This title was reviewed on Xbox One, but is also available on PS4 and PC.
So my basketball jam isn’t over yet. After covering both NBA Live 19 and the NBA 2K19 Prelude, it was inevitable that I check out the full version. Considering how much The Prelude impressed me despite being so similar to previous instalments, I went into NBA 2K19 excited, but after the travesty that was 2K18, I had to keep reservations somewhere. Does NBA 2K19 live up to the excitement that The Prelude generated? Let’s get into it.
From a graphical standpoint, I don’t blame you if you’d think I was playing an earlier entry, as it looks quite similar to 2K18, although that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The presentation here is spot on, looking like you’re watching a basketball match on your TV with accurate camera angles and cutaways. The character models still look a bit off to me though, and I saw a lot of clipping and animation quirks during my time with the game, such as a guy on the bench walking straight through my coach or arms going through heads. The detail of the stadiums does help overshadow the dodgy models and animations though, as things like the crowd and the floor look pretty damn solid. Overall, while looking similar, 2K19 is a looker for the most part.
One thing that I took away from The Prelude was its fantastic storytelling. Thankfully, the full game carries on what I loved so much about The Prelude. The game’s MyCareer mode is technically split into 2 modes, with the full Prelude experience at the beginning setting up what becomes your normal MyCareer experience. In this Prelude, the story is fantastic, and shows your character’s struggles to get into the NBA, and the brilliant storytelling and cinematography that I loved about The Prelude continues here and carries the story well. It moves at a quick pace, with you moving from Shanghai to L.A to Fort Wayne quite quickly, but there’s room for some hard hitting and hilarious moments, and it leads to plenty of variety aside from your basic basketball matches. Examples include playing a 2V2 by a barn and playing on an NBA 2K arcade machine complete with downgraded graphics. My only real complaint is that it ‘ends’ too soon, although technically it doesn’t end as much as it transitions to the proper MyCareer mode with less emphasis on story.
If you’ve played any of the more recent 2K entries, you’ll know what to expect here, as 2K19 feels more like an incremental change over previous instalments, feeling similar yet more refined at the same time. While I do prefer the faster pace of NBA Live 19, the gameplay of 2K19 did grow on me, and the improved AI and smoother refinements make this feel better than previous instalments. The incremental change makes this a double-edged sword though, as I’d recommend it to new players as it is the most refined gameplay thus far, but I can see how veterans of the series may get put off by playing a game so similar to previous instalments, but that’s all up to personal opinion.
So gameplay is solid, but it helps if there’s a decent amount of content to do it in, and thankfully 2K19 doesn’t disappoint, as there’s a ton of modes to play. You have your exhibition custom matches, the 2-part MyCareer, the 2KU tutorial mode, the MyLeague which splits into GM Mode and an 80 year league mode, the Ultimate Team-esque MyTeam mode, the Black Top and a few more to boot. All of these modes are solid in their own right, with the MyCareer beginning with the fantastic Prelude and then turning into your familiar mode where you complete endorsements and sponsorships, transfer from different teams and basically become the best in the game. GM Mode is as solid as it’s ever been with some in-depth management mechanics, which made me think back to the fantastic GM Modes in the early WWE Games. My favourite little distraction mode has to be the Black Top though. The Black Top allows you to play 1v1s all the way up to 5v5s with custom teams, and the roster is absolutely massive. You have your choice from pretty much the entirety of the current NBA roster, a roster of classic teams dating back to the 50s, and an All-Time list alongside your created character. So of course I created a 3-man team of Shaq, Magic and Jordan and dominated the field just because I could. There’s so much content here that you’ll be playing for a while.
Not everything is peachy here though. Because this is 2018, of course the game has microtransactions. Rather than level up your character regularly, you earn VC, which is a staple in all the 2K sports games. You can earn it in-game, although it feels a bit skimped in terms of earnings and the price for stats seems tight. So of course you can purchase VC using real-life money. You’re encouraged to purchase it as well, as your MyCareer player starts off at a useless OVR 60, so you want to purchase VC to level up your character so he’s actually useful. On top of that, you unlock new content when you reach certain milestones, such as unlocking dyable hair when you reach 65. This means you either have to grind or pay up more money to unlock more content and expand the somewhat limited character creator. Speaking of the character creator, it’s limited in terms of visuals, with hairstyles and such, but indepth in terms of sculpting and how stats are affected, with height, weight and wingspan affecting your play style and stats, which is a nice touch.
The audio here is top notch. While I felt as though the music wasn’t my cup of tea during The Prelude, I was able to hear a lot more of the music during my time with the full game, and there were a bunch of tracks I recognised and loved, which is a testament to the variety and solidity of the soundtrack. The commentary during matches is solid and varied depending on the arena you play in and the atmosphere given by the crowd and player callouts is just great. Overall, I love the audio here.
While I was reserved in my excitement after 2K18, NBA 2K19 has thoroughly impressed me. The MyCareer Prologue is fantastically shot, voiced and written, and it leads into a solid and familiar MyCareer mode. There’s also so many modes to sink your teeth into, all of which are solid and well done. The gameplay may feel a bit slower compared to NBA Live 19¸but it has a lot of refinement over its predecessor. Admittedly, it isn’t perfect, as it feels and looks very similar to 2K18 and has some poor microtransactions, but there’s a lot of fun still here to have. While veterans may feel the game is too familiar, I’d say the heap of content and refinements make this a great jumping-on point for new players.