In a concentrated effort to fix a few, very specific issues from last years iteration, NBA 2K19 fails to innovate elsewhere. However, with gameplay and an overall package this polished, it’s hard to go wrong with the defending champion of the hardwood.
NBA 2K19 is known for its spot on simulation of the sport that Naismith built. However, over the last few years some bizarre issues of player clipping and awkward collision detection broke the immersion a bit from what was otherwise the perfect game of roundball. This year they ramped up the player control while making great strides in remediing the issues from the past. Presentation is where NBA 2K19 has no competition. From the player introductions, the strobe lights filling each arena, the player likeness, the mascots, the crew of Kenny Smith, Shaq and Ernie Johnson holding down the pre-game, halftime and post game duties, the player interviews and the legendary Kevin Harlan delivering the play by play……this is where it’s at. There are very few games that will fool a person entering the room into thinking a video game is an actual live broadcast of an actual game, but it does here. This is where other sport simulations like Madden should take note because it gets no better.
The gameplay is very similar to recent years but I noticed they did a fair bit of course correction on the player clipping issue and did not notice near as much of it in my limited time with the game. The player control 2K gives us this year in tremendous. Never have I felt I had control over every aspect of not only my players movements but also my players body with the Pro Stick control scheme. From the pick and rolls to the high flying dunks, you are always in complete control of you and your squad. The playbook is deep and there are many options on both offense and defense to lead your team to victory. The simulation is real here however, if you choose to get aggressive on defense and over commit, there is a very real chance you will end up posterized. My favorite new feature in the gameplay department this year is the Takeover mechanic. It takes a players momentum and builds it towards a very NBA Jam-esque on fire mode. A players skills are heightened and become a superpowered version of themselves for bit. Think Reggie Miller in the Madison Square Garden, knocking down threes, stealing the rock, knocking down threes, rinse and repeat all while eyeing Spike Lee. Legendary. Thats the feeling you get especially if you Takeover in the final minutes of a game while playing from behind.
Before we get into modes, lets discuss one of the other problems with last years game that still remains a large and looming issue. Microtransactions. This game feels built to drive kids and adults alike to spend large amounts of money to rake in as much Virtual Currency as possible. With that said, the MyCareer mode is by far the standout mode. It provides a story mode mode with RPG mechanics around your personally crafted player. Choosing skills is akin to choosing your class in something like Skyrim. Those skills will drive what your player is and aspires to be. Titled “The Way Back” the mode plays out with some familiar actors carrying out acting duties (I’m looking at your Falcon.) Playing as a character that went undrafted, you must go overseas to even a crack at the NBA’s minor leagues.
There is some serious attention to detail in these decisions including what I believe to be Chinese or Mandarin language broadcasting when playing in China. Just wow. Another star of the MyCareer mode is the “My Neighborhood” which acts as a hub for you to find players to play online and rank up your player. Playing 2 on 2 and 3 on 3 games on the blacktop is a great change of pace from the traditional presentation packed goodness of the 5 on 5 standard game mode. You will also find a plethora of options to deck out your baller including shoes from companies you might recognize as well as tattoos and outfits.
This is where one glaring issue rares its ugly head once again, microtransactions. I support cosmetic upgrades in most games but here it certainly feels like gambling. You can play other players FOR VIRTUAL CURRENCY in the Ante-Up casino. You wont be able to max your player out using Virtual Currency but you certainly give him a large boost. VC has got to go but it will not as it is a huge money maker for the company. Very unfortunate.
Not unlike Maddens Ultimate team is MyTeam, 2K’s version of the card collecting game. By playing the game, players can accrue MT points and unlock packs of cards to build onto their very average team these modes always start you out with. Yet again, however, Virtual Currency can be bought and used to pull new players and build out your team removing the grind that makes this mode great. By playing the mode with Virtual Currency, this mode can very easily carry you through to next years game. It can be a slow grind to get to a point where you possess a dominant team but that slow grind is intentional and seems as a ploy to sell you more Virtual Currency.
My gripes with Virtual Currency aside, NBA 2K19 is the absolute best simulation of basketball, period. In the recent years 2K’s only real competition in NBA Live has really ramped up the quality and with that gap closing, it will be interesting to see what the next few years of Take Two’s flagship title look like. Will they continue to play it safe or will they become the innovators that got them to this point in the first place? Only time will tell but as for this year, it marks another stellar entry in the long running, beloved series.