed, though the approach to MyTEAM has become greedier, and less realistic with OP cards. I also feel that the mode is now oversaturated with consumables. Once again though, it was a good foundation for 2K to build upon. It’s a shame that unlike MyCAREER, there’s no offline version.
Speaking of the server shutdown, no NBA 2K14 PS4/X1 retrospective would be complete without noting the controversy there. Originally, NBA 2K titles received 18 months of online support. After this point, NBA 2K14’s MyCAREER save files were intended to be converted to offline saves, so that they could be continued in a limited capacity. This didn’t happen, and 2K’s response was to issue a tone-deaf statement about retired saves and all good things coming to an end. The controversy prompted the publisher to extend online support to 27 months for all titles. Although it remains a contentious issue, NBA 2K14 did instigate positive changes to online longevity.
Although I now have a decidedly positive view of NBA 2K14 upon recently revisiting it, there are some criticisms that I haven’t changed my stance on. The menus were undoubtedly terrible. I’ve grown used to them, but they’re not aesthetically pleasing, and navigating them can be a chore. Modes and options screens are tucked away in odd places, and certain stats listings are inaccessible in MyCAREER. It also limited the game to five save slots to be shared between MyCAREER and MyGM, and bugs where coaching settings in MyGM get applied to MyCAREER saves. You can get around some of these issues, but the user interface was nevertheless sloppily made.
This sloppiness also affected the roster management options, which lost almost all of the depth found in the previous generation. There was only one custom roster save, and the only way to reset the rosters is to delete that file from your storage. Create-a-Player was removed, though it was still possible to trade, sign, and release players, adjust rotations, and modify playbooks. That alone placed it well ahead of NBA Live 14’s complete lack of roster customisation functionality; not the only way it was far superior to EA Sports’ release, but it’s worth noting that the bare minimum is still better than nothing. At the same time, it’s a low bar to clear, and still disappointing.
With that being said, how do I rate and where do I rank NBA 2K14 PS4/X1 after revisiting it has resulted in hundreds of hours of fun? I have to say that it’s a stronger start to the generation than I previously gave it credit for, though it did undoubtedly err with its frontend, limited roster customisation, and some of the VC paywalls in its only franchise mode. There were also gameplay issues that still stand out today, and I would disagree with anyone who says that the series peaked with NBA 2K14 and hasn’t improved since. There was undisputedly room for improvement, and some of those enhancements came along in NBA 2K15, NBA 2K16, and NBA 2K17.
At the same time, I’d no longer place NBA 2K14 as far behind those games than I’d previously be inclined to. Thanks to a fulfilling season in MyCAREER and a plethora of fun games across its modes, it’s absolutely climbed my list of personal favourites if nothing else. It loses marks for its lack of depth and some questionable ideas with VC in MyGM, but the quality of the gameplay and its viability for retro gaming stands as proof of what a great release it was. To that end, I’ll somewhat disagree with how I concluded my previous retrospective. Yes, there were some drawbacks, but it was a fine start to the eighth generation, and it did live up to the OMG Trailer on the court.
I wish that I could’ve appreciated NBA 2K14 PS4/X1 when it was released, but as this retro kick while revisiting the game has emphasised, better late than never when it comes to making fond memories. Even though I’m putting it aside to focus on NBA 2K22 – and whatever older game captures my attention for the next retro kick – I’m sure that I’ll fire up NBA 2K14 for PlayStation 4 from time to time, revisiting my MyCAREER and MyGM saves. As I mentioned, I’ll be discussing them in-depth over the next two weeks in Wayback Wednesday. I may be taking a break from NBA 2K14 on the sticks, but I’m not quite done expressing my appreciation for a new favourite.