2K’s NBA series is the preeminent basketball video game on the consoles, and is the only five on five basketball game on iOS. The new basketball season is here, and now there’s NBA 2K14, which is the third year of the game on iOS. The 2014 edition is loaded with features including the full authentic rosters, a multi-season franchise mode, a special Lebron James cover athlete mode, and online multiplayer. The franchise mode is the definite highlight allowing you to take control of your favorite team, and play through the actual upcoming season, as well as multiple seasons after that. You can play, or simulate any individual game, just like on the console side. 2K has brought some big games to iOS as of late, and now it’s time to see if they have learned anything in their NBA series the third year in.
The most noticeable aspect of NBA 2K14 is the graphics engine, or lack there of. It’s amazing how the development of NBA 2K on iOS has stagnated so that 2K14 look almost identical to 2K12. The biggest drawback is that player design presenting each one is barely recognizable whether it’s Lebron, Kobe, or Kevin Durant not to mention the lesser known players. The players have some distinctions on close-ups at the free throw line, but they’re practically amorphous blobs when all ten players are running around on the court. The graphics engine detracts from the entire experience, and is about on par with the graphics levels back in 1990s on the consoles. Once you get past the bland look, you can dive into the actual basketball gameplay.
The gameplay is another aspect that seems to be untouched by 2K since the series first launched on iOS. The classic control option gives you a virtual joystick with action buttons to shoot, pass, block, and steal. When dribbling the ball you only have access to the joystick leaving you essentially plowing ahead to try to get to the basket with no access to any special moves. You can try to flip the joystick around for a crossover, but it rarely works, and just ends up putting your player off course. Without any fidelity to the movements, both sides of the ball are just bland exhibitions in rudimentary repetition. The only way to get open looks is to pile drive forward or try to get to the rim, or pass back out. If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s also a one touch control option meant for more casual gamers, but instead it’s turns the game into more of a movie. You barely have control over anything as you can’t even move your players, and instead just tap on other players to pass, or tap and hold on the ball handler to shoot.
It’s great that there are multiple game modes, but the gameplay, and design are absolutely atrocious to make any game content irrelevant. The worst part is that it’s essentially the same exact game for three years running with just extras features added in, and updated rosters. The base gameplay, and design are relatively unchanged, and they’re still the most important parts of any game, and the worst parts in this game. The one definitive thing this game answered is that there still isn’t a full five on five basketball game for iOS. The one thing the game has going for it, and that has changed is that the entire experience is a lot more fluid. There’s true basketball speed when changing possessions with the potential for fast breaks, quick passing, and a continuous flow to all player movement.
NBA 2K14 ($7.99, Universal) is a disappointing effort, that is poor in the most important regards making it one to steer clear of. The only question is which is worse between NBA 2K14, and Madden 25, and the answer is NBA 2K14 just because Madden is free to download, be disgusted by, and delete, while NBA 2K14 sets you back $8. For the upcoming 2013-14 season, the 76ers, Suns, Magic, Jazz, Bobcats, and Kings are tanking for Andrew Wiggins, and one of the best draft classes in recent memory. It’s unclear why 2K is tanking in iOS sports game development.