2K Sports has unleashed its LeBron James-flavored NBA 2K14 on the App Store, ready to be devoured by the hungry masses of basketball video game fans. Does this year's offering provide enough content to satisfy the basketball jones? Or are we better off sticking with last year's model?
Last year's NBA 2K13 was the very first iOS game I reviewed for this site. Now, a year later, I have the pleasure of reviewing its follow-up. Excited as I was to jump into another NBA 2KXX game, I did my best to clear my head of any expectations and bias. Being someone that doesn't really follow basketball in real life but appreciates the game, I had no idea what to expect from the rosters and how much LeBron James would actually feature in NBA 2K14. With a clean slate, I jumped into the basketball fray.
Upon loading up NBA 2K14, I was met with the sounds of The Black Keys' "Howlin' For You" and, later on, this past summer's annoyingly-awesome hit, Daft Punk's "Get Lucky." I usually get really excited when a game has an amazing soundtrack, and it was looking like the LeBron James-curated soundtrack for NBA 2K14 was going to be a winner. Unfortunately, as I would learn later on, that was the only good thing about NBA 2K14's sounds.
Still, I got pumped from the music from the menu screens and was eager to jump into a game. From the main menu, you can choose from the following: Quick Game, LeBron: Path to Greatness, Game Modes and Options. Jumping into a Quick Game is obviously the fastest way to start playing. You'll pick your team, the opposing team, your choice of control scheme and then get onto the court.
LeBron: Path to Greatness follows the story of LeBron James' rise and lets you play through his storied past, with shorter quarters and certain objectives to complete during each game. This mode basically replaces NBA 2K13's Greatest Games mode, in which you took on the role of different superstars from NBA history.
Game Modes offers you three ways to play: Multiplayer, Multiseason and Practice. This is a pretty standard selection and mirrors its predecessor's choices. Again, have fun trying to use the one-touch controls to win in a multiplayer game. You won't have fun and you'll lose. Just giving you fair warning.
Fortunately, the virtual controls do a better job of getting you to step up your game. They're just as responsive as last year's and allow you better control of your movements, including defensive maneuvers and shooting, with an option to set up alley-oops. Again, everything's a little harder to do with one-touch controls, since you constantly have to perform swipes on the player of your choice, but at least it frees up your other hand.
For all intents and purposes, NBA 2K14 is identical to NBA 2K13. Everything looks great from afar and the animations stay silky smooth. But once you zoom in on players and the audience, that's when the nightmare mannequins show up. I'm not expecting super hi-res renders of all the players, but I've gotten spoiled by mobile graphical titans like Infinity Blade.
While I wasn't so disappointed in the lack of aesthetic growth, I was, however, severely disappointed in NBA 2K14 when it came to the sounds. Sure, there were some pretty excellent songs in the menu, but that's where the excellence stopped. Why? Because one big thing was missing from NBA 2K14: proper commentary. I love commentary in sports games, because they add a little something to the proceedings and help make the experience feel more realistic.
While NBA 2K13 had great commentary, NBA 2K14 has the most minimal aural offerings. Instead of actual comments on a play, all you'll hear is, "Number 6!" or "Threeeee!" when referring to a player who just scored or if someone just sunk a three-pointer. It's very disappointing and takes me out of the magical basketball experience.
NBA 2K14 is not a horrible game by any means. The new music and the depth of the LeBron: Path to Greatness mode definitely give it a good amount of fun and value. But is that value worth the $7.99 asking price? Probably not. Unless you really care about LeBron James and his mode, then I would just stick with NBA 2K13. It's got the same gameplay and the same graphics, but it also packs a better sound suite that indeed, sounds sweet.