NBA 2K15 has been one of my more anticipated releases for this year, especially after my experience with 2K14. That wasn’t a bad game but I did score it lower than most due to needing online connections to access some saves, and how it felt like the game almost guided you to purchasing virtual currency to really make the most of it. If I put 2K15 and 2K14 side by side now I’d also have to say how bland in comparison the 2K14 looks to the most recent instalment in the franchise.
The first thing that hits you is the presentation of NBA 2K15. Gone is the really boring main menu, replaced with a much more engaging and colourful design that gives a much clearer explanation of what each mode allows you to do. You’ve got all the main modes present including MyGM, MyCareer, MyLeague, and MyTeam. All of these offer a different way to experience the NBA, and it really is down to what you like to get from a sports game.
Let’s start with my personal preference which is MyCareer. I’ve spoken about this mode in both my 2K13 and 2K14 reviews, stating how this is basically the closest you can get to a sports RPG. In MyCareer you create a player to compete in the NBA, but there is a story going on too and how you react to different situations shapes how your team-mates and rivals see you. While in previous games you played a rookie match and got drafted to a team, NBA 2K15 shakes up the formula by making you an undrafted player.
At the beginning of the mode no team selects you and it’s only halfway through the season when your player gets a chance. You’re given the option to pick a team to play with on a 10 day contract and if you impress they’ll sign you up. Each team has various levels of interest, and different goals for you to achieve. Fail to reach that goal and you’ll be dropped, having to hunt for another team. Fail all the chances you’re given and you’ll have to start the mode again. Luckily it is pretty easy to get signed up, begin the career, and start growing as a player.
To do this you need to earn points or virtual currency. Virtual currency is only attainable if you’re connected to the net, while points are substituted in if your connection goes down. This is a major change from one of the big cons of NBA 2K14. In last year’s game, if you started a career while connected and then lost that connection, you would lose access to your save. Thankfully 2K has gone back to 2K13 model where you can get your saves without having to connect to the company’s servers. Once you’ve earned your points/currency through playing games, you can upgrade your player.
In previous titles this was proper micro manangement where every single attribute had to be upgraded individually, spreading currency thin. In NBA 2K15 attributes are now grouped into categories like Athlete or Jump Shooter, and if you choose to spend your points on upgrading one of these categories then quite a few of your attributes will be improved. It’s a much better system as it cuts out quite a lot of the grinding from earlier titles.
This time you can practice in the gym between games too, replacing the travel screen from last year. This allows you to practice any upgrades you may have bought before entering a match environment. There’s also voice acting, with the NBA players lending their voices to the game. Some of it is a bit hit and miss though, with some performances that really do sound quite monotone. Cheerleaders also make their debut in NBA 2K15, though they cycle through only a couple of routines. The soundtrack is much more varied as well compared to previous titles.
The overall gameplay is much better too, especially the shooting indication system. This time around, player controlled team mates have a bar appear in their circle indicator, with a white line in the middle. As your player gets into different positions, that bar grows or shrinks showing how much of a chance a particular player has at scoring a shot. For example in the video above my player isn’t a good three point shooter, so no bar appears, but he is good at jump shots from mid range. In the video you also see the bar turning yellow either left or right of the white line. If the bar appears on the left then you’ve made the shot a bit too early, meaning it may go a bit too far. Whereas if the bar is yellow on the right it means you’ve let the shot go late so it may just bounce off the front rim, or not even reach the basket.
The players in all the game modes feel much easier to control too, with smoother animations and movement allowing plays to flow better. In the MyLeague mode, where you can choose to play as a team through the seasons, it felt like all the passing, defending, and shooting all meshed perfectly, making the game look like an actual NBA broadcast.
The commentary is once again the best of any sports game with much more passion in the voicework, as well as being educational about various players and what teams have done and are doing. It seriously puts other sports games to shame as the commentary and arena sounds also add to the feeling that you’re watching an actual broadcast. In MyLeague you also have a pre-game show with sportscaster Ernie Johnson and basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal, where they chat about the upcoming fixture and players to watch out for.
The MyPark mode is included within the MyCareer mode, and here you can take your pro to play 3v3 matches of some pick up basketball against other players. Before you begin MyPark you have to choose a team to be affiliated with, with each team granting different bonuses to your player. The Old Town Flyers focus on playmaking and defensive attributes, while the Rivet City Rough Riders are all about rebounds and athleticism. Finally the Sunset Beach Ballers main attribute is set on shooting the ball. Once you make the choice you will be affiliated with that team throughout your player’s MyPark career.
Another addition to MyPark is rep, which gains unlocks for your player and club. As you go through the ranks you’ll be able to leave your own park, take to the road and play in the other clubs’ parks too. Every single win and loss is tracked globally adding to the total championship between the three teams, so working with other players is key if you want your team to be successful. The mode also allows you to earn VC that you can then use towards upgrading your player’s attributes or buying items from the MyPlayer store. You can also have your own squad in MyPark allowing yourself and two friends to take to the court together.
Then you have the MyTeam mode which is essentially 2K’s own twist on FIFA’s Ultimate Team. When you begin you can pick a starter pack and then try and build from there. There are various challenges to complete as well as playing against others to earn coins and packs to improve the squad. You have to keep an eye on player fitness and their contracts, and get the right consumable to top those up too. The MyTeam mode also has a gallery to show which cards you’ve got in your collection, and which ones you still need to get.
MyGM is probably the most in depth mode in terms of team management in the game. Consider it similar to any management title you may have played with the addition of having the choice to play each game yourself. You choose which franchise you wish to manage and then work with the owner to reach goals, like qualifying for the play-offs, managing the budget of the team, scouting for new talent, interacting with players to get the best performance out of them, and sorting out your team’s tactics. You essentially control every bit of the club and can style it to your own preferences.
Another major addition is something called 2KTV. This isn’t a game mode but an actual show with weekly episodes, hosted by Rachel DeMita who has a strong background in basketball herself. Each week a new episode is released consisting of interviews with players, like cover star Kevin Durant, and the development team who give tips on how to improve your game. There are also clips sent in by players of the best moves they did in the game which are showcased too. It’s actually pretty interesting to watch as it gives more depth to NBA 2K15 as a whole, and a look at the community that surrounds it.
Overall, NBA 2K15 has come on leaps and bounds from the previous year’s game, really fleshing out all the game modes. The MyCareer mode is the best “be a pro” style mode of any sports title, with the voices of NBA stars added for authenticity. The gameplay is much smoother too, and the game just looks great. The loading times do still need work, and hopefully 2K will address that with patches and in next year’s NBA game. The server issues also need to be resolved for a better online experience but a new bar has been set for all sports games here.
Version tested: PS4