NBA 2K15 Review: Much More Than Just Those Hideous Create-A-Player Faces
I'll admit that my allegiance to the 2K series has been sporadic over the last 12 years or so. I'm of the mindset that the games peaked in the mid 2000s -- much like myself -- only to become unnecessarily complicated as the series progressed (thanks a lot, Obama). This is the fate of a basketball video game that tries to capture the essence of a sport that involves 10 frantic bodies jumping and diving for a ball in near constant motion, all in an area of 4700-square feet. Basketball is a contact sport, nuanced in a way that soccer, football, and baseball are not. You can thank dribbling and the relatively small playing surface for that. That's why basketball video games tend to be devolve into mayhem at a certain point -- there's just so much going on.
This has been my chief complaint of the 2K series over the last decade or so. With every new iteration of the game came a more sophisticated method in which you could control a player's handle of the basketball -- methods that ultimately look stupid when the ball disappears through a defender during a motion-captured shimmy-shake spin-move. In contrast, what I loved so much about 2K5 for example, was the reliance on the hop step/pivot move instead of the pre-recorded shake-n-bake stuff. Sure, it wasn't hyper-realistic or particularly cool-looking, but it gave you simpler control over your players, which made defending simpler, and ultimately yielded fewer WTF moments than the more recent versions.
Of course, NBA 2K15 still has its fair share of skill moves that send your player into a three-second choreographed dance out of bounds/backcourt, but players also stick to and bounce off of each other, which keeps the flailing rouge dribbling act from allowing an offensive player to soft-shoe his way across the court just because you brushed the right stick. I hate that shit.
GETTING A HANDLE ON THE HANDLE
2K15 has done away with the dribbling flubs previous versions, employed, no doubt, to prevent players from doing "too much dancing out there." The skill moves are simpler and easier to execute, especially with the more agile players in the game, but that doesn't mean button mashing can get you easy looks. The game is more concerned with getting you to use space to create open mid-range jumpers and find backdoor cutters. Conversely, there's still the issue of toeing up the three-point line, as any slight movement with the left joystick will send your player moving in an unpredictably spastic/fast manner. Why can't I just press a button and my player sets himself up for a 25-footer? That's like, the easiest thing in to do and essential to the NBA game. I guess you can't have everything. Bottom-line: You'll spend the next three months trying to figure out which skill moves actually work before you come to the conclusion they're not really worth it.
Having to learn a player's unique release point has become a joke in these games. I watch all 82 Knicks regular season games every year (and their four or five playoff miserable games, if I'm lucky), and I still don't know Pablo Prigioni's jump shot. The new release point meter that appears below a shooting player during a field goal attempt makes this game lightyears more playable than its predecessors. You can now know when you've released too early/late, and, much like an actual NBA player, fix it for next time and develop a rhythm. Bottom-line: Now you'll know why you're missing so many shots.
DEFENSE: IT'S ALL IN THE DETAILS
Often times in real basketball, stopping someone on defense is a simple matter of positioning and not just steals and blocked shots. In older versions of this game, defensive success was predicated on taking charges and causing turnovers -- not forcing bad shots or impacting them with tough on-ball defense. NBA 2K15 allows you to move your defender in a variety of nuanced positions to impede, slow, or impact the progress/shots of an offensive player. Riding his shoulder, confronting him straight up, or simply bumping him to slow him down -- defense in this game feels incredibly real. However, as far as playability is concerned, the responsiveness of your defensive movements does seem a bit slow (which is even slower online due to the lag), but offensive moves can be kind of clunky as well, so the battle between a ball handler and a defender ends up being realistic and a fun mini-game. There's still a lot of guessing which way the ball handler will be going, but that's basketball. Bottom-line: Bumping a player -- or simply getting in his face -- will affect his shot/dribble most of the time, which gives you a clear goal on defense.
MYCAREER MODE FOR THE WIN...
This is why NBA 2K15 exists. Create a player, watch him get snubbed in the draft, pick a team with a roster spot up for grabs, get a 10-day contract, prove yourself in garbage time, become a starter, and work your way up the NBA ladder. It's an incredibly compelling storyline that instantly draws you in. The in-game grading system -- which rewards positioning just as much as scoring -- determines how well you've played and whether or not you're ready to take the next step in the team's rotation. I've been pleasantly surprised how intuitive the game is, often acknowledging good team defense even when the shot drops (it really knows if you're doing the right thing). Then, of course, there's MyPark mode, which allows your player to interact with other fake ballers on the virtual playground (though lag renders this option less fun than it could be). But MyCareer is about as much fun as you can have in a sports video game. Bottom-line: You don't need to play strangers online if you want to enjoy this game.
While the kinks in an NBA video game not named "NBA Jam" will always be rather apparent, and 2K game menus are notoriously difficult to figure out, NBA 2K15 feels incredibly real while being more playable than ever. Sure, it's still got a huge learning curve for those looking to hop into the series without much prior experience, but the shooting bar and realistic physics tipified by moments when players bump into each other gives you enough of a common sense blueprint as to how to play the game. MyCareer ends up being the icing on the cake, which takes this thing from just another sports sim to a legitimate video game with a captivating campaign mode. We're all in.
Be the first to know
Want FREE Fantasy and Gaming Advice and Savings Delivered to your Inbox? Sign up for our Newsletter.