Good graphics and improved gameplay

The storyline in NBA 2K19 is interesting, but the shooting mechanism is the most difficult in the NBA 2K series basketball simulation franchise.
The storyline in NBA 2K19 is interesting, but the shooting mechanism is the most difficult in the NBA 2K series basketball simulation franchise.

The NBA 2K19 is the latest iteration of the successful NBA 2K series basketball simulation franchise that has not had competition in recent years.

Last year's NBA 2K18 continues the series' tradition of great gameplay realism, but the fan favourite MyCareer mode was a letdown due to its ludicrous storyline, cringe-worthy dialogue and cutscenes that cannot be skipped.

These flaws have been rectified in NBA 2K19 and I think the MyCareer mode is the best so far in the series.

In this mode, you create an avatar, set up his physique and shooting style before plunging into the story. You are called AI, regardless of how you name the avatar. And you find yourself not being picked by any team in the NBA draft.

Thus, you have to make a living playing basketball in the Chinese league. It is interesting that during your time in the league, the commentary during matches is in Mandarin. Even interaction with the coach and teammates is in Mandarin - a neat touch that conveys the sense of alienation of playing in an overseas league.

The acting is much better than its predecessors' and you have the option of skipping draggy cutscenes. Ultimately, you have to slowly work your way back into the big time.

Once you get into an NBA team roster, you can access "The Neighbourhood", a central hub where other players congregate when they start the MyCareer mode.


  • 9/10

    PRICE: From $79.90 (PC; PS4; Xbox One, version tested)

    GENRE: Basketball simulation

While it looks like the one in the previous version, the place is smaller. Also, shopshere - like the barber, tattoo and merchandise outlets - are now more easily accessible.

In the past, you needed to spend a lot of real money to get virtual currencies (VCs) for even a haircut. But these micro-transactions have been toned down here. Haircuts are now free and merchandise for your avatar, like shoes, is priced lower. You also earn more VCs after a match.

Nonetheless, a lot of grinding is needed to get enough VCs to increase your shooting statistics.

Graphics-wise, the NBA 2K19 continues to be superb, with the team jerseys and their shirt sponsors authentically reproduced. The players' movements also look more natural.

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.

On the downside, the loading of each match still takes a while - long enough for a toilet break.

But the bigger issue is the change in the shooting mechanism. Just when you thought you had mastered NBA 2K18's shot meter where you release the button or stick at the right time to get the ball into the basket, NBA 2K19 throws a curveball.

I found the shooting mechanism the most difficult in an NBA 2K game. You have to contend with more factors to find the shot. You need to move the ball around more to create space for yourself or teammate to get a clean shot. The game's opponents are more likely to block your shots or intercept your passes.

But there is a new Takeover feature to help. When you are on a scoring streak, there will be an option to activate the feature for a higher chance of continuing the streak.

The MyCareer mode will probably take up most of the playtime. But you can also play other modes like MyTeam, MyLeague or My GM.

MyTeam lets you create your own NBA team while MyLeague lets you play your favourite team in the regular season or just the playoffs.

In MyGM, you play the general manager of a new NBA team. It has its own storyline, which starts after your avatar has retired. However, the story is quite awful and draggy.

Verdict: It is not perfect, but NBA 2K19 remains the best basketball simulation game in the market.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2018, with the headline 'Good graphics and improved gameplay'. Print Edition | Subscribe