The latest edition in the NBA 2K series, 2K20, was released on September 6, 2019. For avid basketball and NBA fans and gamers in general, this day was Christmas. We lined up at a game store for hours just to be one of the first to play the new 2K game, which has been a yearly habit ever since it came out in the early 2000’s. Fast forward several seasons later and here we are, with a fresh new NBA 2K game on the PlayStation 4 that looked to value player input and feedback from the previous games.
So what’s new about this version?
To be fair, this version of 2K is one of the most balanced in terms of player ratings. For one, the league itself has become really unpredictable. Besides the top five players right now that are 95+ shoo-in in ratings, the rest of the league was keeping up with ratings, and 2K – personally – gave a decent rating to everyone, especially to the rookies and sophomores, which we believe 2K fans are excited to use.
During the offseason, especially right after the annual NBA Draft, 2K geeks were creating rosters with rookies, giving their best efforts to make them as close to their real counterparts in terms of physique and ratings, among others. We were eager to try the best rookies – may it be the freak of nature Zion Williamson, his Duke partner RJ Barrett, and even the partnership of Cam De’Andre and Hunter Reddish in Atlanta. There were also updated team rosters: Trae Young and the young Atlanta Hawks, AD and LeBron in LA, the deadly duo of KD and Kyrie in Brooklyn, and even the revamped GSW squad. Given the proper ratings to NBA superstars and the rest of the league, we could say that the Player Ratings in this edition was one of the fairest of them all.
In each 2K game, gameplay familiarization is a must. Even the best 2K players adjusted with every edition of the game, because 2K tries to tweak tiny details, like screen action or the soft opening through the hoop.
In 2K20, it was easy to notice the changes in terms of gameplay. First, was the way players attack the basket – NO MORE EASY LAYUPS, NO MORE EASY POSTERS. The drive to the basket has gotten tougher and tougher yearly. In this edition, you could break through the D and see an opening for an easy deuce, but when the help D comes along, you will feel the defense contest your shot and you’ll see your layup rattle around the rim and out. There were also times during fast breaks, even when we’re clearly ahead of the defense, the player ends up making a hop-step, which allowed the defense to recover and block our shot. This was because of the new control system of the shot stick. Pro tip: you will need to play around with the right analog stick to make a contested layup. Difficult and high-arching layups when pressing/holding the analog stick would still be possible of course, but with the right timing. We loved the realistic finishes, especially with smaller players like Kemba Walker. We tried using Boston a couple of times and loved it when Kemba drives to the basket, and could adjust mid-air in style.
Playing defense also got better, because a steal attempt doesn’t mean an automatic foul. You’ll now be able to play tougher defense on opponents and distract their dribble. There’s also an added feature: when you press square at the right time, the defender pokes the ball away. We feel like this was a great step in the right direction when it came to defense.
Another thing to highlight is the freethrow-making, because honestly, it was tough to make a free throw in 2K19 when using Hall of Fame difficulty, and 2K has tweaked this mechanic for the better for 2K20. In terms of aesthetics, putting an option to change the shot meter color was a thumbs up. Also, 2K now allows you to toggle the shot meter. The added option gave the game a quality of life boost as there are players who prefer their shot meters off.
The manual subs also got better. In 2K19, it was complicated to play around with substitutions because it wouldn’t allow a player with a specific position to play another position. For example, the Lakers’ starting lineup is AD at center, Kuz at PF, Bron at SF, Green at SG and Rondo at PG. In 2K20, you can put LeBron at the point anytime, even if he’s still on the court. This was one of the little things that really gave 2K20 a leg up over all the previous versions, since we personally prefer doing manual subs.
Choose your style
We also liked the feature that allows players to pick colors of their accessories. Young ballers nowadays loved to mix and match the colors of their socks and sleeves, so it’s cool to have that as an option in the game as well. A good suggestion here to improve would be to have the ability to make the player wear all accessories from headband to socks, because some star players from teams don’t wear accessories by default, so it doesn’t make sense to choose because you will not able to see them wear the accessory anyway.
The story mode in MyPlayer is one of the best so far. It gave us the closest real life experience of becoming an NBA Player. We felt that the story offered real-life situations, where emotions of teammates and coaches can affect the outcome of your career. We also liked the introduction of the NBA Draft Combine, where it gives you a taste of the journey to reaching your dream of making it to the big leagues. Though the story is quite dragging at times because of the long drama that comes along with it, I still appreciate the thought process behind it because the immersion felt real enough to be an NBA superstar simulator game.
The NBA just recently approved the use of coach’s challenge on a one-year trial basis, which will allow teams to one challenge per game ruling regardless of whether it is successful, and it can be utilized to question a call in a variety of scenarios, including a personal foul, an out-of-bounds call, goaltending or basket interference. The challenge can be used at any point during the game. It’s great to add this rule to the game, as it also will educate gamers about the recent updates in the NBA. We feel that it still needed a bit of polish in terms of how the referees were deciding which call to overturn and which call stayed, and the game was not consistent in showing the exact replay of the call that’s being challenged, so hopefully we’ll see improvement on this issue in a coming patch.
The addition of WNBA was one of the biggest moves in 2K gaming history. We really thought it will make a huge impact especially to women who follow the WNBA. This was also great for the WNBA players themselves because they will now be able to play as themselves and, like LeBron and other NBA players who actually do play the game, can make strategies and bond with teammates. It’s definitely a step in the right direction and who knows, there might be a spin-off WNBA 2K standalone game in the future.
Overall, 2K20 is a 8.5/10 for us. The improvements with the gameplay and the addition of WNBA were easily the game’s highlights. It has gotten more realistic: the finishes around the rim, NBA players’ signature moves, defensive sequences, and even the players’ reactions on a made basket or on a crucial play were all there and feel great. The coach’s challenge ruling was also a proof that the game was really coping up with the changes in the league. We strongly felt that the WNBA mode will really generate a positive impact on the 2K franchise: it will attract not only WNBA fans, but women who love sports as well.
A point for improvement (or maybe removal) would be the Best Player of the Game gig they have during the first dead-ball situation in the last two minutes of a game, because for hardcore 2K fans, it’s kind of disrespectful, especially if the ballgame isn’t over.
Calling NBA 2K20 an NBA Superstar Basketball simulator wasn’t a negative thing at all because that is exactly what you get. All the little visual and mechanic-oriented detail the folks at 2K put in came together and made this season’s game an exercise in immersion, and we feel it won’t be a surprise to find more casual players picking up the game with their friends and wanting to get better.
Game screenshots provided by Tomi Chong