2K Games' NBA 2K20 is this year’s release in the series and has been no stranger to controversy in the lead up to its formal launch thanks to the watchful eye that consumers now have on in-game microtransactions. As is often the case, some players may only notice small changes between this and last year’s NBA 2K19 in terms of core gameplay, but there is also the inclusion of a full WNBA roster and an engaging story mode. At its core, NBA 2K20 improves upon its core gameplay mechanics, adds exciting new features, but still contains what can only be described as a problematic focus on microtransactions in a premium-priced, AAA game.
MyPLAYER Mode - Great Storytelling, But Is That What You're Playing NBA 2K20 For?
The inclusion and evolution of MyCAREER and MyPLAYER mode throughout the series has been hit or miss depending on individual consumers. Without a doubt, the story mode through which your individual character climbs through the ranks to stardom is polished, providing drama through cutscene after cutscene between games. By the end, one has a fully fleshed-out character and story who has gone through a dramatic rise to fame, and it's easy to see the effort put into this mode.
On the other hand, if you want to dive right into the action and not watch the high number of cutscenes, this can feel like an ongoing drag. Similar opinions have formed in the past few iterations of the Mortal Kombat series, where once we had short bursts of story at the beginning and end of a game, now we have what amounts to a full cinematic film of cut-scenes spliced between fights. Love it or hate it, NBA 2K20 leans hard into its story mode and does it well, but it is not appreciated by everyone who would prefer to dive right into the action.
MyTEAM Mode And Microtransactions
The controversy over microtransactions in the game is perhaps felt most heavily here. At the start, players choose between one of five Evo cards to start building their individual teams, and this can be either Derrick Rose, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, or Hakeem Olajuwon. From there, players can select packs which will provide additional players to build the team, and here is where dumping real money can allow for players to gain an edge rather quickly.
However, it should be noted that there are plenty of ways to keep up with those who spend in-game without having to spend any additional money. The most significant sign of this is the Daily Login prize, which should keep the gap between players down over the long-term, though it does nothing in the early life of the game and requires players to come in and claim their items every single day.
Still, at the heart of the matter is the always controversial discussion as to how much a premium-priced AAA game should feature microtransactions, if at all. At some point, developers learned that microtransactions need not stay within the realm of free-to-play games, and that if one has enough money to drop on a AAA title, they surely have a little, or a lot more, to spend in an effort to bolster their teams.
The WNBA Makes Its Way Into The Series, Finally
The inclusion of the WNBA is one that we have been expecting for years, and the wait is certainly justified when considering how well it has been incorporated into the game. The developers put real thought into making the WNBA gameplay unique to that of the NBA, and this, in turn, provides matches that demand a greater focus on fundamentals as opposed to explosive speed. The WNBA matches feel slightly slower, but no less engaging. This is a great consideration in the implementation of women into the game, for an obvious pitfall might have been to make the physics identical between the two, and this would have been a mistake.
Street Ball – Nothing Really New, But Still Fun
The broad range of street ball modes are still available, but there is nothing new from NBA 2K19. The modes are still numerous, enjoyable, and largely untouched by any microtransactions. With that in mind, what has improved between NBA 2K19 and 20?
Before the game released, 2K games spoke in a blog entry about some of the most significant system improvements that were made to this year’s game. 2K stated that proper footwork is one of the core foundations for basketball and seeing that replicated properly in-game was key to enhancing the believably of AI who are working to be on both offense and defense. Without realistic movement, nothing else matters. When one begins to play NBA 2K20, it becomes clear that this was not simple lip service, but a core component to the game that looks and feels so much more natural than the previous games in the series.
The moment a pass of the ball is made, and the player takes control of a new character, the other characters are now far quicker in their responsiveness to move somewhere useful. This, paired with the more natural feeling footwork, combines to make teamwork that functions in a way that feels organic, and this is a great progression to see over last year’s game. Working Off-Ball was another goal for improvement according to 2K, and it feels much better.
Releases of sports games that seem to come purely because it is that time of year can bit hit or miss. The biggest concerns leading to the release of NBA 2K20 were that microtransactions would play too large a role in player progression, and that not enough would be changed from last year to justify the premium price of this AAA title.
While microtransactions are a controversial component of this game, and in this reviewer's opinion, should be removed completely from all AAA titles, they are less intrusive than in previous games, and in the long term, genuinely feels as though the Daily Login rewards will help keep the power level between players more manageable, but still far from equal.
Thankfully, we can comfortably say that NBA 2K20 is worth picking up. The inclusion of the WNBA has been done well in its gameplay, and the core gameplay improvements mentioned above are noticeable if one has played NBA 2K19, which now leans more towards fluid and realistic gameplay.