NBA 2K19 Review – Breaking Ankles and Your Budget

NBA 2K19 Review

NBA 2K19 captures the essence of basketball perfectly. Going up for a thunderous slam dunk fires me up, draining that last second three to win a big game exhilarates and winning a hard-earned NBA championship feels like an accomplishment. The problem with NBA 2K19 lies everywhere else, the game constantly trying to take more money out of my pocket via the in-game currency. Playing NBA 2K19 impresses me big time, but the insidious undertones really dishearten me.

This game presents the game of basketball effortlessly, every nuance feeling as authentic as watching the games on TV. AI players react to my actions in real time, moving with the ball handler naturally while those away from the play point and call out. Controlling my players feels tight and precise, notably, the shooting mechanic where I have to hold the button in until the right moment for a clean shot.

Balling Out in 2K19

Most impressive are the player’s models, which look like they’ve ripped the player from real life and stuck him on the virtual court. Being a Sixers fan I spent a lot of time with this year’s crew, and while every player looks great Joel Embiid, in particular, looks exactly like his real-life counterpart. Apparently, NBA 2K19’s games are played in the uncanny valley, because these character renders looks awesome.

I will say that applies mostly to current players though, as the legendary players’ character models don’t quite match up. This makes sense of course, as 2K Sports can’t exactly travel through time and scan the players during their prime. However, I did notice a slight drop in quality when playing with classic teams. Pick one of the “all-time” teams that mixes old and current players and you’ll see what I mean: Julius Erving’s model, while impressive, just doesn’t look as good as Embiid or Ben Simmons.

The presentation of each game is also very cool, from the pre-game show starring the actual TNT pre-game team to the excellent commentary during a game. In fact, this game may sport the best commentary I’ve ever heard in a sports game, addressing specific players on the court completely naturally. The addition of longtime sportswriter Bill Simmons is cool, but strangely I only heard from him during games with the Boston Celtics. Just a coincidence, I’m sure.


NBA 2K19’s Many Ways To Play

NBA 2K19 offers plenty of ways to ball but this is where the Virtual Currency (VC) issue begins to creep in. MyGM and MyLeague are the smallest offenders, mainly because these modes are delightful without needing any in-game currency. MyGM offers a full story mode where I can run a brand new team, or pick up and play as any team in the league. I prefer the story mode, as I feel far more satisfaction starting from the bottom and winning a title, but both formats are fun to mess around with.

I do want to point out one thing: starting an expansion team means I can build a team from scratch, including with uploaded logos and an original name. The Community Uploads feature easily makes this 1000x more enjoyable, though I have two questions. One, will 2K do something about copyrighted material? There’s a few things on there that I expect would draw the ire of the companies that own the assets. Two, and more importantly, why do so many uploads involve the female posterior? Is that a dream of some fans to have a logo that’s a lady’s backside? Strange, strange stuff.

MyLeague may be my favorite mode in the whole game, giving me the power to shape not only the current NBA but the history of the sport itself. When creating a league I now have access to the draft classes from as far back as 1960, letting me re-draft legends like Oscar Robertson and “The Logo” Jerry West. The National Basketball Association becomes the Fanelli Basketball Association, my every whim allowed simply with a few button presses, and that level of creativity will go a long way.


Unfortunately, that goodwill is rescinded when it comes to MyCareer, as building my player from scratch becomes less about developing skills and more about purchasing them. When I think of the ideal “create-a-player” mode I want it to be as close to an RPG as a sports game gets. I play with my character on the court, after the game I get a rating and experience, and level ups give me skill points to add to my player’s attributes. The more I level up and the higher my skills become, the better chance I have succeeding in the NBA.

2K19’s MyCareer feat. Hidden Fees

2K19 does this to a point, but the “experience points” are instead “virtual currency” and “leveling up” is “having enough in-game money to buy the stat boost.” This means the mode encourages emptying my wallet for VC in order to create a superstar instead of building him from the ground up. I can still go the old-fashioned route, VC purchases are of course optional, but I won’t be challenging Lebron James for months at this rate.

I do not like being pushed toward spending more money than the point of entry, and I imagine the average consumer won’t like it either. Granted this was a review copy that I did not have to purchase, but the sting of “wow, this game really wants me to buy VC” remained. Some players may be fine with the occasional VC purchase, and power to them for it, but the whole thing leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

When actually playing basketball NBA 2K19 shines, the action on and around the court feeling as authentic as a video game can achieve. The ebb and flow of the game comes through masterfully whether in exhibition or in a deep playoff run. The ancillary parts of the game have their moments of greatness too, but those can be overshadowed by the constant shaking of the virtual tip jar. I enjoyed the heck out of NBA 2K19, don’t get me wrong, but man do I wish the letters “VC” weren’t as heavily involved.

***An Xbox One code was provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • Fantastic basketball gameplay
  • Different ways to play
  • Presentation is killer

The Bad

  • Virtual currency is shoved down my throat
  • Some character models not as detailed as others