The NBA 2K series has had some fairly major ups and downs. It’s a series that has promised the ultimate basketball experience for years now, but it never really seems to live up to its own hype. NBA 2K19 is here now, and it manages to get closer to perfection than any other recent entry in the series. It feels like your running your own real life nba team.
Sports games live and die by their controls, so it’s good that NBA 2K19 remains solid. In fact, calling the controls solid is actually a bit of an understatement – they’re honestly better than they have ever been. Better player movements and tighter playcalling make this year’s iteration as smooth as it has ever been, with more plays succeeding and failing due to skill than to bad controls. It’s exactly what most people want when it comes to a basketball game, and there’s nothing to complain about when it comes to the controls.
A lot of praise needs to be heaped on this year’s AI. Both teammate and opponent AI feel like they’ve gotten some major overhauls, and you’ll find yourself feeling much more like you’re playing a real basketball game than in previous iterations. Bad AI can really tear a game like this apart, so it’s nice to see the game succeed at something that’s so easily overlooked. For once, you’ll get to be part of a unit instead of just depending on the player that you’re controlling to win every game.
The NBA 2K series has always looked great, with the latest iterations being closer to life than most would suspect. In fact, this series is really easy to confuse for real basketball, at least until the camera gets too close to the players. This trend continues with 2K19, subtly tweaking some of the animations and the lighting to make an even more fluid experience. Combined with authentic courts and gear, this is as close as most people are ever going to get to coordinating a real NBA roster. What’s even better, though, is that the animations this year actually work.
One of the big flaws with the 2K series has always been how its animations get buggy. This is almost inevitable, of course, but many of those bugs also function as exploits. There’s a lot less of that this year, with most of the animation bugs being little more than amusing one-time incidents. It’d be nice to see a perfect experience, but it’s also understandable that something with so many moving parts is going to have problems from time to time. What’s great, though, is that everything is now so fluid that you can forgive most of the mistakes.
Story and Season
This year’s story is “The Way Back”, and it’s honestly a very fun mode to play through. Much better than last year’s story, this year manages to have a bit of heart while not being unbearably cheesy. This mode isn’t exactly going to win awards for content, but it’s still one of the better sports stories you’re going to see in a game. If you’re willing to give it a chance, you’ll notice some great voice acting and some legitimately compelling moments. While most players aren’t coming to the game for the story, this will give many people a reason to stick around.
While “The Way Back” is definitely an improvement over last year, the same can’t necessarily be said about the game’s other modes. MyCareer is still a slog, and MyGM is still a lot of fun. MyLeague brings in a few novel concepts when it comes to running an entire league, but MyTeam is still absolutely a virtual currency grind. All of these modes are fine, of course, but there’s nothing that stands out. NBA 2K19 definitely continues to coast on what has worked in previous iterations, at least as far as gameplay modes are concerned.
This year’s big selling point is the relaxation of virtual currency. Yes, you’re going to end up being tempted to buy it but it’s no longer a necessity. You can finally get free haircuts and grinding out a player’s stats isn’t impossible. The virtual currency is still annoying when it comes to MyTeam and various other aspects of the game, but it’s not nearly as bad as it has been.
The only other major point to cover is the Neighborhood. Hub worlds rarely pan out for multiplayer games and 2K19 hasn’t solved the problem yet. It’s a great place to look at ways to earn and spend VC, but it’s ultimately an empty experience.
NBA 2K19 is a great game. It’s much better than last year’s effort, largely thanks to improved AI and less VC shilling. There’s still a lot that hasn’t been touched since last year, but the basics of the game are as good as they have ever been.