NBA 2K15 Vs. NBA LIVE 15: Which Has The Better Soundtrack?
The soundtrack is arguably the least essential aspect of a sports video game. Unlike movies and TV shows, which depend on good music and sound effects to set the mood and create tension, sports video games are more about good gameplay and a variety of features.
Basically, if given the choice between a basketball game with no glitches and realistic animations but set to a soundtrack of your own breathing, and a basketball game where guys jump through -- literally, through -- defenders but set to a catalog of previously unreleased Beatles x Rolling Stones x Kanye collaborations, most people would take the breathing version, and probably mute their TVs.
That being said, just as a quality soundtrack can turn a good movie into a great one, so too can it turn a good game into a must-play. After a year of listening to Drake tell me that he started from the bottom but now he's here, every single time I turn on NBA 2K14, I'm ready for some new beats. A full review of 2K15 is on the way, but in the meantime, why not compare the soundtracks of the two biggest basketball games out there -- both of which are available for free, right now?
Let's start with the favorite: The Pharrell-curated playlist for 2K15.
Starting five tracks: Scenario (LP Mix) -- A Tribe Called Quest; Mama Used To Say -- Junior; Shut Em Down -- Public Enemy; Under Cover Of Darkness -- The Strokes; Doo Wop (That Thing) -- Lauryn Hill.
Benchwarmers: Love Runs Out -- OneRepublic; Hot n' Cold -- Basement Jaxx.
Nobody can deny that Pharrell knows good music. He's had a hand in some of the biggest tracks of the last few years -- his own "Happy," Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," Daft Punk's "Get Lucky," Ed Sheeran's "Sing" -- so asking him to pick out his favorites (or, what he thinks are best to listen to while you scroll through menus) is like, well, any other big name wanting to team up with Pharrell. Pharrell makes hits. Is this soundtrack a collective hit?
This list is heavy on the big names. Just some of the artists included on here: Lorde, Missy Elliot, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Black Keys, Snoop Dogg, No Doubt, OneRepublic, and, of course, Pharrell. He doesn't always go with the obvious choice -- Lorde's selection is "Team," while the A Tribe Called Quest is the "Scenario" remix, but if you've listened to the radio sometime in the past 20 years, you know most of these.
The soundtrack's biggest strength is in its variety; there's something for everyone here (unless you're a country music or smooth jazz fan). From English electronic '80s rock (Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus") to modern hip-hop bangers ("Grindin'" was a solid, if obvious choice from Clipse -- more on that in a second), no one will feel alienated by the selections. The most common thread throughout all these songs is, as mentioned, their popularity -- only two artists (Basement Jaxx and Strafe) were unfamiliar to me.
Another common thread: Pharrell. I guess you get to do this if you curate the selection, but there are at least four Pharrell songs (he produced "Grindin'") on here, and out of 27, that's a sizeable portion to commit to your own work. No one else gets more than one track -- why should Pharrell dominate?
The biggest weakness: If you play this game over and over again, as many people will, you're bound to get tired of hearing the same songs -- and some of these songs are tired to begin with. Personally, I've probably listened to songs like "Suck My Kiss" and "Drop It Like It's Hot" a couple of hundred times each. It's cool to have a soundtrack that covers decades of music, but we could have used some deeper cuts.
Also, OneRepublic? Really?
How about the challenger: The MICK-curated playlist for LIVE 15.
Starting five tracks: Gametime -- Chuck Inglish ft. Action Bronson; Phantogram -- Black Out Days; My Team Supreme 2.0 -- Flatbush Zombies feat. Bodega Bamz; Fashawn – Letter F.
Benchwarmers: Federal Reserve – Still Dipset feat. Cam’ron, A-Trak & Juelz Santana; Gent & Jawns – Fireball.
Like the game itself, this soundtrack is the underdog -- no one is expecting anything from the LIVE series, considering it's spent the last few years in self-imposed exile and/or shittiness.
We can only hope that the game delivers in the same way the soundtrack does: Even though it's heavy on hip-hop (and thus if you're not a fan of the genre, you'll be disappointed), nearly every track on the list is worth listening to. Unlike 2K15's lineup, I almost never hit "next" -- I wanted to hear every song.
Maybe that's because I didn't know a lot of names here: Whether because LIVE couldn't get the rights to a lot of songs, or because MICK just prefers more underground tracks, the big artists are few and far between (Action Bronson, Jeezy, Jeremih and the Dipset crew are the only widely known names; shoutout you if you know Flatbush Zombies, Daytona or Smif N Wessun). But every track contributed to the overall feel of the soundtrack -- smooth beats, understated lyrics, nothing too overpowering or distracting. In a word: Chill.
The soundtrack's biggest weakness, then, is this: If you don't like hip-hop, you're going to be disappointed. Out of 26 tracks, only five can be described as definitely NOT rap. Gent & Jawns' "Fireball" and A-Trak x Milo & Otis' "Out The Speakers feat. Rich Kidz" are more electronic/EDM, while rock is represented by Sir Sly and Deluka. Variety is lacking here.
There are a couple of letdowns -- Federal Reserve is a pretty weak Dipset track, while the pop listenability of "Don't Tell Em" ran out a long time ago. But otherwise, even the tracks from the big names ("Me Ok" by Jeezy, for example) are deeper cuts, and, in a word, excellent. I would listen to this in my car. I would put this on at a party. I would listen to this... while playing a basketball game. Virtually.
VERDICT: Personally, I love LIVE 15's soundtrack. Its underground feel should lend itself perfectly to the game, and the fact that you likely haven't heard these tracks elsewhere will lend itself to repeat listens. I give this a 9/10.
Meanwhile, 2K 15's list is no slouch, and it's impossible to deny that Pharrell has an ear for catchy music -- you won't see me complaining about having some of my favorite bands included on here. But the adherence to the mainstream hurts, especially when you remember how many times per session you'll have to listen to the same songs. If you have more eclectic tastes, however, this is probably the soundtrack for you. A solid 7.5/10 here.
Winner: LIVE. Now let's hope the game, which comes out Oct. 28, is equally as surprising.
Be the first to know
Want FREE Fantasy and Gaming Advice and Savings Delivered to your Inbox? Sign up for our Newsletter.