We’re back on court in 2019 with the latest and greatest version of the basketball sim to end all others. So, is this year’s model, NBA 2K20, a slam dunk?
Let’s get the obvious out of the way up front. Microtransactions are a thing. Whether or not you like them, they make an absolute bucket load of money for game developers, so until you start paying $200 for a game, they’ll be here to stay. The good news is while they are prevalent in NBA 2K20, and sizeable enough to not qualify as “micro”, you won’t need to pay anything extra to enjoy the core game.
NBA 2K20 is a simple and accessible game with an incredible depth of options for seasoned players. Packaged up like a typical NBA game with all the glitz and glamour of the TV broadcast, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a real-life game. The immediate caveat up front is that this year’s game while polished and beautiful, isn’t really offering up anything new to the series.
Playing individual games within NBA 2K20 is exactly the experience that you’d expect to have from a 2K game. In every game the look and feel knocked out of the park once again. Player animations and styles have been developed over years of practice and with the inclusion of the WNBA in this year’s release, they’ve gone out of their way to capture the motion and characteristic game styles of the women in action.
The new MyCareer story mode also looks amazing and boasts one of the most impressive cast lists that you’re likely to see in a video game. With the likes of Idris Elba and Rosario Dawson leading the way, it’s hard not to like it. The motion capture of the actors’ faces is spot on, although some of the body shapes and clothing options break the carefully crafted illusion. It helps if you squint, like really squint, while you’re watching the lengthy cutscenes to truly enjoy the magic of the animations. The experience within the story itself is more movie than it is a game. You’ll get some options to interact with the story, although for the most part you are a passenger.
Now to the elephants in the room – loading times, and those microtransactions.
Loading times really hinder the immersive experience of the game. Most specifically the loading times between each of the cutscenes and skipping past all of the TV intros that make up every single game. The devs have tried their best to cover up the loading, but it gets very old very quickly for players on lengthy gaming sessions.
There is the inclusion of the always entertaining 2KTV experience, where you can check out the latest interviews from players, insights into the development of the game, highlights of weekly multiplayer gameplay and updates on competitions. Although there is a downside to this as well, as the randomly selected options can sometimes spool up literal TV advertisements which are exactly as obnoxious as you’d expect them to be.
Which brings us to money. This game is crying out for your hard-earned dollars. NBA 2K20 is all about those VC points. If you’re unfamiliar with 2K, basically it’s the in-game currency that is used to upgrade your character’s stats, as well as purchasing new outfits, tattoos, haircuts and now bikes for cruising around the multiplayer hub, The Neighbourhood. You earn VC Points from playing games, making shots or a variety of other activities.
Or you can use an actual ATM to charge your credit card for more VC points…
Everything in this game is set up to cost you money. It’s carefully designed to be that way. Sure, you can earn VC points for being an absolute baller on the court, but the grind of only earning a handful each time is what gets you. For example, if you want to get your player a new sleeve tattoo, it’ll cost you 2500 VC points, which is more than you would ordinarily earn in one game. In reality you’ll spend a realistic amount of time (two to three seasons) building up your player to the level you want, which will equate to a fairly significant amount of time commitment.
They make it as tempting and easy as possible to buy upgrades with real world currency. For those with the disposable income, the top pack is worth $150 of your actual human money and it will essentially upgrade your player to the top level, or you could blow it all on some bling. It’s clear there’s a market for it, because some of the players in multiplayer look like Russell Westbrook rocking up to a press conference, and have every single signature move you could imagine – all within the first week of release.
“To be brutally honest, if you’re buying the best teams/players up front, you’re entirely missing the purpose of playing the game in the first place.”
Still, despite the obvious problems with the revenue raising, NBA 2K20 is a very enjoyable game.
The overall experience hasn’t really changed since the introduction of the MyCareer feature, and it’s one area of the game that’s crying out for an update. The scenes featuring some of the superstars of the game – Kawhai Leonard, Scottie Pippen and LeBron James – are awesome additions. To give them credit, it’s got to be really difficult to add to an already jam-packed experience. There are multiple game modes and a companion app where people can continue the game away from their consoles. At some stage they will reinvent the experience, but it’s not this year and there’s really no reason for 2K do anything differently.
A final piece of advice to anyone considering this game, pick it up and enjoy it as is. There’s enough in the core game to satisfy almost anyone. You can play a fantastically presented basketball sim with all the trimmings of watching an NBA event on TV. There’s access to classic teams, modern day champions and a deeply satisfying single player career that will have you hooked for hours on end. That’s all contained in the base game, for zero extra dollars.
NBA 2K20 is available now for PS4, Xbox One and Switch.