The infiltration of microtransactions into AAA games has been, to put it lightly, a nuisance. It’s one thing when the game is free and the developers bombard the player with in-game purchase options, but it’s a more frustrating feeling when the game retails for $60. Remember when gamers calculated the time it would take to unlock Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker without forking over in-game cash? The blowback was as harsh as it was warranted.
Last year’s 2K release faced similar criticism, and while 2K19 made changes, the enjoyment is still a bit marred. Some of the things that cost VC (virtual currency) in 18 are free in the new installment, but the glaring detriment is to the performance of the player. VC is used to improve player progression and help reach superstar potential which leads to superstar contracts which are paid in…VC. In reality, it should stand for Vicious Cycle. Unfortunately, this hampers the MyCareer progress, and as the player gets better, the more VC progression points cost.
Looking past the VC nitpicks, the game still remains a fun experience. The Way Back story in MyCareer finds a once promising NBA prospect playing ball in China as he attempts to forge a path back into the NBA spotlight. The relationships and connections built throughout the attempted resurgence are highlighted by the likes of Anthony Mackie, Haley Joel Osment, and Michael Rappaport. The MyStory mode does an excellent job of adding more drama to the basketball lifestyle. Concerns over contracts, playing time, and social media are all aspects of the modern-day NBA player must focus on. It’s not just enough to be successful on the court anymore. Also, shoutout to the option to skip cutscenes, something 18 could’ve used.
When it comes to actual gameplay, 19 has taken another leap from its predecessor. The defense is beefier and not quite as easy to blow by as an offensive player. It forces the player to tap into the dribble moves a little more and be smarter with the stick and preserving that precious stamina. Remember in 18 where players magically waved their arms and legs through another player’s body? Voila, it’s been fixed! It’s an issue that shouldn’t have even existed in last year’s game, but regardless, this version is much cleaner.
With each new rendition of a sports game, one of the biggest–and most difficult–things a game can do is take another step towards feeling more life-like. FIFA, The Show, and Madden have all taken giant leaps even over the last couple years, and NBA2K19 is no different in that regard. The A.I. from non-controlled players never really felt like they were getting in the way or hindering the game beyond their given ability levels. That doesn’t mean there aren’t frustrations from bad plays, but even the best teams have their off nights.
Online play is one of the biggest draws to the sports gaming world, however, the 2K crew has yet to fully take advantage. The Neighborhood serves as the online hub, allowing players to explore and jump into games versus others. However, the majority of time spent in the Neighborhood is used on waiting for a game. The server dilemma has been ongoing, and unfortunately, it’s carried over to 19. The optimist will point out that the game did just release two weeks ago and that patches and upgrades could improve the situation. Time will tell.
While 2K19 has eased up slightly on the microtransactions, they still overload the player with requests and offers to use real cash to buy fake currency for an easier out to gain progression points. If players can tune out the ads and let the game and play speak for itself, it still remains an overly fun experience. Whether one chooses the Way Back or simply jumps in for a quick game to kill some time, the subtle changes and improvements are enough to keep fans coming back if they can block out the constant VC spam.
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Review statement: This was reviewed on Xbox with a code provided by the developer for purposes of this review.