By Nick Reay. Additional coaching by Coach Graeme Essen.

I think the last time I actually devoted time to a sports game that wasn’t an add-on or in-game extra was back sometime in 1995 and it went by the name of Looney Tunes B-Ball. The game was as dope as most of the denizens on lower main road and had me about as hooked. Hooked because the game was fun, hooked because it was fast and fluid and hooked because a great deal of passion went into making it. I am happy to say that those elements that had me addicted to fluffy bunnies slam dunking have manifested themselves in 2K sports’ NBA2K14.

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Showing just how ahead of the pack 2K is in this genre we have a game that boasts some of the tightest controls I’ve had the pleasure of using. The move list is extensive and with the introduction of the right analogue stick as your primary input for shooting and using skills adds a deep element to the speed and fluidity of play. As mentioned earlier I haven’t played the other iterations of the franchise so to give me some background I invited my basketball crazy friend over to act as my coach.

As we discovered, some of the more basic elements have been thoroughly refined. Sprinting will have you run out of stamina much quicker than the previous 2013 or 2012 versions making the game feel more realistic (and harder). Defence play has also been vastly improved upon. This time round reaching in for the ball has a far greater chance of success so you won’t be wincing each time waiting for the dreaded FOUL to push your C grade to the depths of D (yes, the grading system is much the same as last year’s, though far less forgiving). Coach Graeme pointed out though that many things have indeed changed; the right analogue now controls crossovers, quick dodging and spins for example – meaning you have to relearn every damn move. This in itself wasn’t a problem for my fanboy friend, but the lack of a proper, in-depth tutorial most certainly was.

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There is an option to learn each move, but there are no options to learn WHEN to use them. This was rather problematic for me as I am new to the franchise so it was like learning the Bulls Triangle offensive for the first time! A very simple 20 minute learning session would have gone a long way to unlocking all the awesome moves the new right analogue stick is now responsible for. Once you have a basic understanding though you are free to feel completely immersed in the game, and what immersion there is!

One thing I loved about UFC 2011 was the commentary; it was quick, witty and never seemed out of touch with what was happening. Whether I was pushing my brother’s face through the mat, or knocking him out after 4 seconds, it seemed real. NBA2K14 has taken it to the next level. Other than a few repeated comments in the rookie tournament I repeated 500 times, the conversation was dynamic, relevant, and at times hysterical.

The usual interviews between games with journalists now give you the option to be a right arsehole, which of course affects the opinion of your teammates, local followers and larger fan base, but you want to experience this because it is so damned funny. The game also delivers a new mode which got a great sigh from my friend as he doesn’t have much love for LeBron James.

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Last year’s NBA2K13 first offered the My Team mode (which returns this year). Prior to that the 2012 version offered the hugely successful Legends Mode and before even that there was the Jordan Challenge. This year we are treated to LeBron James, Path to Greatness. I have to say that if you are not a huge fan of his then you are kinda screwed. It has some great ideas; playing his games offers not only progression, but access to many different scenarios that play out like a biography.

But I don’t think people are going to find it extremely innovative, more a mix between Single Player and scripted matches. The online element is back again and what fun it is. I think to get the most out of NBA2K14 you need to be online. This year you can finally view where you are on the leaderboards, and with a new bronze silver gold team system will have you up and playing in no time. We didn’t have major lag issues but they were there which led to a bit of frustration (not nearly as frustrating as all the loading/saving screens though. Be prepared to wait, often).

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As someone relatively new to the genre of sports games I really loved enjoyed my time with NBA2K14. It’s a really well polished experience with a very deep system behind it. Creating a new character and watching them grow was extremely satisfying, especially when you finally figure out how the hell to slam dunk (took me 3 hours, Coach Graeme did it in 3 minutes). The music is also great, though why they have Cold Play in is beyond me. Not really a baller track now is it?

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If you are competitive and have a fast internet connection you will have a great time. Just be prepared to pour hours in learning how to do everything.

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Summary
I have never bothered with sports games probably because watching men run around chasing a ball seemed too tiring. That being said this game has opened my eyes to the enjoyment offered by a really well put together game. I actually WANT to go home and play this, something I never thought I’d hear myself say!
8.5
NBA2K14 was reviewed on Xbox 360
87 / 100

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