2K Games is back with another entry into the longest-running active basketball franchise in video games. The question is, have they done enough to stay ahead of the competition over at EA Sports, who are continually improving on their own version of NBA action? NBA 2K19 is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
NBA 2K19 Details
Incredible graphics and submersive gameplay
I’ll start out by noting that my review of NBA 2K19 is based on the Playstation 4 version of the game. I love the idea that there is a portable version of NBA 2K19 out there on Nintendo Switch. That said, we all know the graphics will always shine best on a more powerful console, and playing on my PlayStation Pro was well worth it.
In recent years it has been easier and easier to comment on the realism of graphics in sports games. I still remember the first time—nearly 4 years ago now—when a family member first briefly mistook a game I was playing for a genuine TV sporting event. Today NBA 2K19 easily takes the cake as the most immersive game yet in my experience.
NBA 2K19 looks so genuine on my powerful PlayStation 4 Pro and 4K TV that it’s easy to fall into the fantasy of simulating real NBA action. The character models exude precise detail and their physical movements are so spot on, it’s hard not to picture a live broadcast. NBA 2K19 is among the elite in sports realism, if not the outright king of the hill.
Robust game modes
There are plenty of ways to spend your time in NBA 2K19. If you are a franchise mode traditionalist, you have the option to create a MyLeague (with or without custom rosters) and guide it through an entire 80 years of history. You can run a fantasy draft to populate your team or even just sit back and run things as a General Manager in MyGM.
If random player-collecting and team building are more your style, MyTeam fills this gap. Akin to EA Sports’ “Ultimate Team” mode, here is where you’ll start with a middling roster of random players, supplementing and strengthening your lineup as you go by opening card packs. As always, be prepared to either grind endlessly or open up your wallet if you hope to fill out your roster with notable superstars.
However, the cornerstone of NBA 2K19 is MyCareer, which essentially serves as a story mode that ultimately folds into a long term role-playing style career of player progression. You’ll create a custom player and lead them on a quest for NBA stardom, choosing their role and improving their skills along the way.
It all starts here
MyCareer mode starts out with your custom player failing to be drafted to an NBA franchise. Instead, you’ll journey all the way to China. Here you will begin the narrative journey to get noticed and fight your way to the top.
There are some pretty cool features complementing the early story portion of MyCareer. For example, your games in China are complemented by full Mandarin commentary. It also features some legitimate and recognizable acting talents such as Anthony Mackie and Haley Joel Osment. The acting and dialogue are definitely on point.
Of course once the more linear story portion of MyCareer plays out, the mode branches out with a number of different ways to play with your custom player. You can continue to progress through your NBA legacy, or play online in various modes of street ball. All the while you can upgrade your skills and also deck out your player with cosmetics that can be earned or purchased outright with in-game currency.
So far everything about NBA 2K19 sounds pretty great. Intense, realistic graphics combined with deep and satisfying game modes—it sounds like the perfect game. Unfortunately the downside hanging over NBA 2K19′s head is its ubiquitous reliance on VC, or “Virtual Currency”. It’s shoehorned in to nearly every aspect of the game.
VC isn’t just delegated to the card-collecting “MyTeam” mode like it often is in other sports games with similar modes. Instead it can be used all over NBA 2K19. Not just for cosmetics, but also as a fast track to skills and boosts in MyCareer mode as well.
Naturally you can always grind out your currency instead, but the game is (not surprisingly) weighted much more in favour of encouraging you to just spend some extra cash. It’s hard enough to swallow microtransactions in some sports game that focus on a single mode that benefits from them.
It’s such a shame that NBA 2K19 continues to choose to liberally sprinkle them everywhere. Even in its benchmark custom player progression mode.
Sounds of the court
One of my biggest criticisms of NBA 2K19’s chief competitor NBA Live 19 is its audio commentary track. I must say that NBA 2K19 is definitely leaps and bounds ahead in this regard. It has fantastic voice-over from renowned media personalities. That said, I should mention that I still encountered some poor contextual mistakes here and there.
In fact, on the very first play of my very first game, I knocked the ball away from the opposing point guard just as they crossed the half court line. As they went back to retrieve it, sparking an inevitable back court violation, the commentator was quick to remark “Oops, I guess he wasn’t watching the line”.
Truthfully he was watching the line just fine. This was clearly not a case of mistaken positioning, but rather the inevitable result of a good defensive play. It’s a bit of a nitpick against what is overall some pretty good audio commentary. However, considering my earlier take on NBA Live 19, I felt like I couldn’t just let it go here.
NBA 2K19 shines on powerful consoles
I have the pleasure of reviewing quite a few sports games this time of year. NBA 2K19 may just be the best looking one of the whole bunch however. Don’t get me wrong—the competition is not far behind. We live in a pretty spectacular time for visual sports simulations. Still, NBA 2K19 really seems to have that extra pop on consoles like the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One.
There’s a lot to do in NBA 2K19. It’s just a bummer that nearly every one pushes 2K’s virtual currency. Regardless, I love developing my character in MyCareer mode, or just enjoying the game’s excellent mechanics while working towards a long overdue NBA title for the Utah Jazz. In my opinion the gap is closing, but for now NBA 2K19 is still the best NBA franchise in gaming.
+ Amazing graphics
+ Robust game modes
+ Satisfying storyline for MyCareer
– Virtually currency underscores nearly every aspect of the game
– Earning rewards through gameplay is a big grind
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF NBA 2K19
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 3.75/5
Overall Rating 4/5 (80%)