NBA 2K20 [Tip-Off Review]: Moneyball.

“Brother” Myke Ladiona
@onemyke

Any review for the annual NBA 2K game since the perceived death of NBA Live can mostly be read as opinionated patch and roster updates than your typical full-length video game reviews, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Though EA has since released versions of Live since Visual Concepts’ court dominance, it ostensibly is the only game in town and yet is still an amazingly solid basketball game. However the weird decisions made to MyGM — and the further dive into the microtransaction game with MyTeam — may start to increase the divide people are feeling from NBA 2K20 and what 2K has stood for in the past.

“Dynast” Dana Keels
IG/Twitter @hatandwand

True. But you — and anyone else who can look over this being a “sportsball” affair — have to give to it NBA 2K for being the only sports sim that consistently tries to merge a role-playing career mode with an engaging storyline. Even if in previous iterations this wasn’t exactly a fully formed mode, it’s still the effort that counts right? This year, the MyCareer prologue, dubbed “When The Lights Are Brightest” actually has some legs underneath it. It’s arguably the shining spotlight in an otherwise healthy mode line-up…

MYKE: Yup. MyGM and MyLeague continue to be robust, potentially seasons long experiences for anyone who wants to really dig deep into basketball throughout their year — and just like usual — you have the option of which franchise perspective you want to play from: the player and/or coach, GM, and fantasy fan. Two of the modes from this year are virtually identical from their 2K19 counterparts, Season and titular MyLeague mode, but as they say… if it ain’t broke, we should get the women involved too? Wait, what? That’s right. The already announced WNBA presence in the game isn’t an exhibition mode, you can dive into a whole season as your favorite WNBA teams (Sparks, baby). This experience comes with the whole package of unique commentators, WNBA specific player renders, and everything in between. You might not get their Shaq, Kenny, and Ernie, but hopefully it’s a start. Anecdotally, the WNBA games I personally played felt a little faster and more responsive too.

DANA: And to think NBA 2K20 isn’t just limited to the NBA or WNBA. You also step into the role of a college senior who very well could’ve joined the Association years ago. Shit happens, and your characters takes a stand. WTLAB does a great job at combing gameplay and cutscenes in this roughly two hour story, boasting some huge guest appearances from Idris Elba (once he didn’t get 007, I guess he got.. this?), Rosario Dawson (Night Nurse!), and Thomas Middlemitch (Silicon Valley Verizon guy!); not to mention a number of cameos from NBA stars and a pretty cool grading system that can elevate you up the draft board if you play well.

MYKE: That’s huge. The biggest change in 2K comes from what may be the nerdiest mode, though: MyGM. Truthfully a mode that I never perused before because it seemed so daunting; however, much like Fire Emblem’s resemblance to Persona hooked me into Fire Emblem, MyGM’s resemblance to Fire Emblem really got me into MyGM– yet, at a controversial cost. Now your day to day tasks as the GM of your favorite team come at a price point, an Action Point more literally. Now virtual GMs have to choose what they want to do at any given day in the season as every action, including “Chit Chatting” with players on your team, costs you an Action Point. The harder the difficulty you choose gives you more points, and some days you get 3 points instead of 1, but for the most part, on paper, you’ll seem like the laziest GM. However, this kind of focus on making decisions has actually made it easier to get into. Now your Assistant GM will provide a list of “recommended” tasks for you to complete, depending on what you’ve unlocked on your skill tree. That’s right; the NBA has gone full RPG.

DANA: There’s a bit of role-playing in MyCareer mode, too. The “More Than Just An Athlete” story touches on how superstars can make an impact on the world around them. Unfortunately, 2K and King LeBron’s SpringHill Entertainment never fully commit to this theme. But with tight writing and interesting character work, I’ll take it as a nice step in the right direction though. Following the story’s conclusion, you’re basically back into the tried-and-true MyCareer mode we’ve all come to know. That said, the virtual neighborhood is basically the same in 2K20 as it was in the previous iteration. Here is where the game is also bogged down by the microtransactions. Yeah.. you can slog through earning badges and elevating your MyPlayer. Go right head. That would literally take forever, of course, so 2K dangles that virtual currency for you. Also the load times for MyCareer are ridiculous.

MYKE: Yikes. I was lookin’ forward to MyCareer too. Should I still? As for MyGM, the RPG aspects may be fun to play, but totally knock the wind out of its ‘Sim’-like nature. The stretch of time certain tasks take range from ‘the only thing I got to do today was to have small talk with Lebron James’ to ‘Carmello Anthony and I negotiated a whole contract in the course of one sit down meeting.’ Couple that with the fact that the conversations you have with players and staff (that boost morale and trust) also are only cute the first couple of times you see them; they soon become something to just mash ‘skip’ through repeated with other players. What are the chances that Javale McGee and LeBron both love carpentry and talk about it in the same exact way? Ultimately it turns MyGM into something campy but entertaining to play, and feels very much like having to decide who Byleth should have lunch with at the monastery to increase motivation and trust before battle, except this time Ball Is Battle.

DANA: With the amount of starpower and proper Hollywood treatment this year’s MyCareer has you should definitely give it a go, Brother Myke. The bigger question isn’t the entertainment, but this: With how long it takes to earn VC (virtual currency), will players who chose to go the paying route be far and above those who chose to stick it out and grind it themselves? Sadly, I’m afraid you already know the answer.

MYKE: It doesn’t just end there, Mr. Keels. If MyGM feels like jumping the shark, then MyTeam is the shark jumping the Fonz on a motorcycle ’cause it is unadulterated Freemium chaos. While this whole card-collecting, real stakes, whale hunting mode isn’t new to the series, in light of all the flack that EA has gotten for FIFA and Battlefront for micro-transactions it is insane that 2K hoops has gone relatively under the radar. With 2K20, they’re just asking to be caught. Along with the appearance of casinos and a daily spin in The Neighborhood there is purchasable card packs and games on the whole MyTeam menu and on the supplementary MyNBA2K20 mobile app, where most people just want to scan their face. With the Legendary Edition of the game you get a few complementary packs with fairly high level, rare cards, but after that it’s all about that slow lotto grind going through packs hopefully you’ll get something usable. They really hammer home the $250,000 dollar prize that was won last season and do a good job at enticing people to really get into the mode, which is 250,000 more reasons why someone with the time and compulsion should buy into it.

DANA: BRUH.

MYKE: Haha. That’s not to say that MyTeam can’t be fun for the responsible, casual player. Card Evolutions are now an option if you get multiples of the same rare card so it’s never really a total loss. Anyone who missed out on the card pack craze happening in the indie game scene can definitely start to feel that rush in 2K, and this time you can still play the actual basketball game instead of just seeing visual representations of one with animated cards. Players also have the option of doing single-player challenges instead of having to deal with playing with whale-sharks online which can make the mode worthwhile for someone not trying to win big. Like any casual gambling endeavours in video games it can simultaneously be all encompassing or just something to try out and quit while you’re ahead.

DANA: In the end, NBA 2K20 is still worth the $60-$100 gamble though. I mean, if anyone’s touched a 2K the last few years then the gameplay will feel like coming home. The emphasis on realism sees the stamina meter draining faster, and knocking down 3’s isn’t as easy as it was in previous games. Those are the breaks. A good deal of tinkering and altering has definitely given the game an even more realistic feeling, such as being able to exploit mismatches, where you can’t cover a quick guard using a large power forward or center. It feels great. I agree with Myke’s earlier assessment of the WNBA too, as it’s a superb addition. This is the 2K you know and love/hate. If you’ve been down with the previous versions then you’ll be just as pleased with 20‘s cleaned up animations and tightened controls. 4/5 SLAM Magazines.

MYKE: Yeah, man. All things being what they are it’s fortunate that Visual Concepts still gives it their all in these games. It doesn’t always work, and the always ever encroaching need to find more revenue streams can really brick hard. But Dana isn’t tripping; the core gameplay is still solid, and is still — somehow — improving. It may not be the best, and it may be all we got, but we’re very lucky to have it. 4/5 Free Agents.

-Myke Ladiona and Dana Keels

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