Sport: 'NBA 2K19' and 'NBA Live 19' review: Which game is king of virtual basketball world? - PressFrom - United Kingdom

Sport 'NBA 2K19' and 'NBA Live 19' review: Which game is king of virtual basketball world?

19:40  14 september  2018
19:40  14 september  2018 Source:

How to play 'NBA 2K19' and 'NBA Live 19' early

  How to play 'NBA 2K19' and 'NBA Live 19' early Both "NBA 2K19" and "NBA Live 19" are offering ways to play them before they release on Sept. 7.This is shaping up to be a great year for fans of basketball video games, as "NBA 2K19" continues to capitalize on the series' advanced gameplay, impressive depth and variety of its modes, while "NBA Live 19" acts as a viable alternative because of its career mode and more accommodating nature.

Joel Embiid holding a sign © Provided by Perform Media Channels Limited

Last year, the "NBA 2K" series, which has reached unimaginable heights in terms of sales, critical acclaim and popularity, hit its first speed bump since it faced a crisis in 2013. "NBA 2K18" was the lowest-rated game from the series in a decade, and consumers revolted against microtransactions influencing the design and putting pressure on them to spend money simply to make the game fun to play.

Was that just an anomaly for "NBA 2K," or did the game hit its inevitable peak?

MORE: The highest-rated players in "NBA 2K19"

Meanwhile, "NBA Live" has written a completely different story since 2010 when the series collapsed with an ill-fated reboot. Multiple cancellations followed, and poor products were released early during this generation of consoles. However, just last year, "NBA Live" seemed to have stabilized with a decent effort and created hope for the future.

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Can "NBA Live" differentiate itself enough from the competition while avoiding an identity crisis?

Here's the good and the bad of what "NBA 2K19" and "NBA Live 19" have to offer this year...

"NBA 2K19" strength: Depth and polish

There is no other sports video game that can match "NBA 2K" in terms of content. What continues to amaze is that all of it — from gameplay, presentation, its various modes and other features — is exceptionally well done. This is not a series that does anything halfway.

"NBA 2K19" has cleaned up a number of flaws in gameplay from last year and produced a much more satisfying experience with the defense in particular making great strides to reduce the various tactics that were used as exploits in the past. Additionally, CPU players and teams show far more intelligence in a number of areas. That creates an ever greater challenge, but one that is more satisfying on both sides of the ball.

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NBA-2K19-LeBron-James-Lakers-FTR-080718.jpg © Provided by Perform Media Channels Limited NBA-2K19-LeBron-James-Lakers-FTR-080718.jpg

The series just keeps building on the areas in which it's already excelling. The commentary booth, which last year featured 11 rotating play-by-play announcers and color analysts, added another voice in Bill Simmons. The broadcasts stay fresh due to the different voices and the authentic presentation.

Though there were no new additions for "NBA 2K19," the 62 classic teams found in last year's game have returned. There are also new mini-games in the online space known as "The Neighborhood," which has been redesigned after complaints about how it was just a big time-waster used to push microtransactions and advertisements.

The MyCareer story mode in "NBA 2K19 might be its best yet. The production value is high once again, but the major gripes from the past have been addressed. Players can finally skip those annoying cutscenes, and the story is more understated. The main character, though incredibly insecure, isn't someone you want to root against. The promoted actors for this year, like the top-billed Anthony Mackie and Haley Joel Osment, are underutilized, however.

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"NBA Live 19" strength: More accessible

Sports video games are unquestionably complicated and difficult for those that are inexperienced or lack considerable knowledge of the sports they represent. It can be something that veterans who play every release fail to recognize, but if new fans don't come on board and enjoy their experiences, then the franchises will stagnate and die off. Contraction in the genre over the last decade can be attributed in part to that, along with the high cost of licenses and development.

"NBA Live 19" is the friendlier of the two basketball games, meaning it's the easier one to just pick up and play. The online modes are designed to be enjoyable social experiences, and it keeps microtransactions limited to its Ultimate Team mode — something that publisher EA Sports deserves credit for across its entire suite of sports games.

"NBA 2K19" is much more complex and intimidating. Those who put the time in with it will be rewarded, but there's no question that it's demanding. That isn't for everyone.

"NBA Live 19" weakness: Traditional experience

"NBA Live" was never going to be able to directly compete with "NBA 2K." Instead, it needed to offer something completely different. The series decided to go all-in on its career mode called "The ONE."

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Last year, it was established and proved successful in what amounted to the sole reason to play "NBA Live 18." That was understandable for a series in the process of a rebuild. However, EA Sports has doubled-down on it for "NBA Live 19." Almost all of the developments are related to this career mode while the actual NBA side of things is largely ignored.

a group of people standing in front of a basketball game: NBA Live 19 © Provided by Perform Media Channels Limited NBA Live 19

Basketball on the streets or custom courts is the focus now with a created character. Undoubtedly, these modes within "The ONE," which includes Court Battles (with various wacky scoring rules) and Live Run (teaming up online against teams full of user-controlled players), are fun and engaging, especially when playing with friends.

Those seeking a more traditional NBA experience, however, will be disappointed with the lack of advancement. The faltering authenticity even extends to a new commentary team, which features former player Jay Williams, who has never called an actual NBA game. The commentary is inexcusably atrocious, and it sounds like a relic from the distant past.

"NBA 2K19" strength: Emphasis on old features

Disappointment with the various Franchise Modes is a common sentiment expressed by sports gamers. Publishers and developers have, somewhat understandably, shifted resources toward modes that instead produce digital revenue.

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"NBA 2K" has proven to be the exception, and that is even more true with "NBA 2K19." The latest version features not one, not two (say it in a LeBron James voice), but three different ways to experience having control over a franchise. "NBA 2K19" has its ultra-customizable MyLeague, and now MyGM has been broken into two different options with one narrative-based and the other more traditional, bypassing the story angle.

It may even be fair to say the game has a fourth choice with its Online MyLeague, which for the first time delivers nearly all the same features as found offline. Only "Madden" has continued to support a full-fledged online franchise over the years, and developers with multiple series have publicly stated they have no interest in building out one of their own.

"NBA Live 19" weakness: Poor Franchise Mode

That is all in stark contrast to "NBA Live 19," which has easily the worst Franchise Mode of any major sports game. Very little was done to improve it from last year.

Core features are missing, and the mode is oddly structured. There is no player editing, its sim engine is flawed (bizarrely made predictions like Thunder over Bulls in next year's NBA Finals) and its free-agency logic is extremely problematic.

Those are just the obvious issues on the surface. Clearly EA Sports sees Franchise as a low priority, and those who find the mode important need to know that.

"NBA 2K19" weakness: Virtual Currency problem

The uproar over monetization hit a fever pitch last year with games like "Star Wars Battlefront 2" and "NBA 2K18" getting swept up into a debate over the influence it has on design and even the legality of whether the systems built into the games constitute gambling.

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"Virtual Currency" was not new to "NBA 2K," but consumers and media who had accepted it in the past or grown indifferent to it finally stood up to the tactics.

So what has been done to alleviate the pressure this year? Not as much as one would expect.

MyCareer characters still start at a lowly 60 Overall Rating. (It makes a little more sense in the context of the story this year.) Payouts of Virtual Currency have been bumped slightly, and there are additional ways to earn VC. But everything is still under the same single currency, meaning decisions have to be made on whether to spend on attribute increases, card packs, cosmetic items or other upgrades across the different modes.

Regardless, the grind remains a difficult and time-consuming one, with the ability to pay to jump ahead just as tantalizing as it was before. 2K Sports only did the bare minimum here to ensure that was still the case.

"NBA 2K19" and "NBA Live 19" final reviews

"NBA Live 19" seeks to carve out a niche in the sports game genre through its well-designed Career Mode and its accompanying online cooperative and competitive modes that involve the player's created character.

That direction will resonate with some but alienate those seeking a more traditional NBA experience, which is severely lacking.

Three stars © Provided by Perform Media Channels Limited Three stars

"NBA 2K19" is as complete a sports video game as any ever made, and only its aggressive monetization tactics hold it back from being considered one of the greatest.

With four different Franchise Mode variants, an enjoyable Story Mode, a rich suite of online features and continued celebration of the history of the league, "NBA 2K19" offers something for everyone.

Four and a half stars © Provided by Perform Media Channels Limited Four and a half stars

"NBA 2K19" and "NBA Live 19" were reviewed on Xbox One X. A digital download code for "NBA 2K19" was provided by publisher 2K Sports for the purpose of review. Both games are available now.

Bryan Wiedey posts sports gaming news and analysis daily at, is co-founder of the sports gaming site, hosts the "Press Row Podcast" and can be reached on Twitter @Pastapadre.

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