A must-buy, so long as you can spell ‘Antetokounmpo’
EA has dominated videogame sports for the best (or, in cynics’ eyes, worst) part of two decades – at least where frozen hockey and both kinds of football are concerned. In basketball terms, NBA Live has been consistently outperformed by its 2K rival, and this year once again sees Visual Concepts’ sim score title honours. Realistic on the court and packing myriad options off it, it’s an essential buy for the hoops completionist.
Still, what of the casual fan or basketball diehard who wants more than a roster update? Both types of supporter are catered for, though it’s tougher to recommend this over picking 2K18 up on the cheap. Take MyLeague and MyGM, the two versions of NBA’s deep franchise mode. Changes include the option to assign older players to mentor younger prospects, and sliders to adjust contract values and draft pick depreciation. If that has you blinking at this page in a fog of ‘WTF?!’, it’s likely you’ll be fine with last year’s offering.
On court the basics feel near-identical. Shooting, for instance, can be done by tapping a button or using the right stick, and 2K19’s pick-up-and-play value is strong. Yet there are nuances, too, for series veterans, such as the archetype system, which enables individuals to ‘Takeover’ a match for a limited period. A playmaker gets a brief shooting upgrade, a post-scorer receives boosted hooks, fades, and shimmies, and slashers become temporarily better at euros and hot steps. It can feel a touch arcadey – almost a throwback to NBA Jam’s ‘He’s on fire!’ era – but these surges of individual brilliance do occur in real life, and some attempt to mimic them is neat.
The mode Visual Concepts trumpets annually is MyCareer, where you steer a created character to glory. For 2K19 it’s titled The Way Back, and tips off in China after your onscreen alter-ego goes undrafted in the NBA. Eventually he rebounds to the US pro game, with mixed results: the wealth of ways to customise your character are welcome, and activities like dodgeball and trampoline basketball make great additions to the ‘Neighbourhood’ hub. But many of those customisation options – and, worse, stats upgrades – require you to drop money on virtual currency, edging 2K19 into ‘play-to-win’ territory.
Even so, there are elements 2K19’s contemporaries can learn from. Starting MyGM as an expansion team is superb, and a feature Madden needs in order to transform digitised NFL. Blacktop basketball on inner-city courts showcases how great a FIFA Street spinoff would be. And the option to play as historic teams such as Michael Jordan’s ’92-’93 Bulls makes every exhibition match matter, and is something all sports games should borrow. Microtransactions hold it back from a bigger score, but 2K19 is still an exceptional baller.
“REALISTIC ON THE COURT AND PACKING MYRIAD OPTIONS OFF IT.”
Classic teams allow you to throw together dream match-ups like Chicago ’92-’93 vs Memphis ’05-’06.
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