I should start this review off by saying that I’m personally not all that interested in Basketball; I have an understanding of the rules and I enjoy watching the All-Star games, but beyond that, I have literally no knowledge of players and teams beyond the early 2000s
With that being said, I jumped into NBA 2K19 – what some of my friends called “probably the best basketball simulation series” with an open mind and probably some sense of doggedness and scepticism.
Is NBA 2K19 really that good of a basketball game? The short answer to the above question is yes, it is.
The core mechanics of the game were solid if a little difficult to grasp at first. Admittedly, it is not the easiest sports game to pick up and play, but once you grasp the core concepts, each match becomes a challenging yet rewarding experience.
Scoring against an opponent quickly becomes a joy and every defence is an endeavour; it is as if I were playing an actual game of basketball.
Graphically, NBA2k19 looks stunning. Casual gamers might have a tough time distinguishing in-game footage and a real-life NBA match, with an example being my roommate, who walked in on me playing and questioned why I was watching the NBA – a testament to NBA2K19’s ability to make everything as lifelike as possible, with next to no graphical glitches experienced during my playthrough.
Games have their own niche when it comes to controls. NBA2K19 seems to be similar to previous games in the franchise, though largely refined, giving you more options and animations to weave around a defensive opponent, dribble past guards, and a myriad of set-ups, lay-ups, throws and dunks.
It did take me a couple of casual games to get a grip on all the controls, but once you get going with the tricks you’ll really find it hard to stop.
All that I have mentioned so far are just things you can experience when you start an exhibition game or when you play online. The true meat of NBA2k19 is when you get into the different game modes.
MyLeague is the equivalent of a season mode, where you can play for as long as 80 seasons in a recreation of the NBA. From what I’ve played so far, each season can be different, with different rules changes, draft picks, changing lineups or even relocation of your team affecting matters in-game.
If that sounds too daunting for just casual play, you could always just adjust some settings so all you do is play basketball.
Another mode available is the MyGM mode, where you play as an NBA general manager. What is interesting is that there is a narrative attached to the mode, and whether the implementation is good or bad is up to your interpretation, but for myse,lf I actually tuned out from the story and just enjoyed the aspects of the mode itself.
Lastly, there is a MyCareer mode, long touted to be one of the key selling points of the NBA2k franchise – where you take control of 1 created baller and play out that character’s entire sporting career. There are cutscenes and a story involved this year as well, but it is in this mode that I found myself slightly disappointed.
In MyCareer, you take control of “A.I.”, a college basketball star who gets undrafted and is forced to play in China, and then slowly works his way into the NBA. The narrative had some potential to be interesting but there are some problems with its execution.
The initial portion where A.I. plays in China is interesting, and it even features somewhat convincing Chinese commentary. But sometimes taking the longest and hardest route to the top is just that – and at the same time tiring and uninspired.
The larger problem is A.I. himself – He is arrogant, selfish, stubborn and makes stupid decisions you don’t have much control over. It doesn’t really feel like MY career when you have to accept that all those personality traits just somehow apply to you.
Add in some very long and obtrusive cutscenes and some very restricted cosmetic customization options held back by our worst nightmare – microtransactions, and I’m personally left with a bad taste in the mouth. Some other players might still find merit in this mode, but the only saving grace I found in MyCareer mode is the brilliant gameplay.
All in all, NBA2k19 is still probably the best simulation of basketball and the NBA at the moment. It has the gameplay, presentation and polish to back up the swagger. While there are some missteps in MyCareer and some cosmetic options being held hostage behind microtransactions, NBA2k19 is a wholly enjoyable experience and a fantastic way to enjoy virtual basketball.