This year's edition of the best-selling basketball video game actually does look significantly changed from its predecessor. 2K Sports senior producer Rob Jones gave us a rundown of the improvements and new features that fans can expect to encounter in NBA 2K15. Here are the details surrounding the game presentation, gameplay, MyLeague, MyCareer, MyTeam and the popular MyCareer role-player mode:
- As requested, NBA 2K15 ditches the simplistic menus from last year in favor of a much more visually stimulating user interface.
- The centerpiece of the new menu is 2KTV, a new weekly streaming in-game broadcast hosted by Rachel DeMita. No stranger to hoop life, DeMita is a former McDonald's All-American nominee who played college basketball at Old Dominion.
- NBA2K TV is a Visual Concepts produced show created to highlight community happenings (such as calling out leaderboard leaders, contest winners, or impressive user highlights), discuss game updates or strategies with developers, and showcase behind-the-scenes footage of the NBA lifestyle with some of your favorite players.
- The year brings back the pre-game show starring Ernie Johnson and Shaquille O'Neal, who analyze the matchup. Shaq will showcase his signature sense of humor as well.
- On-court visual enhancements include scanning close to 100 percent of the league players, including rookies. One of the most noticeable improvements is the animated hair, which now moves instead of looking painted onto the player sculpts.
- A new create-a-player interface gives you more tools than ever before to create players you can place on NBA rosters. You can tweak everything from forehead and jawline to ears, eyes, and lips. Many of the facial features and hairstyles are pulled from other NBA players, so if you want to rock the Ginobli bald spot with the sharp Artest cheekbones you can.
- For the first time in the series, users can scan their own faces into the game using PlayStation Camera and Kinect for the PS4 and Xbox One, respectively.
- You can used your scanned player model across all the modes your MyPlayer appears in, including MyCareer and online.
- The in-arena experience has also been bolstered by the addition of cheerleaders, mascots, big heads in the stands, player introductions, the national anthem, more context appropriate crowd reactions, and more variation in their animations.
- After big plays, Visual Concepts has worked in new camera angles to highlight player reactions.
- To help players who have trouble locking down the timing for particular players, Visual Concepts has built a new dynamic shot meter. This colored meter makes it easier to tell when your player is in a range where he is comfortable shooting from, as well as noting where hot and cold spots are for players. An indicator gives you a visual cue of when to release the shot, which is helpful since various players have different optimal release points.
- The new shooting system is not meant to be a shot meter that guarantees you making the shot. It's just a learning mechanism for teaching the player where the release is. The developers adjusted the way the programming calculates your chance of making a shot to make it more dependent on your timing instead of behind-the-scenes parameters. That said, the system is smart enough to make sure players aren't sinking 100-percent of their shots when they have a hand in their face or when shooting from a cold spot even if their timing was right on.
- To improve the defense and make A.I. players look more in control, Visual Concepts fixed how they move in small spaces, making it look less frantic. They are much better at avoiding overreactions and react more fluidly when adjusting to offensive movement. Since they stay at home, it's easier to re-orient yourself when you switch to a new defender as well.
- The developers spent time working on collisions to bring more realistic contact into the paint. You should see more post-contact animations and a reduced amount of clipping. If you go up for a dunk and get hit before you see the rim, you see the guy spill out and completely miss the shot instead of finishing it.
- To help differentiate between teams after a set play breaks down, each one uses their true base set in NBA 2K15. Now when you play the Heat, which Jones jokes doesn't truly have a big (sorry Bosh), they will run a four-out one-in set. The Spurs, on the other hand, will have three-out two-in base set.
- The enhanced A.I. also opens up repeatable conditions. Once you learn its tendencies with your team you can force a specific movement by either putting the ball in a particular spot or making particular movements. This should help you create ad hoc scoring opportunities on the fly when you're running out of your base set instead of calling a play.
- Points of emphasis return from last year, but in addition NBA 2K15 brings back the more granular strategy system from previous iterations that allow you to designate double teams and dictate how tight you want your players to guard specific threats on the opposing team.
- All the players have their signature size-ups, which you can activate by tapping the right stick toward the rim while stationary.
- Like FIFA, players are designated with Badges in addition to ratings so you know what kind of style they bring to the court. Players can have up to 70 badges. The player with the most badges right now is (no surprise) LeBron James, with 47.
- 2KU has been enhanced with videos as well as the practice mode. Cover athlete Kevin Durant and other players have lent their voice to offer instructions.
- Euroleague returns with an expanded roster and playbook of plays tailored just for Europe. Euroleague is available for play in MyLeague as well.
- Last's years role-playing experience complete with cut-scenes was a big hit with fans, so Visual Concepts is doubling down with another story featuring a new player of your creation (your player from last year will not import into the game).
- Instead of focusing on relationships with made up characters like last year's rival Jackson Ellis, NBA 2K15 focuses on team relationships and learning to play the game of basketball correctly.
- To achieve this goal, Visual Concepts recorded audio with players from every NBA team, so no matter which squad you end up on you will have interactions with a mentor player.
- Instead of going through the draft process, you begin as an undrafted free agent who is hot under the collar because he was overlooked on draft day. Your agent works to get you tryouts with multiple teams.
- You choose which team to try out for, but you must keep in mind what the depth chart looks like. A handy hub screen gives you a quick glance at the current depth chart as well as the grade you'll need to reach to receive a job offer. If you want to crack the roster of a great team with depth, you will need to have a lights-out performance.
- Once you sign that first 10-day contract, it's up to you to make the most of the opportunity and carve a permanent position on the roster.
- During your second year, Doc Rivers will take over as the head coach of your team. Players will have a more intense relationship with Rivers than with the coaches from last year, as he has expectations for how he wants you to perform and what you should be focusing on in a particular game situation. These include tutorial-like pre-game meetings with assistant coaches where they go over points of emphasis.
- MyCareer also features all new endorsements for your player to earn through playing well and gaining more recognition throughout the league.
- The new MyCareer mode lets you skip games if you prefer to move more quickly through seasons. You can choose which games you want to play, and certain games against good teams or rivals will yield more VC than when you match up with a creampuff team like the Timberwolves or Pistons.
- To keep players from maxing out all their skills with 99 ratings, the developers are changing how you upgrade your player. Instead of micromanaging how points fall into individual attributes, you drop them into buckets based on specialties like perimeter shooting, dunking, defense, and passing. You can upgrade multiple buckets, but you have a limited amount of total upgrades. This creates more realistic progressions and guarantees that players max out in the low 90s overall instead of at 99.
- To reward those who play the game well over those who spend their way to a maxed out player, Visual Concepts is introducing badges to MyCareer. Badges are earned by completing in-game feats and give you specific performance boosts that increase your overall abilities past the low 90s ratings cap. A total of 77 badge types are available, and most have bronze, silver, and gold levels.
- Some of the categories players can earn badges in include athleticism, rebounding, interior scoring, perimeter scoring, playmaking, and defense.
- 2K has tweaked the teammate grade slightly from last year, specifically removing the "call for bad pass" penalty.
- MyTeam is bolstered this year with the addition of an auction house much like those found in EA's Ultimate Team modes. This is not supported by the companion app.
- New content, challenges, and players all make appearances this year.
- New players include legends like Bernard King, Bob Cousy, Nate Archibald, Rick Barry, Tom Chambers, and Kevin Johnson.
- Tournament mode features updated challenges your team must complete to win.
- MyLeague strips the role-playing elements from the MyGM mode and allows players to take control of every aspect of a league, including governing multiple teams. Everything else is in the game, including injury system, new scouting, trade mechanics, and SimCast.
- Customization options include season length, fantasy drafts, custom rosters, trade logic settings, controlling the player morale system, and tweaking draft class quality.
- MyLeague is not online this year, but 2K hopes to add this functionality in the future You can, however, still play in a regular online league.
2K HEROES (PS3/XBOX 360)
- Replacing last year's Path To Greatness mode on old-gen consoles, this year Visual Concepts introduces a new mode called 2K Heroes where popular players select their dream teams from the vault of basketball history and pit them against on another.
- Participating players include cover athlete Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Shaquille O'Neal, LeBron James, David Robinson, James Worthy, Clyde Drexler, and Michael Jordan. The players serve as the captains of their respective teams.
- Each team represents a charity, and 2K will make a donation to the charity for the team that wins the most games by the All-Star Weekend.
NBA 2K15 will be released on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC from 7th October 2014