NBA 2KVR Experience Review – Space Jam (PS4)
As we’re still very much in the early days of virtual reality gaming, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a lot of the titles that exist are collections of mini-games. It makes sense as it allows developers to cobble up a few different ideas that are fun in VR, and they don’t have to tie them all together into one cohesive game. It’s worked well in the past (for an example, check out 2K’s Carnival Games VR), and the NBA 2KVR Experience looks to deliver some basketball-themed fun.
If you’re like me, then your ears perked up upon reading the term “experience.” That hasn’t exactly been a flattering term so far for virtual reality gaming. Most of the titles that are officially branded as an experience haven’t been much of a success critically. There’s nothing wrong with feeling like a tech demo when something is free (check out Trials on Tatooine if you have an HTC Vive), but it’s a much bigger issue when a publisher is charging money for it.
Sadly, the $14.99-priced NBA 2KVR Experience doesn’t dispel the stigma as it offers up a bare-bones experience that is really hard to recommend to anyone. What’s actually here, which is four basketball-themed mini-games, isn’t bad by any means, it’s just that each section is fun for about 10 minutes before the novelty wears off. There’s no greater hook in-play, nor is there enough depth in any of them to warrant constant replays.
Before I complain too much, I might as well get into what the game offers. The four mini-games are the following: Three-Point, Skills Challenge, Time Attack, and Buzzer Beater. Each of these ostensibly revolves around the act of aiming a basketball (which is done with the headset, as the game is played with the DualShock 4 controller), and then pressing the right trigger to shoot the ball. It’s not exactly immersive, as motion controls would’ve made a lot more sense here, and it’s a bit awkward at first because the player can’t really judge how much power is in a shot.
It doesn’t take long to get used to, though, as every shot has the same amount of power. That means there’s no such thing as hitting a bank shot, as the ball will always swish if successful, and it makes it feel like very much a video game, not a virtual simulation. That’s fine, and something I had to accept after a few minutes of play, but it definitely feels like there’s some missed potential.
The default challenge is a three-point contest that will be familiar to anyone who has ever watched the NBA All-Star Weekend. Players take turns shooting five balls at five different areas (for a grand total of 25 shots) to see how good of a shot they are. There isn’t much to it, as the player simply has to stare at the net and then press the right trigger to drain a three (I wish it was this easy in real life). Even if it’s not mechanically thrilling, it still feels pretty satisfying at first.
Each mini-game can be played in three separate difficulties and they all impact the games in the same way. Easy shows a cursor to show what you are looking at (which makes lining up shots super easy) and adds in a heavy auto-aim to where it’s near impossible to miss. Medium takes away the auto-aim but keeps the cursor, and then Hard removes the dot in the middle of the screen completely. This may sound like a solid series of options, but neither of them seem perfect. The middle setting is still way too easy as long as players take time to line-up their shots, and then the hardest setting is only difficult because you can’t be sure where the game believes you’re aiming.
Two of the other modes, Time Attack and Buzzer Beater, are variations on the aforementioned three-point contest. Time attack just tasks players with draining as many shots in a minute-span (which isn’t very thrilling when you’re just trying to beat your own score), and then Buzzer Beater throws in a new mechanic of catching the ball and then shooting. This just adds another press of the right trigger before aiming, and ended up being my favorite mode just because there was more to it, but it isn’t exactly anything special.
Finally, the most unique mode is the Skills Challenge, which has the player performing unbelievable trick shots. This is done by throwing the ball off various platforms so it can ricochet into the net. These platforms have to be activated by staring at them first, and then bonus points can be earned by pressing the right trigger when it makes an impact. It’s really simple, and there are 10 sets of challenges here, which means it’s the mode players will probably spend the most time yet. I had a really good time with it at first, but by the end, I was having to quickly look at 15 different platforms and it became more monotonous than fun. Maybe the other modes being so short was actually a good thing.
For completing each mini-game, the player earns coins that can be spent on a bunch of performance enhancing items. No, you’re not purchasing HGH or getting on testosterone replacement, instead the game is rife with Gatorade product placement. Buying some thirst quenching sports drink can slow-down time, add an auto-aim or increase the speed of when the player picks up a ball. These make challenges really easy, and if you want to obliterate one of your previous high scores, just purchase the most expensive power-up.
Not only is there very little staying power to the NBA 2KVR Experience, it’s also very rough around the edges. From how it kicks the player the whole way out to the main menu after finishing up a mini-game to hiding high-scores behind several layers of menus, nothing feels as polished as it should. If leaderboards were properly surfaced there could be some sort of high-score grind, but I’m not digging through several menus to see my friends’ scores. Not every VR title needs to be deep, and there’s definitely room for these types of mini-game collections, but this isn’t a particularly good one.
The NBA 2KVR Experience feels more like a proof of concept than a fleshed-out game, and that’s pretty disappointing. Visual Concepts show that they have some good ideas, and could make a more full-fledged offering, but this only touches the edges of what’s possible. It’s more of a tease than anything, which is good for a demo, not a paid product. It’s fun to play for 30 minutes, but don’t expect this to be something that will keep you coming back for more.
Review code for NBA 2KVR Experience provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.