Game review: NBA 2K20 continues to dominate virtual basketball court

Screengrab from the NBA 2K20 basketball simulation game.
Screengrab from the NBA 2K20 basketball simulation game.PHOTO: 2K GAMES

The NBA 2K franchise has been the definitive basketball simulation game for the past few years. And the latest iteration 2K20 continues the great tradition.

The first thing I noticed when I launched the game is the much cleaner and more intuitive interface, a welcome sight compared to the convoluted mess of the past. Simply push the joystick left or right to the modes you want, and you can jump straight into the action.

Like with previous editions, the first mode I played is the MyCareer mode. This is the mode that players will feel most connected to, as it has a story in which players usually start as a nobody before working their way to become an NBA legend.

You create an avatar from scratch (you can opt to scan your face using an app), set up his physique, shooting style and position before starting the story.

The MyCareer mode starts with a story prologue, which is surprisingly short - at most four hours to play through - and features awkward cameos from NBA legends like Scottie Pippen as well as a storyline that does not make much sense.

You will be called Che, regardless of how you name the avatar. You were a promising college basketball player until your teammate got injured and lost his scholarship. You decided to fight for your teammate and take a stand against the coach - played by British actor Idris Elba - and your school, but found yourself being ostracised. It would set you back years and would take a lot of hard work before you qualify for the all-important NBA Draft.

I wish the story could have explored the relationship between the coach and Che better. It is a waste of Mr Elba's great acting, as his screen time is quite limited. This prologue, though, makes a great tutorial on gameplay mechanics. Once you find yourself drafted into an NBA team, you will still need to work hard to go from being a bench player to starter.

The game graphics continue to be superb, with the players' faces, team jerseys and their shirt sponsors authentically reproduced. The soundtrack, like those of previous iterations, is awesome and makes you really pumped up before a match.

  • FOR

    - Improved gameplay mechanics

    - Superb graphics and soundtrack

    - More intuitive interface

    - Better computer opponents

    AGAINST

    - Micro-transactions needed to prevent grinding

    - Too much product placements

    - Story mode should have been better

    TECH SPECS

    PRICE: From $81.90 (PC; PS4; Xbox One, version tested)

    GENRE: Basketball simulation

    RATING: 9/10 [ST Tech Editor's Choice]

Playing each match is like watching an NBA match on TV with pre- and post-game shows hosted by veteran sportscaster Ernie Johnson and NBA legends Shaquille O'Neal and Kenny Smith. During the game, apart from commentary, there are also expert analyses by veteran reporters such as Doris Burke that relates closely to the gameplay.

The players' on-court movements look natural and perspiration will start to drip down their faces as a match goes on.

If you have played the NBA 2K series before, the controls are pretty much the same. However, on the court, the improvements are pretty evident. The body and ball physics feel more realistic. For instance, you no longer can dribble through a crowd of players. Also, bigger and slower players like DeMarcus Cousins will not be able to accelerate across the length of the court and stop a fast break by a nimble player like Kyrie Irving.

On the flipside, the computer opponents are better in defending, especially near the rim. So, you might find yourself missing seemingly easy jumpers.

Making a basket is more than mastering the shot meter, whereby you release the button or stick at the right time. Other factors, such as moving to an better position near the paint and having an uncontested perimeter shot, increase the chances of scoring or having an assist.

However, you will find yourself tempted to fork out real money to get virtual currencies (VCs) in order to increase your on-court abilities, such as shooting and defending. This is because if not, you will have to grind for a long time before you are able to become a starter.

Another quibble is the abundance of product placements, especially in MyCareer mode. Most times, they are disguised as contract negotiations. Even during matches, the commentators will blatantly "advertise" the brand.

There are other modes you can try like MyTeam, MyLeague and MyGM. MyTeam lets you create your own NBA team. MyLeague lets you play your favourite team in the regular season or just the playoffs, while MyGM lets you experience life as an NBA general manager building a championship-winning roster.