NBA 2K14 Xbox One review: Swear fealty to the prince

If NBA 2K14 on current-gen systems is the king, then the next-gen version is the prince.

While it features the same unparalleled gameplay and control of its current-gen cousin, NBA 2K14 on Xbox One ends up feeling like less of a fully-realized product – a younger, prettier facsimile of what has been the best, and only, basketball sim on the market for the last few years.

The next-gen version of NBA 2K14 One lacks some of the substance seen on Xbox 360 and PS3, though it benefits from being one of the most realistic-looking video games I've ever played.
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NBA 2K14 (Xbox One/PS4 10/29/13)

NBA 2K14 on Xbox One is downright gorgeous. The folks in the stands, coaching staff and other non-player character models still aren't up to snuff with the actual players, but when you're on the court, NBA 2K14 looks startlingly close to reality.

This is thanks to Visual Concepts' Eco-Motion engine, which produces more subtle animations and facial expressions than the current-gen versions of the game. Players move more fluidly and with more urgency, and shifting the NBA 2K14 camera to the press box view during a game offers a presentation package on-par with television broadcasts. In-game representations of Kevin Durant and Ray Allen stand out in particular as lifelike recreations of the real-world players.

NBA 2K14 on Xbox One isn't the same game as its current-gen cousin, however. The next-gen version ditches "LeBron: Path to Greatness," the new invent-a-future mode for cover athlete LeBron James found in the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of NBA 2K14. It also cuts out Association, the series' dynasty mode, and replaces it with MyGM – a mode where you get to manage just about every aspect of an organization.

As the General Manager of a franchise, you're charged with negotiating contracts and trades, maintaining coaching staff, even dictating ticket and parking prices at the stadium. You can play the full MyGM experience, where you're constantly under the microscope of the team owner, or you can choose a more simplified, single-season route, side-stepping the need to manage the owner's expectation, finances, salary cap or to maintain player morale – essentially Diet MyGM, a less-filling version of the overall experience.

Along the way, you're bound to tick off some virtual people. Throughout MyGM, you'll conduct interviews with reporters who will begin to distrust you if you show too much support for the owner and staff, and occasionally you'll have sit-downs with your players about a variety of issues. During these conversation segments – which are as laughably stiff, sterile and devoid of life as they've been in similar modes over the past few years – you'll constantly be presented with dialog choices that oddly play out in on-screen text message threads – even though the characters are sitting next to each other in the same room.

Every choice has its consequences. Jack up the ticket prices and the press will call you on your money-grab. Deciding to bench a player on a cold streak may tick him off to the point that he demands a trade. Even other GMs will call you up from time to time and offer trades – fail to take these seriously and it'll ruin your relationship with that organization.

Developer Visual Concepts provides a thorough recreation of being a General Manager in MyGM. At least I think it does, having never been the GM of a professional basketball team myself. I generally enjoyed my time with the mode, though you should be prepared to eat up an incredible amount of time if you're looking to play each of your team's games yourself. And, really, what good GM isn't trying to do just that?

NBA 2K14 on Xbox One also introduces a more fleshed-out MyCareer experience, where you start as a nobody baller with big dreams of making it in the NBA. The mode should be familiar to NBA 2K series fans, though the next-gen version ups the cheese factor through a more intricate story realized through cutscenes and interactions with established NBA stars.

Like any good sports movie, before it's all said and done, you'll establish a rivalry, get scolded by the coach when you've made mistakes and have a jerk teammate bully you. Eventually you'll have to decide what's more important to you: the team's success or furthering your own agenda. You just generally get yours in this mode and, despite the very cheesy voice acting and overly dramatic cutscenes, MyCareer provides enough entertainment to warrant jumping through these familiar hoops once again.

MyTeam, the collectible card variant where players pull random virtual cards from booster packs and create patchwork teams of NBA stars, has also been expanded for NBA 2K14 on Xbox One. The mode now features more rare card types and Domination – an offline mode where you can go up against established NBA squads and a few all-star teams, all recreated in MyTeam mode. Collecting cards is enjoyable, but I'd much rather interact with actual players. Your mileage may vary.

The final piece of NBA 2K14 on Xbox One is the Park, a virtual gathering place where you can get some street hoops in. 2K Games promises two-on-two, three-on-three or five-on-five match-ups for players online, but I was unable to find any players to test this portion of the game prior to the Xbox One launch. You can also play pick-up games against the CPU and even unlock greats like Michael Jordan to play as or against.

From a control standpoint, NBA 2K14 on Xbox One is every bit as capable as its established current-gen brethren. Building on the foundation laid in NBA 2K13, the game uses a multi-purpose pro stick – the right analog stick – to handle moves and shooting. Simple quarter-circle movements and jabs in any one direction perform spin moves and fake outs, while holding the stick in any given direction will initiate the shot animation.

You can also use the right analog stick, in conjunction with a modifier button, to perform expert no-look passes. These present a wonderful sense of risk-versus-reward to each game. When you make a quick no-look pass resulting in points, it feels great; failing one utterly shatters momentum and morale.

As a first step forward, NBA 2K14 on Xbox One is a promising indication of things to come. Sure, it's missing the current-generation's marquee mode, but the on-court action is every bit as engaging and hospitable as it's always been, and the visuals are more impressive than ever.

NBA 2K14 suggests we're well on our way to a future where video games and reality collide, becoming that much more difficult to distinguish from one another – and that is an exciting prospect.

This review is based on a download of the Xbox One version of NBA 2K14, provided by 2K Games. NBA 2K14 is also available on PlayStation 4.

The originally published version of this review incorrectly stated that the next-gen version of NBA 2K14 doesn't include a training mode. Joystiq has corrected this mistake and apologizes for any confusion it may have caused.

Joystiq's review scores are based on a scale of whether the game in question is worth your time -- a five-star being a definitive "yes," and a one-star being a definitive "no."Read here for more information on our ratings guidelines.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.