Review: NBA 2K20 brings it back


(© 2K)

By Aeneas Nicholas

 The latest installment of the NBA2K series was anticipated for the entire year prior to its release, and was hailed as the beginning of a new era for the 2K series. The amount of feedback that seemed to be taken and put into effect during the previous version created a promise of newly revamped and improved game, derived from the feedback of the community. Instead, what they got seemed to be simply a cosmetically changed version of last year’s game. The purpose of this review is to find out where they went wrong, and what negative aspects of the game could possibly be changed to make it better, and to make it worth the $60 price tag the game is currently sporting. 

One of the main criticisms that 2k20 has received since its launch, was that it didn’t present any notable new features from last year’s game. But, as the game has continued to be updated since its original release on September 6, 2019, new features have continued to be added to the game, especially in the game’s marquee mode, MyCareer. This is a mode of the game where a player has the ability to create their own professional basketball player, and experience through the game what it would be like to be drafted into the NBA. Every year, 2k sports continues to impress players with the offline story aspect of the mode, with cinematics and graphics turning the game into more of an interactive film, and 2k20 is no different. Similar to years past, 2k20 features a new story of how your player got to the league, this time following your journey through college and into the NBA. This year’s story was produced by NBA superstar LeBron James, and his lifelong business partner, Maverick Carter, offering real insight into the league from one of the best to ever grace it. 

However, the main allure for many players in this mode is the online play, especially the neighborhood. This is where a player can team up with other online players in 3v3 and 2v2 pickup games, and is meant to reflect how walking to a basketball court and playing with strangers is in real life. Year after year, the neighborhood has continued to draw the largest audience of players, and as the year draws on and the game dies down, we begin to hear rumors and hype for how the next iteration of the neighborhood will improve the current version, and this excitement reaches fever pitch in the days before the release of a new game. 2k20, following this trend, had its players pre-ordering the game to guarantee that they would get a first look at the neighborhood, but, despite a mountain of hype to live up to, the neighborhood in 2k20 was relatively unappealing. One of the most common responses to the neighborhood, was a feeling of betrayal on the part of developers. In the months leading up to its release, the developers of 2k20 made promise after promise to the players, assuring a newly polished and refurbished neighborhood, but fans were seemingly deceived. 

Of the three main modes of the game, the Play Now mode is always the easiest for developers to handle. Play Now is a game mode where you can play against your friends whether that be online or locally, using teams from today’s NBA, or all-time historic teams. As per usual, this mode is the most straightforward to improve every year. A few gameplay tweaks and graphics changes later, and the Play Now mode has seen all of the changes that it needs to keep fans happy. That said, the game itself is visually stunning, as the game continues to look more and more like real basketball every year. 

Lastly, the MyTeam mode is the last of the three most commonly played modes in 2k every year. MyTeam allows a player to build their dream NBA roster, featuring the best to ever do it from both past and present available. This portion of NBA2k involves collecting enough coins through playing games and buying virtual currency with real money to earn enough credit in order to purchase the lineup you have always wanted. MyTeam this year is quite similar to last year, with one very important positive change. One of the main issues from previous years was that players could be played at any position the manager chose, leading to problems like LeBron James dominating a six foot point guard whenever he came down the court leading to serious and unavoidable mismatches. The 2k developers made it so that each player has to play in their real position, negating a problem like this in a very moderate and fair way. On the whole, the 2k20 iteration of MyTeam is a well polished and improved version of the one from 2k19, and is something the average player should definitely give the time of day. 

Unfortunately for 2k, one of the largest turn offs for potential buyers is the issue of micro-transactions, and 2k20 is no exception to this issue. For 2k, micro-transactions are a way for a player to turn real money into game money, and 2k is known for the seemingly absurd prices that they charge for this currency. During one fiscal quarter during the time of 2k19, 2k sports raked in $315.5 million in micro-transaction revenue per GameSpot sources. As there were roughly 9 million copies of NBA2k19 sold, this would mean that per quarter, each player would spend around $35 dollars per quarter on the game, on top of the pre-existing $60 price to purchase the game. This might not seem like a lot, but the unfortunate part of this is the way that 2k sports encourages the purchase of this currency. While 2k claims to be about skill, or basketball IQ and knowledge, a lot of times it comes down to a pay-to-win philosophy, where the player who has spent the most money upgrading their player or team comes out on top, regardless of how well the other player performed, leaving the loser feeling frustrated enough to either buy the currency themselves, and fight fire with fire, or to stop playing. From my personal experience, as someone who started off by not spending money, this was a very common theme, and something you can only laugh off so many times. 

Overall, NBA2k20 is a great installment in the NBA2k series, but unfortunately fell at a difficult time in the series. Prior disappointments and promising prequels set NBA2k20 up for failure, creating mountainous high expectations, something that nothing short of a miracle in gaming would accomplish. On the other hand, NBA2k20 is a fun enjoyable experience for any basketball fan, regardless of how seriously they take the sport, but is of course enhanced further if they are willing to spend a little extra cash. NBA2k20 is even better with friends, as online play across all game modes ramps up the fun of each style of play. In conclusion, NBA2k20 is a great pickup for any basketball fan with a little bit of extra money on their hands, and a game that can give any player hours upon hours of entertainment.