Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: Visual Concepts
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3 and PC
Release date: October 7th, 2014

Like the Madden series, the NBA 2K franchise has evolved from just a video game into a culture that boasts a cult following When NBA 2K14 hit the next generation consoles it was such an astounding display of graphical power people wondered how developer Visual Concepts could top itself. Well the answer comes in the form of NBA 2K15 where like cover athlete Kevin Durant, they have taken their game to another level.

Hello NBA

When you first boot up NBA 2K15, you're thrust into a finals rematch between the Spurs and Heat. During the match there is no commentary or on court sounds as the game installs in the background. It's a bit disconcerting at first because there's no accompanying sounds other than the 2K soundtrack that plays along. You're forced to complete the entire exhibition between the two teams before you can access any of the full features of the game. I found this out the hard way as I quit a game mid-match only to have to repeat the process. So while this is a minor inconvenience, it does serve as a good way to take note of the beautiful graphics which are as visually pleasing as they were in 2K14.

 

Gameplay: Hello Shot Meter

On the court boasts over 6,000 new animations which are buoyed by an improved AI system. Developer Visual Concepts spent the entire cycle working on the animations and how intelligently the player A.I. will respond to situations on the court. As a result of this you will see better rotations on defense and less stagnation in the offense. Even if you don't call a set play, you'll see players constantly cutting, moving to the basket and setting screens. Each team will have its own unique way of interpreting how to behave on the floor when the user doesn't call a play. When you use a team like the San Antonio Spurs they will always stay in their swing offense. I also notice how more fluid the player movement is on the court as opposed to the sprint and stop movement that was prevalent in 2K14. Players have an especially weighty feel in 2K15, and they move more realistically around the court, with far less sliding on defense. VC also implemented a new "Shot Meter" that will change how you approach shooting the rock. Whenever you take a shot, a meter underneath your player will indicate the correct release point. If you release the stick far too early or too late, the meter will turn red, and you’ll most likely miss. If you manage to release the stick just at the right time, the meter will flash green, and your player will drain it. The shot meter offers on point feedback on every shot and makes it easier to deal with players that have weird releases. About the only gripe I had with the gameplay is there continues to be some sticking defensively. A lot of players are slow to move properly in the right direction when needed especially for guys guarding the perimeter.

Presentation: Shaq and Cheese

Love him or hate him you can't deny that Shaquille O'Neal can be a pretty entertaining guy and his addition along with Ernie Johnson was a brilliant move. The presentation of it all really puts a television quality broadcast at your fingertips thanks to dope pregame show. The TNT duo offer up a studio conversation that hasn't gotten stale for me yet in my limited time with the game. About the only downside is we don't get enough of these guys as they only appear in the pregame segment. I would love for VC to build on this and have Shaq and Ernie host a halftime and postgame show complete with highlights. We've only been asking for a highlight show since the stellar one that was in NFL 2K5 10 years ago. The halftime show in 2K5 is still the best ever to grace any console in any generation. Even 2K14 delivered  a pretty solid halftime show which was anchored by Damon Bruce as he guided you through halftime highlights. This year, Bruce isn't in the game, and there are no halftime highlights at all. While that was sort of a downer thankfully there's a ton of new presentation elements. Adding to the presentation element is a new feature called 2KTV. Put simply, it's an in-game show hosted by Rachel A. DeMita that will feature interviews with 2K15's developers and NBA players along with gameplay highlights, events, and more. How good 2KTV can be will be determined by how much new content they can churn out.

 

MyLeague: Association on Roids

A lot of diehard franchise fans were besides themselves that their beloved Association mode was removed from 2K14. Well consider MyLeague VC's olive branch to gamers as it is a return to the old Association mode except it offers a lot more control than we've ever had.  In fact MyLeague's set of customizable options should have every developer rethinking how they go about designing their franchise modes in the future. The level of control is astounding. You can customize rosters, player attributes—like predetermined injuries—health of 16 different body parts, player loyalty, motivations, control trades (how frequent or how hard) league and team alignment and that is just the tip of the iceberg. You can play one single season or a franchise with 80 seasons in which you control every franchise in the NBA. You can even swap out NBA teams for any number of the Euroleague or classic teams that are in the game.

MyGM: ArmChair GM

MyGM returns and it's been improved upon from last year when it was first introduced. In this mode, you're taking over one of the 30 teams in the NBA as  the GM. Based on similarities to real life owners, the virtual owners with different names have different goals regarding business, competitiveness, and much more. Your job is to mind the front office staff, coaching staff, scouting department, players on the court, their personalities, and most importantly the personality of your owner. The dope thing about it this year is the owner's traits will change based on how well your team is doing. For example if your team was in rebuilding mode had a bad season one year but the following year you made a few trades that brought in some impact players, the owner's expectations will change expecting you to win now. You'll also see owners sell their teams meaning you could get a new owner at any point during the career. Prospect scouting also adds another level of immersion to MyGM. While you're playing out your season, a full college season is simulating in the background. This means throughout your entire NBA season you're being fed information about the prospective college players. As the GM of your team this is very important to pay attention to as you will want to be prepared when the draft comes around. The information will be fed through social media so you will see little storylines about players that helps you keep tabs on how well they're doing. Injuries and training are a big part of MyGM mode. You're in constant communication with players on your roster and the staff you've hired to try to determine the balance between training, rest, and player egos. This mode is very deep and should keep armchair GMs busy for a long time.

MyPlayer: Gets Buckets

With MyCareer, it’s clear the developers focused on presentation this year, and the improvements are noticeable immediately. MyCareer in 2K14 was very linear and while overall it was a good first step, the dialogue in cutscenes was often laughable. This time around everything was scrapped except the concept of the story. This year there is a brand new story which is more focused on the NBA which means you'll have a mentor on your team teaching you the ropes as your career progresses. Thankfully this year the pre-draft Rookie Showcase is gone, and you no longer have to sit through an entire draft. You start MyCareer in 2K15 as an undrafted free agent, and a few months after the season begins, your agent will offer to arrange a tryout with any team in the league. Each team will have certain parameters laid out that dictate your chances of making their team. For example, a team that really wants you their interest level will be at 99% and require a D+ rating in performance. Basically that means you'll just need to run up and down in a team arranged scrimmage without messing up because you're roster spot is basically guaranteed. On the other hand a team with a 15% interest level will require an A+ performance meaning you'll have to play lights out to have any chance of securing a spot. You'll need to pay attention to a team's depth and what kind of need they have at a position. No matter which team you play for, you’ll have conversations with teammates that are actually voiced by the stars themselves and it is done pretty well. Another great addition is the ability to, scan your face in the game if you have the camera for the XBox One or PS4. Players who want to compete online using their virtual pro can play pickup games in MyPark. Unfortunately there was virtually no one online when I was reviewing the game, so I will update this review with my online impressions at a later date.

MyTeam: Squad Up

MyTeam is a virtual trading card mode that can be a blast to play. This year it builds upon the foundation laid in 2K14. Instead of only being able to collect players from buying packs, you can now buy and sell players through auctions, which will make it easier to build a team of players you want to roll with. If you're willing to grind to build up your virtual currency (coined VC) you can build a team from hundreds of classic players that can be mixed and matched with current NBA stars.

 

The XXL Endgame

NBA 2K15 is a meaningful step forward for the franchise as it has raised the ante on almost every level. The trio of Kevin Harlan, Clark Kellogg and Steve Kerr provide probably the sickest commentary ever heard in a sports game and while there are still legacy issues that hamper the game, the amount of new content packed into 2K15 should please even the most jaded consumer. They've also streamlined the virtual currency system so it's not as instrusive as it was in 2K14. You'd be hard pressed not to pick this one up. - written by DJ Rhude (@DJRhude)

XXL Rating: XL (Excellent)

NBA 2k15 was reviewed on a retail copy provided by 2K Sports