Hands-On: The ‘NBA 2KVR Experience’ Shoots An Air Ball Instead Of A Slam Dunk

by David Jagneaux • November 22nd, 2016

I really don’t understand what happened in the brainstorm meeting that led to the creation of the NBA 2KVR Experience that released today on HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, and Samsung Gear VR. The premise is sound: bring one of the most well-known sporting franchises to VR with an officially licensed game from the publishers of the smash-hit NBA 2K game series. But what happened next is a giant question mark.

What we have here is a $15 collection of half-baked mini-games that do very little to get you excited about VR, the NBA, or Gatorade — a clear sponsor of the experience itself judging by the gratuitous product placement and branded powerups. Paul George of the Indiana Pacers is plastered over the introductory screen and the Pacers court is the only playing space in the experience. But the real issues arise once you dig into actually playing the game, especially on PlayStation VR.

nba-2kvr-experience-screenshot-challenges

Anyone that’s going to try playing a VR sports game, especially one that uses your hands, will want to use motion controllers. That’s why on the Vive edition of the game, the Vive motion controllers are supported and why Sanzaru waited to launch VR Sports Challenge until the Oculus Touch controllers were available. There are even floating, see-through hands represented in the game itself on all platforms. However, the Vive version is the only one with motion controller support; the PS Move controllers on PS VR are not supported.

Naturally, the Gear VR is gaze and tap only using the touchpad, but when loading up the game on the PS VR, I’d expect something comparable to the Vive, motion controllers included, instead of an experience that’s seemingly identical to that of the smartphone-based mobile Gear VR headset.

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But the ultimate faux pas here isn’t the lack of controller options, it’s that they’re charging $15 across all three platforms for an experience that is clearly a piece of marketing material without enough depth to support the price tag. It’s hard to understand what happened here.

On PS VR, you simply look down at a basketball, put your cursor an inch or so above the basket, and pull the R2 trigger to shoot. That’s it. You’re exclusively aiming the trajectory, but have no control over  the ball’s actual velocity. You can get rid of the aiming icon on harder difficulties, but the entire game still devolves to “look at basket, then press a button.” The skill challenges that require you to bounce and bank the ball across complex ranges of targets are fun, albeit limited, distractions from the otherwise lackluster debut of the NBA in VR gaming.

I really wanted to like NBA 2KVR Experience, but it turned out to be little more than an air ball instead of what could have been a relatively easy slam dunk. You can find it on Steam for HTC Vive and the PSN Store for PlayStation VR.

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