NBA 2K20 review for Xbox One, PS4, Switch

Platform: Xbox One
Also on: PC, PS4, Switch
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Visual Concepts
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1-10
Online: No

I?ll say this right off the bat: I don?t know how accurate my assessment of NBA 2K20 is.

It?s not that I haven?t played the game enough to get a feel for it — I have. Rather, I got the NBA 2K20 ?Legends Edition,? which includes 100,000 units of Virtual Currency and 50,000 MyTEAM Points. And, as a result, the experience I had with the game is vastly different than it would be if I had played the base game.

This means, of course, that the problem that has plagued the last few versions of the NBA 2K series remains present for this go-around. MyCareer is built around earning VC and improving your player, except you earn it at such a slow rate, you?ll constantly be reminded that you can either grind your way to being a half-decent benchwarmer, or you can take a shortcut, bypass all that, and just buy the VC directly. While I haven?t touched MyTeam, the fact they released a trailer that basically looked like a casino ad leads me to suspect that the MyTEAM Points function more or less the same way.

Now, in NBA 2K20?s defence, it never reaches the abhorrent depths of NBA 2K18. It doesn?t feel like a neverending push to get you to buy more VC at every opportunity that just so happens to allow you to play basketball every once in awhile. But it?s definitely squarely in line with NBA 2K19, which wasn?t that far off from its predecessor.

This spirit of buy-buy-buy infects MyCareer in other ways, too. While it?s ostensibly about the struggles of a player named ?Che? (thus following in the similarly awful naming conventions that have given us Prez, AI, and Freq — pronounced ?Freak?) as he rebounds from standing up for a player who lost his scholarship, it?s really about Che getting as many endorsements as he can. It?s as if 2K looked at the political climate, and wanted to be ?political? without being political, and decided to have a few nods towards athlete activism, but not in a way that could possibly offend anyone.

Thus, for every conversation you have where someone praises Che for being such a bold thinker, you have chats with Mark Cuban about furthering your post-basketball career, and with Jerry Lorenzo (a sneaker designer) about how your ideal shoes would look, or you have long, involved discussions about Adidas? marketing strategy that read like they were copied verbatim from a press release. I get that they?re going for some verisimilitude, and I?m a fairly reliable defender of the merits of capitalism, but it all feels a bit much.

It also wastes a whole bunch of very talented actors. While Thomas Middleditch is reliably funny as your agent, Rosario Dawson and Idris Elba are given almost nothing to do, and seem like they?re there more so the game can brag about having Dawson and Elba in its cast. The story is over and done with pretty quickly, and features almost no basketball.

That?s a shame, too, because when you actually get to play basketball, NBA 2K20 once again shines when you hit the court. Players move well, and feel like they have just the right amount of weight to them. The ball, too, moves like a basketball should, which means you have no wonky physics. If you just want to play basketball, NBA 2K20 will let you do that. And, what?s more, it gives you the option of playing with WNBA teams, too, which is a nice step in the right direction.

I?ll also give the game credit for improving an already-robust GM mode. As someone who loves building teams, NBA 2K20 gave me all the control I could ever ask for, and I spent hours tinkering away with all the little things I wanted to play with. Plus it has an expansion mode, which is possibly my favourite thing to do in any sports game.

But let?s be honest: that?s not the point of NBA 2K20. This game is designed to get you to pay out as much money as possible, as often as possible, and it just so happens to be built around basketball. Admittedly, the basketball here is quite solid, but more often than not it feels like an afterthought to the main, casino-tinged event.

2K Games provided us with an NBA 2K20 Legends Edition Xbox One code for review purposes.

Grade: B-