Now entering its 20th year, the NBA 2K series has built up such a reputation that others can only dream of, but this has led to some complacency in recent entries. The last really stellar entry in the series for me personally was NBA 2K16, which had an incredible MyCareer and soundtrack, both of which were curated by the great director Spike Lee. Plus, the actual game of basketball was fun, fast and frantic, which is how it should be. I was personally put off by last year’s game due to the prevalence of microtransactions. They do reappear in the MyCareer of NBA 2K19, but I was able to take my man to the top without putting a penny towards my efforts. In this review, I will break down each mode into what it is, how it plays and its good and bad points, starting with the most played mode, MyCareer.
The intro to the mode is pure genius. It opens in first-person as you meet your agent for your Chinese League adventure, and the camera pans out as you customise your guy to your specifications. The game again tries to employ the face capture technology for your player through the companion app, but whether it’s just because of how I look or the quality of the camera on an iPhone, my player looked like something out of a horror movie. Luckily, I was still able to customise the player to a rough version of me, and I chose the position of Centre. You are then whisked onto your Chinese League adventure, playing in Shanghai as an American outcast who dreams of going to the NBA.
In all honesty, as long as you are relatively decent at making shots, you will breeze past every team with ease. The first big moment comes when you face off against an NBA All-Star Team and get absolutely creamed. In that creaming though, you dunk on your college teammate, Corey Harris, and you go viral. This leads to a strange meet-up with Marvel film star Anthony Mackie, who sorts out a move to America for you. All is not as it seems though, your guy thinks he’s going to the NBA and the Lakers, but instead you end up in the B leagues.
You again have to work your way up to get into the NBA, and every single point of the story is interesting and keeps you from wanting to put the controller down. The good parts of the career mode mainly come from the actual storyline. In the series’ previous entries, you go from a college nobody to an NBA superstar, but this time you are an outcast and build your way up to being one of the NBA’s best. The gameplay is a mixed bag as during your time in China the games can be very low scoring and feel quite slow, but once you get back on American soil, things do pick up and games are a lot more frantic.
The only real bad point comes from the microtransactions. Again, like last year they offer VC coins to help boost your stats for a price. I, out of principle, did not touch them, and I was still able to get my player up to a very high rating just by being good at the game. The microtransactions are in there to help players who are struggling to gain coins from play, which are quite slim even for high teammate score and point scores. They will never go away, and as long as they don’t impede on my progress, then I can live with them.
The only other bad point of NBA 2K19 is that after you play the All-Stars, you hit up an arcade that has an “original” NBA 2K game playing. I use quotation marks as it is not really the original, it’s the current game with a pixelated effect all over it, which was majorly disappointing.
The other modes of NBA 2K19 really do take a backseat as the main career mode will take forever to complete if you spread your playtime out. The league mode plays out how you would expect, and it does keep results, trades and injuries as realistic as a game can. You won’t see a Stephen Curry moving to the Milwaukee Bucks, for example.
The gameplay in the MyLeague and in general exhibition matches is superb; the game looks even better than the real thing. The players, coaches and referees look so realistic. The game also sounds incredible: The squeak of the sneakers, the noise of the crowd and the calls from teammates really do make you feel like you’re actually at an NBA game.
NBA 2K19’s alternative version of EA’s Ultimate Team is very similar but is quite hard to really get into again without spending a tonne of money; you can’t amass a star-studded team.
The last mode that needs touching up is The Neighborhood. Again like last year, it is like a hub area where you can shoot some hoops and interact with other players. In all honesty, you can’t play this mode for longer than about 20 minutes before you get incredibly bored.
NBA 2K19 is a stellar entry in the long running series. The MyCareer is so much fun to play, and the storyline was not as predictable as it has been in earlier years. The gameplay itself is really smooth and is quick with normal NBA teams, but in China it is a bit clunky. As previously mentioned, the graphics and sounds, including the tremendous soundtrack which is a given in the 2K series, are incredible, especially if you have a decent set-up at home. If you do enjoy watching basketball on ESPN, or if you are into sports games in general, I can’t recommend this game highly enough. The microtransactions do offer those gamers who want instant progression the opportunity to attain it, but if you don’t mind a slight grind to improve your player, then you are easily able to do that here as well.
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Games
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 11th September 2018