Full disclosure, only about 4% of this piece actually has anything to do with NBA2K15. It’s just too sore a subject for me to cover in any legitimate detail. ENJOY.
I’ve been playing sports video games since 1992. My dad made a grave mistake when I was kid when he brought home the shiny grail known to the US as the Sega Genesis and a little plastic box labelled John Madden Football 93.
Epic. I played endlessly, especially enjoying travelling to Buffalo for away games in the snow. THE GAME HAS SNOW. At any rate, I was hooked on sports games for life. Ken Griffey baseball (Edgar Martinez yo), NBA Live (I don’t remember this series ever being good), NBA Jam (this series WAS good), NHL 94 (arguably the best SPORTS video game of all time, I mean it has it’s own fan sites), etc. Funny story about NHL, I actually got a kid in gradeschool to trade me Green Day Dookie and Offspring Smash CDs for my NHL94 cartridge. That kid was an idiot! Great trade!
Madden has been a solid series for its duration. NHL has also been a solid series. Madden and NHL have both had some minor and not-so-minor competition (I’ll never forget you NFL2K) yet continued to perservere through geniune gameplay improvements and some shady dealings. NBA Live lived on for awhile as the only serious basketball simulation, sucking badly the whole time. Fortunately, 2K Sports also tried their hands at basketball games and NBA2K was immediately the new standard for basketball games. It was sad to see the fall of a serious contender for the king-of-football crown, but at least the company made a statement and clearly took over the basketball arena and they’ve owned it for 15 years. Up until now I’d never questioned the series or the direction in which it was heading. Now, to be fair, I don’t honestly think NBA2K15 is the worst basketball game ever. Spoiler alert, that may have been a trollish title. But it’s got problems, clearly.
NBA Live could never quite nail the “simulation” part of gaming, and that’s where NBA2K fell right into place. It put more focus on basketball the sport and less on basketball as a video game. Running plays actually made sense, and were in fact necessary depending on your competition.
NBA2K and it’s successive releases continued to improve and put the emphasis on basketball strategy… for the most part. I mean come on, every sports game has a year or two where the mechanics are broken and real-world strategy takes a backseat to simply gaming the system for that year. Hello Madden 13 as the most recent example. (uh, hot route, Dez beats him deep. Every time.) NBA Live became the joke game for people who just wanted to ball and have a good time seeing how many consecutive alley-oops they could land. Actually one-year during a season, I went two straight games ONLY scoring on alley-oops. And I wasn’t even any good at NBA Live!
I liked how the player models in NBA Live sort of looked like caricatures instead of realistic representations of humans. There was something strange about them, but I enjoyed it, like how Wind Waker is cell-shaded and sits apart from the rest of the Zelda franchise in design but you find it aesthetically pleasing so you just accept it?
NBA2K was the series you came back to for some solid gameplay. Even in street mode you could count on the physics responding more like a simulation than an arcade game. But over the years 2K tried to spice up things by moving some controls around, like “the stick” handling dribble moves and shooting. I don’t know who actually uses the stick the shoot. Maybe I’m the only one who doesn’t, but it’s just not for me. The gameplay also started to slow down to accommodate the stick input, like linking multiple stick motions together to trigger certain dribble animations or changing shots in mid-air (which was possible anyway without the stick).
Hop step got moved to the shoot button, up and under became a timed variation on the shoot button, it seems like the shoot button got a lot more responsibilities. And while I think the real game of basketball is also a game of timing, I don’t think timing a button press to correspond with animations is any more real than separating those actions out as they were in earlier versions.
There are a lot of things right in 2K15. The models are clearly the best they’ve ever been. You’d think that’d be an obvious progression, but did you see 2K14? Jesus Christ. The MyGM mode is fun, though it can take on more of an RPG feel than previous versions. Everyone who likes to look at how ripped they wish they were seem to enjoy the MyPlayer modes.
What kills me is that 2K15 seems to have taken on the mindset that was sadly only re-inforced by this year’s Finals champion Warriors. Bigs do not matter in this game. And the difficulty settings are woefully unbalanced. All-Star is the middle difficulty setting, and it’s the standard difficulty I begin any sports game playing. It’s much more frustrating than past years’ games at the same difficulty. Everything becomes broken, and this isn’t even factoring in how ridiculous the CPU competition is at the Hall of Fame difficulty setting.
For interior defense you’re better off with Josh Smith as your biggest guy on court than starting Blake, DeAndre and Hibbert simultaneously (I’ve done this). Interior defense is quite laughable, and I’m not expecting to get 10 blocks per game, but you’ve got to be able to contest shots. Tony Parker is good but he’s not invincible and certainly he cannot score inside at will.
On offense Blake becomes inept and unable to land the easiest layups, while wide-open shots refuse to fall. The game becomes completely dependent on “the script” and fulfilling statistic expectations that it’s not even fun. You have to run the plays, and shoot with the player the play was intended for and oddly enough you’ll hit even the most contested of shots at least 50% of the time. Solely because you followed the script. If you play conservatively and ONLY try to score inside, the AI will never allow you to make every easy shot that even I could make because according to the stats NOBODY can shoot 75% for an entire game unless you’re DeAndre scoring on lobs.
There are so many things that get broken that it’s frustrating to even discuss. If you drop the difficulty back down to Pro (a humiliating thing to consider) then a lot of these issues go away, but then you’re stuck looking at 20-30 point victories every game. Now you do have the ability to somewhat manually tweak the AI, but I’m not even sure why this is necessary. I guess what I’m really getting at is that I was really hopeful to have a big-man’s basketball game, but really 2K15 is another wing/jump-shooter’s basketball game. I traded DeAndre, Lance Stephenson and Paul Pierce for Paul George and this game became even easier. WHY. Whatever, I’m over it anyway. Suffice to say, Rocket League is more satisfying at the moment.