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NBA 2K19

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Sports
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Visual Concepts
Release Date: Sept. 11, 2018

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PS4 Review - 'NBA 2K19'

by Michael Keener on Oct. 12, 2018 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

NBA 2K19 continues the franchise's tradition as the gold standard of basketball simulation across all platforms with unrivaled realism and true NBA gameplay.

Buy NBA 2K19

Another year, another iteration in the fantastic NBA 2K series. This year, NBA 2K19 presents a bunch of gameplay changes and some great updates to the game modes, such as MyTeam and MyPlayer. The game will feel better but different, and unfortunately, microtransactions have returned this year and have become more of an issue. Not only are microtransactions used to boost MyPlayer stats, but it's also starting to plague the MyTeam mode.

NBA 2K19 feels more like a simulation than previous installments, for all the good and bad that entails. For example, blowing by defenders with only boosting is almost nonexistent now, unless it's an athletic mismatch, which means the driving game is a less viable option. The computer defense is good about staying in front of the ball handler, even on the easiest of difficulties. This is not so much because the offense has been nerfed, but because the defense is so much better at containing and contesting.

There are very few ways to exploit the gameplay mechanics, but I found the pick-and-roll to be a powerful strategy. The defender tends to go below the on-ball screen, especially in three-on-three, allowing for easy shots behind the arc for the ball handler. Shot contests matter a great deal in 2K19, and players will hit a lot of shots if they're "wide open" when shooting. Likewise, this works well for the person setting the screen to fade instead of roll. Players like Al Horford and Dirk Nowitzki make for great pick-and-pop shooters, but playing a small forward in the power forward position, like Lebron or Kevin Durant, will have a similar result.

Passes can easily be intercepted when thrown in traffic, so it can be pretty difficult to trying to dump the ball to someone rolling or even cutting to the basketball, unless the ball handler is a pure point guard and the defenders are completely out of position. While the half-court gameplay may favor long-range shooting and the pick and roll, the fast breaks are wonderful for driving hard. The defense is not rewarded as often for being out of position and trying to block shots from behind. It's extremely rare to block or even contest from a bad defensive position. There are new animations and probabilities for hustle plays that make every 50/50 play full of excitement. Sometimes, the ball is tossed and batted between a couple of players a few times before the ball falls out of bounds or possession is established.

MyTeam is amazing this year, but it favors players who buy Virtual Currency. Acquiring new cards is a slower process this year, which I like because it finally feels like every tier of cards has a true value. The downside is that if you want to collect a lot of cards to complete collections and receive token rewards, you'll be playing forever to acquire enough MyTeam money, known as MT, to purchase them in the auction house. Or you'd spend countless real-world money to open dozens of packs and find the cards you seek — or some decent cards to sell. The early deck building is so slow that if you want to improve, you must be able to beat a better team in one of the competitive playlists. A lot of very key rewards are acquired with high win percentages in a series of online multiplayer games. Winning 12 out of 12 games in unlimited mode (a game mode with complete team-building freedom) rewards you with a diamond or better player of the month. Those who found early success are rewarded with high-level cards that ultimately decrease their chances of losing the next time.

My issue is not with the rewards for those who showcase true skills, but how tough it is for others to join the competitive scene if they're late adopters or choose to not buy VC. Unlimited mode is still a wild mess of unranked unpredictability where two extremely different deck ratings can be pitted against each other. It's confusing that tiered matchmaking hasn't been implemented yet. The feature should have been prioritized and the rewards designated. The auction house requires players to win competitive games before it can be unlocked, which alienated some people from participating in arguably the most important part of the mode. Challenges are awesome this year, and the variety of weekly challenges offer the chance to make a substantial sum of MT.

The weekly schedules of 2K18 have been changed slightly into weekly schedule challenges. Every other week, there are two team-inspired schedules, with 15 challenges each added to the list. The rewards start as small as 100 MT but increase to 1,500 and guarantee throwback player packs. Completing a schedule will be difficult, since the difficulty increases to Superstar by the end, but it's very rewarding. A huge addition to the MyTeam mode is 3v3, and the MyTeam mode can be played single-player or online multiplayer. The single-player version plays like Domination mode, where you must beat a three-man squad from each league team. Once all six divisions have been beaten, a seventh board with the prize of three reward tokens will be available on repeat. There is so much to do in this mode that it can be a full-time commitment.

MyPlayer, arguably the most popular mode in the game, is a refinement of last year's iteration rather than a new project. This year, the player is an NBA draft prospect whose name didn't get called on the big night. Forced to take his talents overseas and build a name for himself, it's your job to develop him into one of the greats. The process sees you fighting for fame in the G League before reaching the big stage of the NBA. Players create their own character with a deep customization system. If you download the My NBA 2K19 app, you can scan your face and connect the data to your PlayStation or Xbox account, and it builds you within the game. It's simple and works almost perfectly if you have good lighting and scan slowly. It's scary to see such an accurate face build in the game. Hairstyles are free this year, and you can choose from a handful of styles during the character creation process.

This year, the story feels like a realistic journey of redemption. It's boring to dig out of your horrible stats, but unless you're willing to succumb to the pressure and purchase VC, breaking out of the slow and untalented mold will be a time commitment. Even after you make the player a driving shooting guard with good athletic skill caps, he'll still move incredibly slowly.

Once you've managed to crawl your way through the beginning of the game, you'll be able to access the Neighborhood, a small block of stores and sports courts. It was a cool idea when it was introduced last year, but the glorified menu and overpriced VC prices have begun to overstay their welcome. I appreciate the variety of games offered to the players, such as dodgeball, trampoline games, and special night-themed courts. As a whole, the mode is great, but the early grind and constant pressure to purchase VC is getting old, and I was expecting a change from this model after 20 years of community growth and outrage about much of it.

NBA 2K19 is still the go-to basketball simulation game out there. Its polish and refinement have only improved since last year, and it's difficult to imagine any improvements for next year. The MyCareer story has definitely improved, and so have the cut scene management and character customization. MyTeam feels like a revolving mode of new updates and content, but players who don't purchase VC may be getting the short end of the stick, since 10 pack boxes are exclusive to VC only. The game is amazing in all regards, but the constant reminder and pressure to purchase VC is wearing thin.

Score: 8.5/10

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