2K Sports have the rights to a few sports franchises. Like most other publishers, the company is known for churning out sports games on an annual basis. For a time, many of these franchise entries were no more than incremental upgrades over previous titles. More recently, however, 2K has been doing a fairly good job of making sure yearly releases are better than expected. WWE19 is one such title. The good news is that NBA 2K20 is attempting to follow suite, but misses the mark in several places.
NBA 2K20 is a great title with fantastic visuals and a decent single-player experience. However, in its journey to deliver next-generation ‘‘realistic” simulations and graphics, things have become a tiny bit awkward. As someone who has never played a basketball game before, I can attest to the fact that this is not because of the game (since it is fantastic), but because 2K Sports appear to have trouble breaking out of the ‘generic sports game’ mould for this basketball title.
The Next Level
As with most 2K titles, NBA 2K20 features a new MyCareer mode. Marketing materials made ti clear how this year’s instalment is ‘‘bigger and better than ever”, and I have not been disappointed. 2K included the likenesses of LeBron James to help create a highly cinematic and compelling story, unlike anything I ever imagined to find in a basketball game. The game features a star-studded cast that ranges from Idris Elba, Rosario Dawson, Ernie Hudson, Tom Middleditch, and even Maverick Carter. This means fans can not only see some of their favourite stars in the game, but also play ball with some of them too!
Players start out with a rating of 60. This rating is the basis that dictates how well your character is rated compared to all of the other characters who take part in the sport. As you complete objectives and carry on in MyCareer you will unlock currency, which can be used to upgrade your player and augment your rating.
MyCareer largely encompasses taking the player-character (named Chey) through to the NBA and playing through his career. Chey is a college senior who chooses not to play in the final game due to a teammate losing a scholarship. It is then up to you to build Chey’s career from scratch, to become the best. During this journey, you will get to meet the aforementioned stars, see how their roles have been chosen, and how choices reflect on real-world basketball. This largely comes by way of a cinematic prelude unlike any other sports games I have played. Cut scenes are highly cinematic and choreographed, and there are many.
Overall, the story spans around six hours of gameplay. Of which an hour or so is dedicated to cutscenes. As a fan of strong narratives, I enjoyed the one featured in NBA 2K20. With that said, the narrative does not overstay its welcome and although only five hours long, I felt it was just right for the title.
With that said, I did not like the horrible mini-games the game kept throwing at me in-between the already-short matches. I never felt the urge to play disc golf or “shoot the hoops” in-between talks with big leaguers who want to exploit my player financially.
All the modes
Mechanically speaking, NBA 2K20 was easy to learn and play. Passing, dribbling, shooting and manoeuvring across the court, just works. The addition of button combinations allowing for fancy acrobatics and moves to confuse opposing teams was a cherry on good gameplay. I will admit that I thought all ball physics felt floaty, and almost without consequence. This could largely be because of my natural inclination to football and racing games, or it could just be that the physics in NBA 2K20 are not that great. Either way, I did not enjoy it the way I thought I should.
Moreover, I must mention how the game features the same game modes you would see in any other 2K title: Multiplayer, as well as a few game modes unique to the NBA franchise: MyLeague, MyGM, and MyTeam.
MyTeam, for all intent and purpose, is NBA 2K20’s answer to FIFA’s Ultimate Team (FUT). Here, players have to take part in the basketball-themed deck building aspect where they can build, collect, and trade from a seemingly infinite amount of cards. Cards include players with different ratings, apparel and team colours, balls, and a whole lot more. Naturally, this kind of game mode openly invites greedy publishers to include microtransaction in their games.
As a player who does not care for microtransactions, I have learned grind my way through what many games have to offer. NBA, however, constantly reminded me of the fact that I absolutely had to use real-life money to get anywhere. Sure, I could theoretically keep on playing hundreds upon hundreds of matches to eventually collect enough currency to purchase more booster packs, but constant ads and a shiny buy button kept telling me not to. Imploring me to turn money into currency instead. Yeah, no thanks.
Apart from MyTeam, NBA 2K20 also features My League and MyGM. MyGM allows players to step into the shoes of a general manager of a basketball team. I like management in pretty much any game meant to simulate its real-world counterparts. However, MyGM left a lot to be desired. Especially after noticing how I was not allowed to do basic things, such as using custom rosters or changing the difficulty of the artificial intelligence before levelling up three or four more times. MyLeague, however, is a great addition to the game that I actually enjoying spending my time on!
MyLeague allows you to control pretty much every aspect of running an NBA franchise, all from the coach and player perspectives. It kind of does the same thing that MyGM does, but much better. Here, players have to handle things such as scouting, trading, setting and negotiating salaries, and more.
Beyond all of these modes, the standout feature is none other than the inclusion of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). The WNBA may not have received as much love as the other modes, but it is a solid addition that really should have been in the franchise a long time ago. In WNBA, you can expect to see your favourite WNBA players, completely motion-captured and modelled after real-life counterparts. You can also experience quick matches with and against any team.
Two steps forward, one step back
The inclusion of the WNBA really shines the spotlight on how far companies have come in terms of including real-world likenesses in their games. NBA 2K20 is no different in that regard, and it really shows how Visual Concepts put some effort into doing just that.
All characters in the game, from Idris Elba through to Liz Cambage of the Las Vegas Aces, have been meticulously ported into the virtual world of NBA 2K20, complete with freckles and uneven beard follicles. In the constant struggle to get real-life likenesses into games, however, I have noticed that the game – as beautiful as I think it is – lacks little things which make characters truly believable. For a start, their eyes hardly move and it looks like they seldom blink. These omissions, in a game that otherwise looks phenomenal, are baffling to me. Then again, the game is all about basketball, right? Not random models within cutscenes.
I also think that the various courts and fields in the game look great. They squeak when players move on them and sound all hollow when a ball falls onto the flooring. Similarly, I do like how 2K Sports and Visual Concepts managed to make all games feel like they are attended by hundreds of onlookers.
NBA 2K20 pulls me apart. I want to love the game in the way I do other sports titles. Unfortunately, there are just so many aspects I would rather see changed or improved upon. It looks incredible, for instance, but ultimately fails to keep me intrigued long enough to “want more”. MyCareer was incredible and intense with great production value. Yet I felt that the five to six hours spent in it was more than enough and cherished its end. I do also feel like player models need more polish. The game modes reflect this as well.
MyLeague and MyCareer are great, while the inclusion of WNBA is an incredible addition that really should have been present years ago. MyGM and MyTeam, on the other hand, are atrocious and need to be refocused if 2K Sports ever wants them to work as intended.
Ultimately, I do like the game. It was fun while it lasted, and there are a few things that I would still like to do (like finishing that WNBA Season). However, I would very much like to wait for next year’s NBA 2K21 to see the full extent of what the franchise is capable of. In its current form, NBA2K20 is a forgettable title, especially after the story is completed and at least one season has been played in each mode. A pity, given how much potential the franchise has.
|Time Played||20+ Hours|
|Acquisition||Review code courtesy of 2K Sports|
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