NBA 2K19 Review

Richard Walker

You always know what you're getting with an NBA 2K game. One of the best sports games around, year after year, the series has become synonymous with basketball sim excellence, as well as all-pervading microtransactions that invariably put a downer on the great game at its core. NBA 2K19 doesn't change anything on either front, with Virtual Currency still leaving its grubby fingerprints all over the game's primary modes, including MyCareer and MyTeam.

Dodgy Virtual Currency aside, NBA 2K19 is another remarkable basketball game, albeit one that still has some room for improvement. Again, the fundamentals remain stellar and playing NBA 2K19 is about as close as you can get to a real game of basketball without actually slipping on a pair of high-tops and hitting the hardwood yourself. As always, MyCareer is the go-to game mode, encompassing every facet of the burgeoning professional life of new guy A.I. and the many twists and turns that occur during his campaign to make it big in the NBA.


Stranded in the Chinese leagues, your MyPlayer character is a miserable sod unhappy with his lot, singularly focused on playing in the NBA by any means necessary. Obstacles in his quest crop up at every turn, threatening to upend your path to greatness, and despite A.I.'s incessant whinging about having to live in Shanghai with noisy neighbours, his journey to becoming an NBA star via the G League is a compelling one, inhabited by famous faces like Anthony Mackie and Haley Joel Osment.

It's at odds with your supposed rise, however, that most games you'll play with incredibly lacklustre stats, meaning having to struggle throughout the season with a dearth of actual skill or proficiency, unless you're willing to fork out for some extra VC.

Consequently, levelling up your MyPlayer's attributes is an agonisingly slow process without supplementary Virtual Currency for a boost, so chances are you'll be consistently floundering during your career even if you're adept at the game itself. I've played every NBA 2K title since 2K7, and I can't remember ever being as frustrated as I was while playing 2K19's MyCareer, and angered by the ongoing cynicism of the game's problematic microtransactions. Yet there are plenty of fantastic moments to be had, whether it's a neat little retro surprise in the arcades, some genuinely humorous scenes with the coach of G League team the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, ably played by Rob Huebel or a bit of banter with the team.

Often, the on-court action is perfect basketballing alchemy too, you and your team working like a well-oiled machine as you sink every jump shot, gracefully finger-roll every layup into the basket and slam down every dunk with unmitigated authority. Play consistently well and you'll fill your 'Takeover' gauge, enabling you to temporarily boost your team's attributes to bring home the win. Then there are games where nothing works. Every attempt at a steal is a reach-in foul, every go at a three-pointer is a brick, and driving the lane is greeted with an impenetrable defensive wall. MyCareer only rewards insane perseverance, and it's hard to resist not handing over cold-hard cash for a shortcut. I guess that's the whole idea.

Once you reach the NBA (and come hell or high water, you will somehow), MyCareer opens up and you can play various mini-games (like volleyball), enjoy online match-ups in the Jordan Rec Center or on a street court, hit the gym for some training, buy a haircut or a tattoo, grab some new kicks or attire (using VC, obviously) and enter the Pro-Am. Outside of the vast MyCareer, you can sink hours into the RPG-esque MyGM and MyLeague modes all over again, drowning in numbers and all of the trappings that come with managing an NBA franchise.


MyTeam is NBA 2K19's other major mode outside of MyGM, MyLeague and MyCareer, presenting you with a squad to assemble using card packs, like every year. Know FIFA Ultimate Team? It's like that, with challenges to complete, cards to collect or buy, special game types with unique parameters and more. You could just play MyTeam, MyCareer and nothing else, and not feel at all shortchanged. That's before you even consider the Blacktop street games, all of the online modes, and various MyCareer objectives to tackle, making for an endlessly playable experience. It's just a shame that progression is so horribly, needlessly glacial.

While the shot meter also manages to drain some of the intuition that goes into shooting using the shot stick, it's still satisfying when you manage to successfully hit a jump shot with a 'swish', or jostle through traffic to finish with a dunk or layup worthy of the highlight reel. NBA 2K19 simply feels like basketball should, despite players sometimes getting stuck bumping into one another, or teammates controlled by the AI occasionally failing to fulfil their roles correctly. These are rare, minor niggles that thankfully don't conspire to ruin the overall on-court experience, and much of the time, Visual Concepts' latest entry in the series proves hugely competent, yet again. Much like it was last year, in fact.

NBA 2K19's suite of modes, customisation options and other content make for another definitive package, and the visual upgrade, litany of flashy graphics and other (sometimes tedious and unskippable) fripperies that contribute to the authentic TV broadcast style are laudable. From a gameplay perspective, however, this year's iteration isn't a particularly huge advancement for the series, although it remains inarguably one of the best sports games around. Therein lies the trade-off. On a rudimentary level, NBA 2K19 is still a fantastic basketball game, but it's laden with annoyances and irritations – mostly surrounding the game's exploitative economy - that need to be addressed.

NBA 2K19

Another superlative iteration of video game basketball with very few flaws, NBA 2K19's biggest problem remains in its implementation of those pesky microtransactions that threaten to eclipse everything the game does right. Look past that, and NBA 2K19 is still unsurpassed.

Form widget
80%
Audio
80%

If I have to hear that song about breaking ankles again, I'm going to scream. Apart from that, the commentary is great and the tunes are well wicked, mate.

Visuals
90%

Realistic likenesses, decent animation, fantastic presentation. Every facet of NBA 2K19 looks completely and utterly authentic. A marked improvement over last year.

Playability
90%

Slick and easy to pick up, NBA 2K19 is a slight evolution over last year's game, but there's enough innovation here to have you sit up and take notice. The best one yet.

Delivery
70%

Invasive microtransactions conspire to mar the entire experience, but thankfully the robust, polished basketball experience and excellent suite of modes win out.

Achievements
70%

A decent enough list, albeit one with a potent whiff of deja vu. There's a lot of grind in here too, as there always seems to be, but the spread is just about perfect.

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