NBA 2K19 Review

Every year, the NBA 2K series delivers a top-level basketball product to gamers. And despite being at the top for so long, they’ve done a great job of not becoming complacent and continuing to push the bar higher and higher.

With the release of NBA 2K19 many are wondering if 2K Sports is able to once again top the standard they set for themselves, or if the competition is starting to catch up.

Presentation

For a while, NBA 2K has been the series to emulate as far as presentation goes in a sports title as no other game quite gives you the feeling that you’re watching a real life sports broadcast as opposed to a video game. With NBA 2K19, that bar continues to rise. Whether it’s from even more pregame intros and player warm-ups when you start a game, the constant stat overlays that pop up throughout the game that satisfy stat nerds like myself, or the amazing commentators in the game, NBA 2K19 just brings it.

Having Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett return to the team doesn’t move the needle too much for me. However adding Bill Simmons as a guest commentator was a huge get, especially for sports podcast listeners like myself. That is unless he’s commentating a Celtics game, then I might have to put it on mute. Sorry Bill, there’s only so much homerism I can take in a video game.

NBA 2K19 Kyrie Irving Dribble
Bill Simmons will love talking about Irving this year

And we can’t forget Doris Burke, Brent Barry, Greg Anthony, and Kevin Harlan, who are as great as always as they do a amazing job of making sure there isn’t too much dead air in the action. To add to it, the variety of topic discussions during a game, that sometime almost seem made up on the spot, is a treat. During a Sixers game, they went from talking about Ben Simmons to then discussing some of the best pick-and-roll ball handlers in the league. It’s good stuff.

To my surprise, the great work on the mic even extends to the G League announcers in MyCareer Mode. They brought a different vibe, almost like a college student doing this on their day off…at least to me; they were equally engaging. If only I had spent more time in the G League just to hear those guys call more of my games.

Gameplay

In my honest opinion defense has received the most love so far.

With the removal of the blow-by animation ball handlers could trigger very easily in 2K18, it creates a trickle-down effect of less high-percentage shots at the rim, thus keeping guys on their man around the perimeter.

I also love the addition of causing ball handlers to lose fatigue when they dribble too much, making their moves slower and less effective. It’s a welcome addition, and I’ve even had to catch my self from over dribbling a few times now.  I’m sure a lot of people aren’t huge fans of this, but it forces players to become better dribblers instead of holding it all possession just hoping to do something.

What I’m not the biggest fan of are the takeover abilities, as it reminds me too much of NBA Jam with the boost players get. Or maybe, just maybe, I’m upset that whenever I would use it with my MyPlayer I would miss the next shot. Who knows…

Now as you can expect, users instantly became better defenders with the removal of the blow-by animation, but the computer defense has become the stuff of legends now. If you happen to dribble towards another teammate his defender can, and will, swipe at the ball causing you to lose it. When they guard you 1-on-1, the computer will play such suffocating defense that you can barely move; if you dare dribble the ball in front of them on Hall of Fame difficulty, there’s a good chance they will just steal the ball from you.

NBA 2K19 Kyrie Irving
You better be ready if you’re going to try and guard Kyrie

Now on one hand I love this as it teaches players to protect the ball better, but the rate Kris Dunn was stealing my lunch money the second I showed the ball was ridiculous. I was legit afraid to dribble in front of this man late in the game. The computer’s 1-on-1 skills invites players online, especially on the higher difficulties, to play off ball. I mean why wouldn’t they when the computer is a mix of Prime Gary Payton and Kawhi Leonard, but I rather the defense make the offense work then what 2K18 provided any day.

Offensively, they’re as unpredictable as ever thanks to a better mix of play calls. It’s as scary as ever to have to guard an elite ball handler because the AI does a great job of using the correct move at the right time. You never get a chance to get comfortable guarding somebody who has the ability to make your knees touch the floor. And the beautiful use of pump fakes by the computer has gotten me in the air more than I would like to admit only because I wasn’t expecting it.

Now a common issue I’ve found with 2K games over the years is that without sliders, the CPU will shoot a ridiculously high field goal percentage every game. Unfortunately in NBA 2K19, it still remains true which is disheartening. High 50s and mid 60s field goal percentages are not numbers I’m unfamiliar with seeing in the team stats page.

And while I praised the removal of the blow-by animation, and thought I’d be able to better guard the perimeter more now, it’s somehow not the case. Help defense still needs work as defenders over help in situations where they really don’t need to an awful lot. They do it in Play Now Online, they do it on Hall of Fame difficulty in MyLeague, and they do it in Play Now Offline. Default settings were not this bad last year as far as help from defenders.

One thing that was surprising was the computer having a tough time defending pick-and-pops consistently. Either they will leave the screener open four to five straight times despite him being a decent shooter, or it’s made even worse by the overhelping defense where I could end up with two guys open on the same play.

Game Modes

Play Now Online gets its own section this year. I like this mode; I play it a lot every year so I want to know whose idea it was to put in this three tier stuff to select teams.

Now last year they had tiers as well, but you weren’t really restricted. You could go in the settings and say I only want to play teams from the tier my team was in and that would be it. The biggest point was if I wanted to use the Sixers every game, I could.

Now your forced to use — at minimum — three different teams every three games. The league is sectioned off into three tiers, and you have to win a game in each tier with whatever team is in there before you move up a level. You could look at this and go, “this was their solution to prevent people from picking Golden State every time”, but all this does is force more duplicate matchups. Hell, you have to pick a lower team in whatever tier you’re playing to avoid your opponent picking the same team. I mean I had a Suns vs Suns matchup online. It’s highly unlikely I was having that matchup last year.

For MyLeague, the ability to now upload historic draft classes is a cool feature that I can see being expanded upon in the next game. Player mentoring gives us another avenue to develop players, and gives you more reason to add a veteran to the squad if he has the necessary badges you want your young guy to eventually pick up.

Regarding Free Agency, there was a nice mix of players declining and accepting their player options.

As far as the simulation engine goes, there wasn’t anything too outlandish that I’ve seen, like Rudy Gobert averaging 25 and 15.

The Individual free throw attempts aren’t high enough at the top, way too many rebounds are gathered, and assist given by teams as a whole, but other than that the distribution of majority of the individual stats are impressive. Team records are also pretty balanced as there’s a good amount of 50-win ball clubs. So, despite their roster, the Warriors really weren’t blowing everybody out the water record wise.

Now something that I’m sure not a lot of people care about, but I do, is we now have the ability to override every major award and hand it to the winner we think deserves it. That means more Steve Nash and Derrick Rose-like stat lines can earn MVPs once again.

The league meeting rules that you can vote on to change, especially those that pertain to the draft, are some of my favorite parts of the off-season. The lead up to the draft continues to be phenomenal with the combine and draft lottery as well as the pre-draft workouts. Although you don’t see anybody heading up to the podium on draft night, it’s still an overall better experience than how Live handles this portion of the off-season.

Regarding Free Agency, there was a nice mix of players declining and accepting their player options. I did start to get worried, however, with the number of big names who were unrestricted free agents not re-signing with their team.  But, to my surprise, a lot of them ended up going back to their original team. I LOVE THAT. I even offered Karl Anthony Towns a contract which he agreed to surprisingly, but luckily the Timberwolves matched it.

For MYGM, you still have to endure the awkward silence as you read through text, although it’s weird that in MyLeague we have the annoying text sound whenever there’s something we’re supposed to read. The storyline is completely different in NBA 2K19, as your new owner Tex Towers gets the keys to an expansion team, and we’re in charge of getting this off the ground. Early on I did laugh at 2K acknowledging some of the stupid decisions they had us make last year like trading for Vince Carter. But overall with the expansion team element this is a nice sequel to MYGM: The Next Chapter.

NBA 2K19 James HardenThis year’s MyCareer offers the best storyline to date in my opinion, and that’s not just because we can skip cutscenes. We start in the Chinese Basketball Association with our character “A.I.” who, after declaring for the draft as a freshmen, didn’t see things go as planned. To signify just how low it’s gotten for our guy, he literally gets traded for a Subway Footlong sandwich along the way.

Once again, I hate that we’re stuck with another forced nickname, especially when it’s associated with an NBA Legend like Allen Iverson. But what I liked that I found unique was, at least in the beginning, I didn’t really even like my own character. I even agreed with one of his rivals — Marcus Young — at first on one of their initial arguments.

Even your friend, whose really giving your character sound advice, we’re supposed to think differently than. Past 2K MyCareer characters even make appearances as well to show that Marvel isn’t the only one to have a connected universe.

Lastly regarding The Neighborhood, you still basically have to pay VC to walk around in this place. One hundred thousand VC gets your character only to a 75 or so this year as opposed to an 85 sadly, and I legit feel they added the skippable cutscenes to give the grinders some love here. Better animations emotes and perks are still dependent on you reaching a certain level to unlock to then have the privilege to use VC to get.

There’s always going to be pushback to microtransactions, but we as gamers just have to realize that paying $60 for a game isn’t the actual price tag anymore. Other than that, the design of The Neighborhood is a lot better as everything is in one general area now, and there’s a lot more to do that can appeal to everybody. There’s a lot more playability to the mode this year.

Verdict

NBA 2K19 is a game that once again shines during a busy release window. From a fun MyCareer to a deep MyGM — and everything in between — there is literally something for everyone to play.

The game makes the necessary adjustments to huge flaws from the previous year, with nice additions added in that keeps the 2K machine going as the Top Simulation Basketball Game on the market.


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  • Gameplay
  • Game Modes
  • Presentation
  • Longevity

Summary

NBA 2K19 makes the necessary adjustments to huge flaws in the game from the previous year, with nice additions as well that keeps the 2K machine going as the Top Simulation Basketball Game on the market.

Overall
4.5