NBA 2K15

Last year NBA 2K14 came storming out of the next-gen gates with two rebuilt modes that gave us a glimpse of the future of sports games. This year developer Visual Concepts is focused on making sure the encouraging MyCareer and MyGM build off that foundation and take the game to new heights.

The role-playing favorite MyCareer returns in NBA 2K15 with a new premise. As an undrafted free agent, you must try and crack an NBA roster on a 10-day contract, then write your unlikely legacy as a superstar.

Instead of focusing on shoehorned storylines like last year’s rivalry with the fictional character Jackson Ellis, for 2K15 Visual Concepts recorded audio with players from every NBA team to bring team relationships to the forefront. After your first year in the league Doc Rivers will assume coaching duties for your team and take the role of a mentor, teaching you how to become a better player. The mode also lets you skip games during the season this year, and a new upgrade path makes it harder to purchase your way to being an elite player.

The other cornerstone mode, MyGM, is receiving renovations to lessen the dependency on the in-game currency for upgrades and improve interactions with your players, the media, and your owner. The various people you converse with now remember your promises and react accordingly if you renege on your word. The new upgrade system awards you XP for every action you take, whether you are simming or playing games.

Another sim-friendly feature is the SimCast, which allows you to sim through a game but jump into the action at any time. If you prefer to leave the conversation behind and control each of the 28 NBA teams, you can do so in the new MyLeague mode. Customization options include season length, fantasy drafts, custom rosters, trade-logic settings, controlling the morale system, and tweaking draftclass quality.

NBA 2K14 suffered many network issues at launch, but Visual Concepts is confident these are in the rearview mirror. The new MyPark mode should benefit most if this is true. This evolution of last year’s effort lets you choose one of three home parks to represent, each of which imparts unique skill upgrades. You can squad up with friends before pick-up games, or if you prefer a more NBA like experience you can participate in five-on-five matches with referees in the Rec Center. To encourage more unselfish play, Visual Concepts is migrating the teammate grading into the mode as well.

The bevy of improvements being touted for these modes is impressive, but that doesn’t mean Visual Concepts is leaving the gameplay untouched. A new dynamic shot meter makes it easier to tell when to release your shot, player movement in small spaces has been corrected to give you more fidelity when controlling defenders, and enhanced A.I. has a better understanding of how to be useful after play breaks down.

To better differentiate between different NBA teams, the developers have installed each of their base sets. This helps teams play more organically, and the embedded knowl edge means you can exploit repeatable situations on offense.

With this many new wrinkles being added to NBA 2K15, perhaps this is the year Visual Concepts finds a way to unseat FIFA as the reigning sports game of the year. We’ll find out in October.

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