'NBA 2K19' review roundup: The gold standard but pay-to-win system mars game
The gold standard for hoops videogames rebounds this year after a slightly less successful outing in 2017. This year's version, the 20th iteration for the franchise, scored an 85 overall on reviews aggregator, Metacritic, which is 5 points higher than last year's 80 but 2 and 3 points lower than NBA 2K16 and NBA 2K17, respectively.
What do we take away from this data? The king remains king even as NBA Live 19, its competitor – if it can be called that, given the 2K franchise's continuing monopoly in the segment – has made some surprising and considerable headway back into relevance after years of being the butt of all sports videogame jokes.
NBA Live 19 is still just a paltry 74 on Metacritic, just 2 points higher than last year's effort. But based on user sentiment, there appears to be some longing for the comebacking franchise. Beyond professional game critics' reviews, Live 19 has a user review score of 6.7, which is 3 times higher than 2K19's 2.3.
As the established franchise, which has maximized its potential and, by many standards, perfected its game, it can be prone to gamer fatigue, with players looking for fresher mechanics and a new experience. At the very least, there is an alternative in Live 19, offering a different feel, in spite of imperfections.
NBA 2K19 is still a beast, but it's the same beast, coming with the polish and attention to detail expected of the franchise, but lacking new flavors to the core gameplay experience. Hardcore loyalists will pay attention to the difference in tuning between this version and last year's – always an annual point of debate. But for casuals who have already played out previous versions, don't expect something radical.
Of course, in a basketball-crazy nation such as the Philippines, there's little stopping the game from becoming the country's best-selling PS4 title again this year. As it has been, 2K19 remains a requisite annual purchase for most Filipino PS4 owners. Live clawing back from the dead is very much welcome though to at least give the monopoly a challenger, even if that matchup still looks like LeBron versus Luc Richard Mbah A Moute.
The top score
3DJuegos.com gives the highest review for the title with a score of 9.5 out of 10 (95%), citing significant improvements in handling fluidity and precision, artificial intelligence, and the neighborhood and career mode, as well as its commitment to realism. The writer wishes, though, that the game included teams from the WNBA and FIBA.
The lowest score
Gamespot, with a score of 7/10 (70%), expresses some of the fatigue that some may be experiencing. Its headline: "Another year. Another baller." Its subhead: "Ball is life. Life is ball." But the somewhat yawny treatment isn't completely undeserved, as we've explained. Gamespot's take: Indeed, 2K19 is amazingly real, and few other sports videogame franchises even outside basketball come close, and its breadth of content is expansive. But even so, "even that has its limitations after several years of iterations," the reviewer says.
Microtransactions, the biggest sore spot
Italian site, The Games Machine, which gave a close-to-the-average score of 83, praises the game again for realism and attention to detail but gripes about microtransactions. This has been stated as a problem since virtual currencies and pay-to-win mechanics were introduced to the game, but it remains a problem, said the site. The gist: A player can either grind for hours and hours to improve the standing of their created player or just pay some cash to improve him quickly. Players are rewarded too easily for just doling out cash as opposed to really playing to improve a character.
Shouts and murmurs from the Metacritic user reviews section
"The casual player might as well forget about it. This game is for the hard core."
"This game really feel so like a copy of the last one, don’t buy it if you care about your money."
"Story mode has a lot of potential but the vc (virtual currency) and microtransactions made me forget about the game for good."
"It honestly feels like a really good patch for 2k18. If you already own NBA 2K18, or even 2K17, you're better off sticking with those for another year."
"The gameplay is on point but I have to give it a negative review. The microtransactions system is as bad as it was last year if not worse because you no longer get sponsor money for playing playground, the most poular mode."
NBA 2K19 was released on September 7, 2018 for the PS4, PC, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch