Not Really OMG, but Impressive Enough: NBA 2K14 Next-Gen PS4 Trailer Teases Ultrarealistic Players

Once more unto the uncanny valley...

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I’m not much of a basketball fan, truth be told. I recognize the Lakers jerseys in the video above, and I know some of the other team colors, and yes, I played myself, you know, back in grade school. But I don’t do basketball games, so I’m interested more in what a sexed-up next-gen trailer like this tells us about the potential of this next round of home set-tops (PS4, Xbox One) to plunge us even deeper into the uncanny valley…and maybe start back up the other side.

The motion capture in this PlayStation 4 spot is very slick, I’m sure you’ll agree. Check out the way James Harden extends and wiggles his hands, rolling his fingers; the way the light gleams immaculately off the contours of his sweating arms, finally photorealistic enough to trick the eye; the way his shirt ripples and compacts as he retracts his arms and shifts his torso. There’s a fluidness here that’s been missing from today’s games, as well as a sense of being in this world — a solidness to everything that’s only broken when you notice Harden’s beard clipping through the top of his jersey in that preliminary shot.

The faces, on the other hand, still look lifeless to me — the eyes in particular (as windows to the soul, they’re rather oblique). Don’t get me wrong, these are beautifully sleek, glistening, handsomely realized figures celebrating their signature moves. It’s just that those eyes seem more un-alive than ever, giving the impression you’re eyeballing lifelike robo-creatures, leaping and dunking, punching the air or pretending to wag victory fingers. But ah, what do I know; I’m probably overthinking things.

No, I don’t know why an “OMG” trailer needs a creepy old Miami Vice-era Phil Collins tune I used to skate to at the roller rink in the early 1980s, the one everyone thought was based on a true story about Collins seeing some guy let another guy drown (urban legends — so much mightier before the Internet!). Apparently LeBron James digs it, because it’s from the game soundtrack, which he curated as this year’s cover athlete.