Somehow, developer Visual Concepts finds a way to make every year’s iteration of the NBA 2K series better than the last. While keeping the formulas that have been successful in the past, they have always ironed out bugs from previous games while also adding new features. NBA 2K15 is no different.
The first thing you notice after booting it up is how much more effort went into the expansive menu system than last year. NBA 2K14 wasn’t a bad game by any means, but as the first basketball game for the newest generation of consoles, it definitely felt like a majority of the development time went into making the in-game visuals look as good as possible, while the menu systems were an afterthought. This year however, every menu gives you all the detailed information you could ask for. For example, opening up a player card not only show you their stats, contract, and morale, but now even has a color-coded injury chart showing you were players are susceptible to injury such as a big man’s back or your back-up point guard’s knees. Team logos are even animated for replays and important moments in the game.
The detail that most impressed me visually was how the crowd would leave if it was an especially big blowout victory. Home crowds tend to stay full, but nothing feels better than beating the Heat by 20 on the road, and watching their fans leave midway through the 4th quarter.
Right at the main menu for NBA 2K15 is the brand new NBA 2KTV, hosted by Rachel Demita. The show will update players on game features and tutorials, exclusive interviews with NBA players and coaches, and community inspired content. I don’t see myself watching every episode, but it’ll be a nice little distraction from time to time.
This is all in addition to cleaning up the already impressive in-game visuals. You now rarely, if ever see, any clipping of the ball, arms, or legs. What helps immensely is how players now have a much more realistic sense of weight. You can no longer push a defender out of your way as long as you hold the stick down. Now, the defender stands his ground and even attempts to strip the ball from you. Another exploit from older games that has been addressed is how passive the defense can be at times. Instead of letting you space the floor and swing the ball around, the computer defenders will active attack passing lanes. If you run the same play more than a few times, they will learn where the ball is going and double team your intended target. What I found most impressive is how much the effectiveness of alley-oops has been diminished. More often than not, you’ll find defenders leaping up to either steal or swat the ball away so use the technique sparingly.
The added sense of weight to players wouldn’t be worth much without the most well-crafted controls to date. Calling quick plays makes a most welcome return after sitting out last year, which let’s you call quick isolation, post-up, and cutting plays without having to rely on the team’s extensive playbook. In an effort to get players to mix it up and try out new teams that they wouldn’t usually play with, Visual Concepts adjusted the shot selection notification from NBA 2K14 that popped up in the upper corners after your shot. Now you have a meter underneath each player that shows you the ideal release time for that player. It might be little tough to keep track of in the middle of a game, but it is color-coded red, yellow, and green to let you know how close you are to that player’s perfect shot. Players will be glad to hear that this new meter is more forgiving than its predecessor which led to missed shots even when it read them as Excellent and A+.