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Following a stellar effort last year, it feels like 2K Sports phoned in the latest mobile edition of its highly regarded basketball simulation series. NBA 2K14 is essentially NBA 2K13 (minus the commentary), albeit with updated rosters and a new mode focused on superstar LeBron James. It feels incomplete, thanks to awkward gaps in the presentation where you'd expect commentary, plus a host of other minor glitches and issues. But, as with last year's effort, there's a decent – albeit barebones – basketball simulation under the hood.
LeBron James stands at the center of the proceedings, with menus and loading screens themed in his likeness. A new mode, LeBron: Path to Greatness, puts you in control of James (and nobody else) in a series of pivotal games through the next several theoretical seasons. You can choose either Heat Dynasty, in which he helps Miami continue to dominate the league, or Fantastic Journey, which proposes a trajectory for James hopping around the NBA during his twilight years. It's an interesting alternative to the standard multi-season play, and it's fun feeling all-powerful and dominant on the court as LeBron, but Path to Greatness alone is not enough to justify the price of admission.
For that, you need to look at the multi-season, quick play, and multiplayer modes, but these appear to be exactly the same as last year, except with updated rosters. There are still weird glitches in games, particularly between plays, and there's no commentary at all, despite lingering hints that there should be. The in-game announcer often – and sometimes hilariously – lags behind plays, calling out fouls and points that happened as long as 30 seconds prior, while the camera regularly trains in on players' crotches. The control issues have also yet to be resolved, with minor but noticeable accuracy and timing problems with the regular joystick and buttons control scheme, plus a sense that you're all too often watching your players struggle to avoid falling over their own feet in the one-finger gesture-focused mode.
The bottom line. NBA 2K14 shapes up well for some LeBron-fueled magic, but it fumbles the pass and struggles to meet expectations after a promising 2012-13 season.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 5.0 or later
New LeBron-focused story mode lets you play out key moments in his future career. Solid on-court basketball action.
Barely adds to or changes last year’s game. No play-by-play commentary. Limited options in multi-season mode. Camera and settings bugs plague your experience.