It would be a disservice to avoid admitting that for most gamers, yearly releases are considered a sin. From copy and paste content and a lack of major visual upgrades to a brand new price-tag, yearly franchises can sometimes feel underwhelming. After playing NBA 2K19, I found that while it does bring new features that basketball fanatics will love, for everyone else, it might just be one of “those” yearly releases.
I have always been a fan of basketball; there’s a strategic aspect to it that unlike other sports, makes watching every team worth the hassle. Jumping into the main menu for the first time, I found that NBA 2K19 offers a surprising amount of content for players to express their love for basketball. From the standard quick match to online matches and MyCareer mode, I never found myself feeling like I was lacking options.
The modes in single-player, while similar to last year’s entry, offer some substantial changes. This is especially true for MyCareer, because while kickoff and online matches are simply better due to the game’s updated physics engine and AI tweaks (both to be discussed later), MyCareer takes a turn for the better. Now players find themselves starting in China, not being good enough for the US league, where they must prove their worth before returning to their home country to make it proud. For some this approach may sound cliché, but I found that the feeling of worthlessness made it so that I desired to be better, ultimately leading me to learn a few new tricks that I would have not caught onto otherwise.
A big constraint with NBA 2K18 was how it pushed micro-transactions to the limit, locking hairstyles and clothing amongst other relevant items behind severe paywalls. That is gone with 2K19, which instead offers more ways of grinding for money, but also keeps its micro-currency, although is cheaper now, so that’s also a notable plus.
Graphically speaking, NBA 2K19 is as impressive as ever, and with the power of the Xbox One, it truly shows. Players have a deeper sense of weight while also looking more defined, jerseys react to different lighting conditions, narrations have so much variation that they can feel awkwardly real, the crowd has more assets and interaction than ever…the list goes on. To put it simply, in the graphics department, NBA 2K19 captures what it means to be a sport game in its best light, a realistic experience that takes the real-life thrill of the sport and displays it in its full glory anytime, anywhere.
Being a sports game, however, it’s only natural that the “copy and paste” comments come second nature to those who fail to find any joy in the 2K installments. While graphical and roster updates can bring new life to more affectionate players, they have without a doubt become expected in the genre. Fortunately for 2K19, I found that its new AI tweaks were what truly made this entry fresh. Unlike their predecessors, teammates in 2K19 now take advantage of multiple sides of the court. This coupled with the opponents’ smarter guard make matches less linear while also allowing for more complex maneuvers to have a sense of purpose never seen in a 2K entry.
When combined, graphics and AI are what truly made this a memorable experience for me. Running across the court is no longer a viable option, forcing strategic team plays that feel rewarding when pulled off. Not only that, but with the extra weight, scoring takes getting used to, however that too is a technique that feels worthy of every minute it takes to learn to its intricacies.
Despite feeling fresh, 2K19 is also extremely easy to pick up. This is not only due to the MyCareer mode’s incredible effort in being a prolonged tutorial, but the game provides in-depth guide that teaches new players just exactly when and how to pull out the sickest of dribbles and passes. It’s this level of care that makes 2K19 feel like a title that had hearts and souls poured into it.
Sure, it may feel like a beloved creation, sure, it may have fantastic gameplay, but the question still remains: is this new enough to warrant another $60? Well, to diehard or even mild lovers of basketball, I believe that the revamped gameplay makes this title worth a look, but for those who consider themselves casuals, 2K18 still provides the same level of fun as 2K19, albeit less polished.
With every yearly release, the NBA 2K series has added substantial improvements that further break the barrier between video game and reality and NBA 2K19 is no different. With an updated roster, a continuation of the career mode, and overhauled gameplay physics, NBA2K19 is a solid sports entry… whether or not that is worth full price will depend on one’s love for basketball.