NBA 2K is a long-running genre that has a lot of security in it. Every year, everyone knows that there will be another one. Most of the time, each sport has a main game that everyone associates with it. Football has Madden, soccer (or football depending on where you live) has FIFA, and hockey has the NHL game series. Basketball has two: NBA 2K created by 2K Sports and NBA Live created by EA Sports. So which one is better?
In this article, the examples are comparing NBA2K 19 and NBA Live 19. While NBA2K20 has dropped, NBA Live 20 has been delayed until later this year. So, while we can’t compare those, we can see how these two have stacked up in the past.
These two games have very opposite levels of depth in the story. NBA 2K prides itself on its depth. Its created for the most devoted basketball fans and is a difficult game for the casual fan. It's considered a simulation-style game, much like Madden. You can create your own player and run through a campaign.
NBA Live takes a lighter approach. It's been described as a more arcade-like approach, made simpler for the casual fan. NBA Live has a campaign as well, but it is much shallower. The arcade description really rings true as its less about your personal journey and more like going from level to level.
9 NBA Live Has the WNBA
NBA Live 19 lets you do some pretty decent customization on your own personal basketball player. It allows you to create a female player to compete in the Women’s Basketball Association (WNBA) as well! This is a breath of fresh air and of inclusivity. Too often women's sports are marginalized and ignored.
NBA 2K19 doesn’t offer this wonderful option. While the majority demographic of these specific games are men, a large number of women play sports and video games, as well. Even if you're looking at it from a business perspective and not an inclusive one, it just makes sense to reach out to an untapped demographic.
8 Faces and Models
In a game full of famous players, one of the key selling points is being able to have your favorites on your dream team and play as them. Thus, it's very important that the faces and models of the players are as accurate as possible. While the advancement of technology has allowed us to make great strides, there are a few differences between NBA 2K and NBA Live.
NBA 2K has some problems with a few of their players, but the majority of these exist in their catalog of older players from earlier games. NBA Live, on the other hand, has a lot of issues with providing the proper proportions for their character models.
Second to how the players look is how they move. As we get better with motion capture technology and our graphic capabilities improve, we can improve not just how character models look, but how they move. Seeing your favorite players perform some of their signature moves on the virtual court is all part of the immersive experience.
NBA Live is behind the game a bit in this department, but, with the release of the 19 edition, they’ve done well in making the player’s movement look like they have weight and they are actually traveling across the ground. However, overall, NBA 2K19 has smoother animation and fewer glitches.
6 In-Game Physics
This is the third most important thing in NBA Live and NBA 2K (or any sports game for that matter) and it is the physics. It's all well and good for the models to look good and for them move realistically, but, if the physics are broken, all of this is pointless.
This is a particularly difficult situation, as there are tons of moving and touching parts. The players are jostling each other, and the ball is constantly making contact with players. In the latest installations of the games, NBA 2K19 has edged out NBA Live 19 in reducing characters passing through each other, and the ball bounces with realism.
Multiplayer is a popular mode for players of both NBA 2K and NBA Live. However, grinding out players and items to use in multiplayer mode and the campaign mode will have you playing alone. This means instead of having 24 human players (12 on each team) on the court, it’ll be you and 23 A.I.s. Poor artificial intelligence programs will make this situation utter and absolute chaos; players will be bumping into each other, running continuously into the side of the court, or just running in circles around the court.
Both games have made huge strides in this area, but NBA 2K is hands down the better of the two. NBA Live’s A.I. moves erratically and with uncertainty, while NBA 2K’s A.I. learns your strategies to give a better challenge.
Balance is important in any video game. A game is simply no fun if it's too easy or too hard. Characters need to have A.Is that don’t perform perfectly but are not flawed either. In addition, these characters can’t be too strong or weak. Some would argue that this is more crucial in sports games. If the balance is off, then the realism and immersion are broken. People who play either game can agree that the players in both could use a little adjusting so that they play at a comparable skill level to their real-life counterparts.
NBA 2K is a far more technical game, while NBA Live is more focused on the fun. The latter game is also criticized for having an over-focus on offense while the former is better balanced.
3 Campaign Modes
As mentioned in several sections, both of these games have a campaign mode. In both, you can create your own basketball player. NBA 2K’s mode is called MyCareer and is extremely in-depth. It's not all about playing basketball, though. Your avatar has to contend with the obstacles of working their way from playing basketball at the local park to playing on the team in front of crowds of adoring fans.
Your actions both on and off the court matter and shape your journey. Meanwhile, NBA Live’s The One tries to emulate this but doesn’t have the same impact and detail. You still have to work your way up but there aren’t any choices to be made.
Microtransactions are something that has become the bane of any gamer nowadays. Mobile, console, and PC are all trying to combat these invasive and shady tactics. EA has learned their lesson (for the most part) about blocking progress behind a paywall after their various scandals and backlash relating to the heavy usage in their games. Thus, NBA Live has the upper hand in this category.
NBA 2K, on the other hand, is treading thin ice. The game demands a large chunk of your time in order to unlock players and items, but it constantly tempts you with microtransactions in order to skip the long haul. Players already paid for the game, they shouldn’t have to keep paying to play.
1 Overall Presentation and Summary
Last but not least, is the overall presentation of both games. Let's begin with NBA 2K. This game has been around longer and more consistently, so they have had plenty of time to perfect their formula. They have some of the best face and motion capture animations in the sports game genre, as well as some of the best graphics. They are realistic looking, the A.I. is coordinated, and the actual games themselves are paired with life-like courts and commentators. Their campaign mode, MyCareer, is touted as one of the best in the business with its depth and detail.
NBA Live has been on a short break, but is back, hoping to make a splash. Its graphics are comparable, and its animations are smoother than previous editions. It lacks many of the details and realism of its competitor, but it does have little to no microtransactions, unlike NBA 2K.