2K gave us the opportunity to go hands-on with its latest downtown shoot-em-up, and we’re not talking about GTA. After unveiling its cover star a few weeks back but showing off little in terms of gameplay, we managed to score about 30 minutes with the new career mode in NBA2K19 —and left our demo surprised by how it all panned out.
As expected, you begin by creating your own character — but this time someone else is along for the ride. Right from the get-go, you’ve got someone standing in your corner with a representative walking you through the character creation process. The conversation feels realistic as you move down the line tweaking various aspects of your character, in which decisions on your height and wingspan affect more specific attributes. It all helps you to invest in the future star being crafted in front of you.
But just when we;ve got our prodigy looking fresh and ready to step into the limelight of the NBA, we’re hit by the first major twist in the game. Instead of the immediate glory you’d expect, NBA 2k19 opts for a more realistic approach to kickstarting a sporting career, because right away you’re hit by crushing disappointment. Instead of getting your shot at the big leagues, you don’t get picked for the NBA draft and you’re forced to leave your home and head to China to play there.
It’s a lovely little tweak to the standard career trajectory we are used to, in an opening that immediately grabs our attention. This time around, the stakes are higher. Not only do you have to prove yourself to your coach, but for the first time, you have to contend with being a fish out of water. Sure, there’s a translator there to tell you what the coach just bleated at everyone, but thanks to the language barrier, you can’t help but feel for your character as you help him navigate this alien world.
But what a beautiful world it is. With cutscenes seamlessly transitioning into gameplay, NBA 2K19‘s career mode flows amazingly well. Once you’re on the court the animations are smooth too, with lots of nice little touches help to draw you into the game. Sometimes we genuinely would dribble around just to look at how the light reflected off the court.
It’s not just arcadey thrills though, as there’s a nice tactical element to play here, too. You’ll choose when to sub on, manage team chemistry, and make your minutes count. When to mark your man and be a team player — because your new coursemates will be scrutinizing your every move. It’s interesting to see the fallout afterward, watching how everyone reacts to your skill and decisions. If you selfishly take that low percentage shot when someone else was open, you’d better sink it.
In our short time with NBA 2K19‘s My Career mode, we came away impressed. While it remains to be seen how the rest of the story will hold up, we’re definitely looking forward to finding out.
NBA 2K19 launches on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch on September 11th.