NBA 2K15: Likeable

What are sports games trying to achieve? Two things: flawlessly realistic simulation in a way that’s still fun to play, and a convincing impersonation of the wider universe around the sport. NBA 2K15 is so skilled in achieving both of those that you begin to wonder if it isn’t actually a game at all, and instead you’ve just developed telekinetic powers while watching BT Sport.

The same was largely true of its predecessor, of course, so a base level of excellence is quite rightly assumed. NBA teams don’t change their kits from year to year though, which means 2K15 has to get up off its behind and work to demonstrate tangible progress. Most tangible of all is in My Career, the soap opera meets basketball RPG mode which pits you as a rookie player looking to prove yourself among the greats.
“it’s hard think of another Sports Sim that delivers this Kind of Character.”
Traditionally this began with the NBA draft in years past, but this time you play as an undrafted athlete barely clinging onto your dream of playing in the big league when the story begins. You pass the opening hours by trying out for teams, making good use of your limited minutes on the court and building up chemistry with team mates via Bioware-esque dialogues, which are now voice-acted by NBA players themselves. Imagine the equivalent in, say, FIFA, and realise how far this series is ahead of the curve.

Hoop Dreams
A wealth of new animations has been injected into every possible courtside manoeuvre, giving 2K15 an eerily lifelike appearance in motion. There’s more scope for facial customisation of your My Player, too, although attempting to use the new face scan feature can yield some ‘interesting’ (terrifying) results.

These expansions and refinements wouldn't mean a thing if the fundamentals weren't so alluring in the first place. Not only is 2K15 as enjoyable when you’re controlling a single player as a whole team, it’s enjoyable even when you’re losing. Because there’s logic to your failure beyond faster players on the opposing team. Playing against the Cavaliers feels hugely different to playing the Magic and you’ll win and lose games based on an individual player’s rebounding ability or 3-point shooting. It’s hard to think of another sports title that comes close to delivering that kind of variation and character.

There are but two miniscule smudges on NBA 2K15’s otherwise immaculate championship ring. One: it demands you have quite a firm grasp on the real sport in order to appreciate its nuances, recognise why you’re losing and know how to solve it (double teams/change of defensive assignments etc). Two: the servers were flat out broken for a good few days after launch. 

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