NBA 2K20 Preview – Welcome to the Next

We’re almost there. #2Kday is upon us. Tomorrow, Friday September 6, NBA 2K20 will finally be released. We’re pretty sure that, having had the chance to get hands on with the game in LA and London already, our anticipatory excitement levels would be a 99 if they were a MyPlayer skill rating.

I’ve long been a MyCareer guy and this year’s storyline is fresh, thought provoking and cinematically impressive. No spoilers here, but let’s just say you can draw conclusions as to the opinions of the founders of SpringHill Entertainment and some recent basketball news, given the particular path this year’s story takes (is that cryptic enough for you?).  

My Double Clutch colleague, Josh Coyne, caught up with 2K Senior Producer, Ben Bishop, whilst at the 2K Community Day in LA to dig more into the story telling aspect of MyCareer. You can check out their conversation on Pod 310. 

The main tweak that I’m excited to see in action, is the way MyPlayers ranked overall between 95-99 utilise a “Dynamic Progression System”. Of course, this works on the asssumption I can get to 95, though I’m assured progression is much swifter this year.

Essentially, once you hit 95, to level up and separate yourself from your rivals, you need to perform consistently well. The better you do, the more you level up, but fail to maintain your high standards on court and you start sliding back down (but not below 95). 

The concept seemed so different, that when we first heard about it at the LA 2K Community Day in August, I wasn’t sure if I’d imagined it in some weird jet-lag fever dream. 

Senior Gameplay Director for NBA 2K, Mike Wang, went into some more detail about the feature on Twitter recently:

Make sure you check out our sit-down conversation with Mike, right here:

This, in addition to tweaks to the MyPlayer builder; including the ability to chose your own Takeover, over 100 archetypes to chose from and 50 new badges, makes the level of customisation you can apply to your player virtually limitless.

Jumping into the oncourt action itself, I was surprised by how different and better the game felt. A lot of work has gone into upgrading the motion engine, making the physics of player movement (even) more realistic, from weight distribution to the ability to change speed. You can find our initial reactions to playing on Episode 309, featuring UK 2K YouTuber, JD Crossover.

Improvements to AI have stepped up off-ball offense again, with constant teammate movement reacting to what you do on the court. On the other end of the floor, shutting down your opponent has been revamped with the Read and React defensive counter system. An indicator will suggest when to shift, cutoff and steal, but it’s up to you to read, react and make the stop.

Graphically, the game is beautiful. The level of detail which the animations go into, smack of an obsessive pursuit of perfection. So much so,  when I spoke with Senior Producer Erick Boenisch, the first thing I wanted to talk about was (somewhat bizarrely) sweat!

It’s the little things, like differing lighting from arena to arena and how those lights reflect on players, to the literal real time changing of the seasons in Neighbourhood, that make this game a work of art.

But obviously, we’re not just here to marvel in the beautiful imagery, after all if that’s we were looking for, we’d spend our free time in art galleries and not in front of TV’s hurling abuse, steeped in frustration at our inability to make a jump shot, at our opponents… Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s why JD Crossover elected not to record our audio feeds (well, definitely mine) when we went head-to-head last week with two of the game’s newest classic teams.

Oh and did we mention that for the first time, the freakin’ WNBA is now included! With all 12 teams and over 140 players featuring both in Play Now and Season modes, with gameplay animations, play styles, and visuals built exclusively for the women’s game. It has a totally different feel to the NBA gameplay, with stars like Liz Cambage and Elena Della Donne true to from as absolute monsters in the paint in their own unique ways.

One of the difficulties in creating an annual title is the ability to reinvent the wheel, capturing the interest of existing fans whilst simultaneously pulling in newbs. It’s safe to say that this year’s version of 2K does both, in an addictive and immersive basketball world with an experience you can tailor to your own taste.

NBA 2K has evolved into something much bigger than a basketball simulation, catering for wide variety of preferences whether you’re a baller or gamer – so the question is now really, are you ready for the next?