Last year was an odd year for the NBA 2K franchise. On one hand they put out a brilliant game with stellar gameplay, rich modes, and a beautiful recreation of the NBA. On the other, they were marred by bad press (from media and fans) from launch onward for implementation of micro transactions. The short story was, in order to advance your created player in NBA 2K18, you had to endlessly grind to level them up - or pay the piper. A year later I was fascinated to see how 2K Sports and Visual Concepts would respond to the criticism. Well, let’s jump in.
Let’s start with the easiest and most obvious part of my review for anyone that’s played a recent version of NBA 2K. The gameplay has been and continues to be some of the best - if not the best - in sport games in the business. Visual Concepts continues to blow the competition away with its realistic portrayal of basketball. Whether it’s the unique animations that many of the NBA stars have, the accurate recreations of NBA arenas, or best-in-class presentation package, it’s all still alive and well in NBA 2K19. I don’t want to come off like I am overlooking this because NBA 2K series continues to amaze me with each game. I’ve probably out hundred hours into the last two entries in it and yet I’m still amazed by some of the smaller touches to bring the real sport to the video game. There have been some small improvements to the court play as well. No longer can you easily drive to the hoop with a quick player as defensive players tend to cover the hoop far better then they have in the recent years. This adds an extra layer of strategy to each time you bring the ball down the court.
I found that my play changed quite a bit in NBA 2K19. I went with less driving to the hoop and more passing and screens. This actually even made me better at my post-up game than I have been in recent years. There’s also a new takeover mechanic that is reminiscent of “on fire” mode in old NBA Jam. Get in a rhythm and fill up the meter, and you will unlock badges for your payer which will make them pretty unstoppable. You’re not going to drain half-court shots (unless you’re Curry) but it does make for some pretty thrilling moments.
My favorite part of past NBA 2K games has been the career modes and this year it might be my favorite in a long time. You play as AI (another terrible name) who comes out of college too early and doesn’t get drafted in the NBA. You meet up with AI as he’s playing for a team in Shanghai, doing everything he can to be noticed by the NBA in the hopes of making to a team. There’s still some cringeworthy dialogue but more than in the last couple of years, the heart is now in the right place. I don’t want to spoil anything more about the career mode other than to say I found its pacing and characters to be some of the best the series has seen.
The one caveat to the games career and player progression is that although it’s a step in the right direction, there still is a major grind for leveling up your player. Slightly anecdotal but it does feel like VC (virtual currency) points are a little more liberally given out this year but not by much. There’s still far too much grinding to do to make any progress, unless you want to invest quite a bit of real money into it.
NBA 2K19 has a ton of other modes, including a collectible card game, a full-fledged franchise mode, and quite a bit of online play. I could spend another five or six paragraphs going through each of these in detail but it wouldn’t have any impact on my overall feel of NBA 2K19. I come to this game for the career and franchise modes, and I can say both are stellar this year. Combined with a stellar presentation, NBA 2K19 is one of the best sports games on the market.
I'm the Owner & Editor in Chief of Darkstation.com. After spending seven years as the reviews editor I took over the site in 2010. The rest is history. Now I work with our amazing staff to bring you the best possible video game coverage. Oh and I really like sports games.