It’s time to hit the court again with the NBA’s biggest video game franchise. New features such as legendary teams and the WNBA join the solid core gameplay 2K fans expect year over year. Begin your journey with NBA 2K20, out now for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.
NBA 2K20 Details
Looking good as always
NBA 2K20 consistently inspires a mixed bag of emotions in fans and critics alike. The franchise is regularly lauded for its incredible graphics and realistic physics. Yet every year it also faces heavy backlash for its pervasive implementation of virtual currency and micro-transactions.
With regard to the former, NBA 2K20 is as visually impressive as ever. Its always notable to me that during this time of year, when so many sports titles are releasing, NBA 2K20 somehow manages to stand out even among a cohort of sports simulations that are visually impressive in their own right. While playing on my Xbox One X in particular I can’t help but feel continually blown away with how far games have come.
The subject of the latter, however, is a bit more tricky. It’s true that NBA 2K20 is steeped in a virtual currency system that offers players significant rewards for participating. Micro-transactions are always optional, but naturally some games see the impact of abstaining more than others. It would be naive to say that NBA 2K20 doesn’t play differently depending on player’s willingness to engage in the economy.
That said, I was granted the “Legend” edition of NBA 2K20 for this review, which comes with a healthy advance in valuable virtual currency. However, I ultimately decided to refrain from using it during this time. Therefore all my perspective going forward is in respect to playing with only the free currency earned in-game.
A cinematic experience
NBA 2K20’s core narrative mode is “MyCareer”. Here you’ll craft a player using the game’s “MyPlayer” character editor and take them on a journey from college hoops through to the NBA. Along the way you’ll complete activities both on and off the court that will impact your career progression.
The story driven cutscenes of MyCareer mode are deeply cinematic—in fact I almost hesitate to call them cutscenes at all. At times they truly blur the lines between a video game and what you would expect from a passive viewing experience.
The cast itself is very high caliber, led by Hollywood A-lister Idris Elba, along with big names like Rosario Dawson, Thomas Middleditch, and many more recognizable names. Not to mention a healthy dose of current and former NBA superstars as well. Their crafty performances along with stunning cinematography and a strong script are what truly make the narrative of MyCareer stand out.
Hopefully you’re in the mood for such a cinematic experience however, because it takes up a lot of the early portion of MyCareer—and I do mean a lot. Some of the story beats between actual gameplay scenarios clock in at very lengthy timeframes, occasionally approaching the length of a short episode of a television program! You may want to settle in with some popcorn between actual gameplay and enjoy the show, trust me you’ll have time.
Welcome to the WNBA
For the first time ever, all 12 WNBA teams are playable in NBA 2K20, and players can enjoy a full WNBA calendar in season mode. The game includes a roster of over 140 current WNBA players.
The inclusion of the WNBA is a real feather in the cap of the franchise in my opinion. What I really appreciate is how the women aren’t simply a re-skin of the men. They have their own visuals and gameplay animations that look and feel genuinely authentic to the women’s game.
The WNBA feature also includes it’s own voice-over commentary, and again 2K definitely did not skimp on the robust nature of the mode. It almost feels like a whole other game within the game, and I really hope that the franchise continues to include and improve upon the WNBA in years to come.
Other modes and features
For the most part the rest of the bulk of NBA 2K20 feels a lot like last year’s entry. Staple modes such as MyGM and MyLeague allow players to take over operations for their favourite NBA franchise.
One new addition however to franchise play is the ability to choose from legendary former rosters, such as the ’90-’91 Chicago Bulls, or the ’97-’98 Utah Jazz for example. Every team has at least one legendary roster, and they can be added or substituted in by creating a custom league.
I really enjoy this feature, especially since the height of my own NBA fandom peaks around the mid-90s. I even elected to create a custom league of all 90’s legendary rosters. I only wish there was a quicker way to sub in legendary rosters than cycling through a team at a time. I’d like to see the option to default all teams at once to one of their legendary rosters.
And of course the often controversial MyTeam mode is once again front and center. Here is where you will really need to decide if you wish to supplement your experience with additional virtual currency. There are plenty of activities to participate in with MyTeam, both single player and multiplayer. However, developing your team is painfully slow when only relying on natural progression.
NBA 2K20 looks and plays great, and the inclusion of the WNBA is a huge bonus.
As always NBA 2K20 is at the top tier of realistic sports simulations. It plays as great as ever, and the inclusion of both the WNBA as well as classic legendary rosters is a big plus. The cinematic elements of MyCareer are really impressive, and benefit greatly from an all-star collection of performances from big stars.
NBA 2K20’s ongoing battle with its notorious image as a haven for micro-transactions is still a distraction for the series. There is nonetheless plenty to do in the game without relying on them, but they will always be a sticking point for those who choose to dwell on them. Participation is optional, but players will have to decide for themselves whether or not the economy taints the experience.
+ Incredible graphics
+ All 12 WNBA teams and legendary rosters
+ Cinematic experience in MyCareer
– Heavy-handed micro-transactions
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF NBA 2K20
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5