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The downward spiral continues for the NBA 2K franchise

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    NBA 2K15

    Rating: 2.5 – Playable

    The downward spiral continues for the NBA 2K franchise

    It seems to me that every year, the NBA 2K franchise gets worse and worse. Considered the king franchise of basketball, I just don’t see it. The latest entry in the series, NBA 2K15, is the weakest installment to date, and fans should stick to the older games in the series.

    NBA 2K15 has been plagued with server issues since it has launched. A lot of those server issues have been fixed, but there’s still problems, unfortunately. This marks yet another game that has launched in a state that makes it damn near impossible to enjoy due to a multitude of online blusters.

    The core gameplay is exactly like you’d expect from playing the older games. It’s fine. It’s functional, but I find myself not having a whole lot of fun with it anymore. It is easy to pick up and play NBA 2K15, so the controls are intuitive and very easy to grasp.

    The reason I am becoming so bored and disenchanted with the franchise is its lack of modes that shake up the experience. NBA 2K15’s modes are all basically the same thing: play basketball. There is even a challenge mode in the game that is not really a challenge mode, as it just tasks you with playing basketball games, except with restrictions applied. I want the developers to get creative here in order to breathe some life into the franchise.

    NBA 2K15 has all the standard game modes one expects from the series, but with a much more eye-pleasing menu system that is far easier to navigate than usual. A lot of sports titles nowadays have really stupidly designed menu system that are just giant pains in the ass, but NBA 2K15 eschews that in favor of a simpler route that makes sure players are able to jump into whatever game mode that they want without too much of a headache or searching around.

    Anyway, all the standard game modes return. MyCareer, MyTeam, MyPark, the whole nine yards. The MyPark mode now features a hub system where players are encouraged to interact with others to try to build up their squad, but it’s really just a needless roadblock separating the player from getting back into the online action. MyCareer is the same as always, except the story mode is now a lot more involved, with more cut-scenes, more dialogue, and new voice work recorded by actual NBA stars. The story is super corny though to the point that I was cringing during every cut-scene, but at least they are trying something different this year in that regard.

    The online experience is extremely bumpy right now. Sometimes it works perfectly, and other times it barely works at all. This is due to major server issues that the game is suffering from, unfortunately. Like I’ve said in the past, I review games based on how they are now, not how they will be in the future when the developers work out all of the bugs and issues. As it stands, the online experience in NBA 2K15 isn’t something that can be counted on, which is extremely unfortunate.

    A feature I really liked in this game was 2KTV. It’s a TV show that you can access in the game to learn more about the process of making the game as well as listen to exclusive interviews with NBA stars. As of the time of this writing, only one episode of the show was available, but it’s extremely interesting so far. This blending of different media types is an intriguing new avenue that video games are exploring, and I have to give NBA 2K15 credit for being one of the first to really start moving down this road.

    One of the most hyped features pre-release was the "face scan" tools where players could scan their faces into their games for their created player. Of course, this feature requires the camera peripheral devices that are available for both Xbox One and PlayStation 4. I played the game on Xbox One, and usually the Kinect camera is extremely reliable and works without a hitch. So when it doesn’t, I no longer blame the Kinect like I did last generation; the fault lies squarely on the shoulders of the people designing the game. Simply put, trying to scan your face into the game is extremely difficult, and oftentimes the results look nothing like you. A quick Google image search will show you the terrors that have been produced thanks to extremely fault "face scanning", and that is assuming you are even able to get the scanning process to work at all.

    Similar to the Ultimate Team modes from the EA Sports games, NBA 2K15 has MyTeam, which is about collecting cards that represent various items and players you can use in the games. Overall, I think MyTeam is better than the Ultimate Team modes. NBA 2K15 feels less intrusive in regards to microtransactions, and it is a lot easier to grind up the funds needed in-game rather than having to turn to your wallet every time you want a new pack of cards.

    These games are usually hailed for being insanely gorgeous, but the awe has worn off at this point. The attention to detail is crazy and the game overall does look very good. It’s probably the best-looking basketball game made to date. That being said, games like this have hit a plateau. Due to their inability to try out more innovative art styles, sports games, NBA 2K15 included, become less impressive with each visual upgrade. There’s only so far for them to go. My suggestion would be to spend more time on the animations, as this year’s game has some really silly animation issues, such as players moving in the exact same fashion when they are both on camera during off-court moments.

    The soundtrack is more varied than usual, which I appreciated. The addition of real life NBA stars and legendary players really boosts the audio presentation and gives the game a more authentic feel overall. I think the presentation this year was better than last year’s, with the improved menus, graphics, and sound design.

    However, the most important part of the game is how fun it is to play, and NBA 2K15 is even less fun to play than last year’s game as it doesn’t make any significant strides forward. It’s really just playing it safe in terms of the core gameplay, and horrendous server issues coupled with a couple of broken features ultimately makes NBA 2K15 not worth the upgrade. I have been down on the series for the last few years, and I feel that NBA 2K15 is the least impressive entry yet. While they improved the game in some areas, they failed to improve the game in the most important ones. Maybe next year the folks at 2K can get their stuff together, but as it stands, NBA 2K15 is not the ideal basketball simulator that it wants to be.

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