If you put NBA 2K19 right next to NBA 2K18 I can’t say with any conviction that I’d be able to tell the two games apart. They’d both look amazing. Putting hands-on either game, I don’t think I could instantly tell the gameplay differences between the two, nor would I be able to dig into the menus and find any real new options. NBA 2K19 is a marginal upgrade to last year’s game and feels like a roster update to NBA 2K18 with a few bullet points that translate to minimal improvements in some of the gameplay systems.
Visual Concepts isn’t changing much each year with the 2K series, but they really haven’t had much pressure from the competition in recent years. While the NBA Live series has been making significant improvements in the last couple iterations, they’re still not close to re-capturing the crown when it comes to video game hoops. For the last few years, NBA 2K has basically given players all they can handle in terms of content for their game and it’s all built on the bedrock of a fundamentally sound basketball simulation. All the modes work in NBA 2K because the gameplay and visuals are best in class. The My Career and My Team modes cater to those who are highly engaged with the game on a multiplayer level, while modes like My GM and My League give those who want to dive into the franchise simulation modes some of the deepest stuff to date.
While you won’t find much that is groundbreaking in NBA 2K19, the on-the-court gameplay systems have been refined this year. The shot meter has been retooled with a bunch of options for players to customize the meter to their liking. Players no longer automatically contest shots. Steals have also been reworked to use a zone system where players can look for open opportunities to swipe at the ball. There’s also a new Takeover system. It’s somewhat of an spin-off of the already existing systems in the game where players can get hot by doing specific things depending on their archetype. If a player fills the Takeover meter, they’ll get access to a new tier of abilities so long as they are still on fire. These bonuses will be things that make sense for players who attain them. J.J. Reddick won’t be dunking from the free throw line anytime soon. It’s a relatively small list of things to look out for in this year’s release.
NBA 2K19 is yet another stunning game on the visual and presentation front. Visual Concepts has their player models and animations down cold, and they have for some time. It’s by far the best looking hoops game on the market, even if NBA Live is starting to make a run when it comes to quality. One of the ugliest parts of last year’s game was the incredible amount of clipping that you could see on the court. This wasn’t a huge problem when looking at the game at its normal speed, but when slowing down to look at replays you could see that there was a lot of it. Visual Concepts hasn’t eradicated the problem completely, but NBA 2K19 continues to take strides towards collision detection perfection. It’s all enveloped by a television style broadcast that very much rivals real life, with announcers that you’ll recognize, life-like arenas, and modern licensed music setting the tone.
Once again, about half of the game feels like it was designed with the sole intention of selling virtual currency to players. Both the My Career mode and My Team mode seem like they’re only around to try and make you spend more money past your initial $60 (or more depending on version you buy). They’re filled with grind-heavy progression systems that are constantly nudging you to help lighten the load by taking the shortcut of purchasing a virtual currency that can instantly make your character better. If it’s not pay-to-win, I’m not sure what is. On the first day, a person could effectively purchase enough currency to make their character more “powerful” than those who choose not to take this path. They can then take this player into online matches for in-game rewards in the My Park mode which features a hub that players can compete with each other in pick-up games, collect items from the numerous stores, customize their character, and level-up by performing different tasks. In My Career the grind is real. My Team is a little bit better, but still geared towards making you spend. The randomly generated cards that you’ll get out of the card packs in the game are what fill out your roster. You spend Virtual Currency or My Team Currency to get these packs, so the more money you have to spend the better your team can potentially be. Both of these modes are actually pretty good, until you get to the spot where the screws get tightened down and you have to decide whether the time your spending is worth it or if spending more money would actually be a better course of action.
For those who would rather not dip their toes in this microtransaction filled pool, thankfully there’s still a lot to love here with NBA 2K19. For those who want the franchise mode, this game has a great one that is incredibly deep. The My League and My GM modes are some of the deepest we’ve ever seen. With so many different options at your figertips to build a franchise, this is a mode that you can get lost in as you are going to go deep into the management simulation here, dealing with things like free agents, drafting, scouting, making trades, all the while actually playing the game. The My League and My GM modes are robust for the simulation fan and online Leagues return this year as well. You can get together with friends to host an online league which features all of the attention to detail that the offline leagues have. It’s one of the funnest ways to play NBA 2K with friends. Of course, there’s still a ton of other ways to play NBA 2K19. It’s got your standard single player, single game settings. You can still play locally. There’s a blacktop mode for playing some streetball. There’s a team-up mode. There really isn’t much to say when it comes to the modes of NBA 2K19. It features almost every conceivable way that you’d want to play video game hoops with single player and online content found for whether you want to play indoor or outdoor hoops with or without friends.
NBA 2K19 takes no huge strides this year. It’s par for the course for the series, incredibly high quality, with plenty of ways to play.
NBA 2K19 isn’t the most exciting release the series has had. There really isn’t anything that makes it stand out significantly, other than the overall level quality that we’ve come to expect from the series. Another year, another outstanding release for the series. There still isn’t a better alternative when it comes to video game basketball.
- This article was updated on September 13th, 2018