“Are we definitely at the right place?” I recall being uttered as we pulled up to the unassuming exterior of the Microsoft Lounge in Los Angeles, the entrance obscured by mass foliage and the tall shadows of industrial structures.
After a short period basking in the morning heat, we entered, welcomed by Ronnie Singh and the interior aesthetic of new-age, avocado-on-rye-bread culture often found within the tech industry. We were instantly hit by the impressive presentation of the day’s event, with large screens for trailer previews, stylish branding draped over the room and individual gaming stations for each of us. Also, the bread was delicious.
I was in town for the NBA 2K20 ‘Community Day’, in which I got the chance to play the game before almost everybody on earth. Also attending alongside Double Clutch were several #NBAintheUK comrades, a select group of NBA 2K content creators and musicians such as Offset, The Game and J Balvin.
In addition to diving deep into the latest instalment of the franchise, we had the chance to speak to the developers of the game, which you’ll be able to hear on the Double Clutch podcast very soon.
Prior to the trip, I tweeted a vague question, to gather some user questions ahead of the event. Below, you can find my attempts to answer said questions, based on my morning of playing the world’s biggest basketball game.
Out of interest, if there was something you wanted to know about #NBA2K20, what would it be?
— Josh Coyne (@poundcoyne) 14 August 2019
Danny Williamson @Sacto_King_UK
“Do we get to see Sir Charles yet?”
Unfortunately, the long-enduring battle to feature Charles Barkley continues for 2K. As has been widely covered, Barkley hasn’t allowed the game publisher to include his likeness in their games since 2K15, either as an analyst or playable character. Of course, this is bad news for Phoenix Suns enthusiasts and fans of Chuck’s no-holds-barred broadcasting style.
James Lees @jamesvsburger
“What are the changes to the presentation this year?
One of the first things I commented on was the aesthetic improvement this year; from the simple yet engaging menu page to the in-game graphics, cinematic cutaways and ridiculously realistic player appearance, the look of the game is on point, from end to end.
Huw Hopkins @coach_huw
“Is there an WNBA career mode? Can you make players and draft them etc?”
Not quite, yet.
From speaking to Senior Producer Erick Boenisch, I sensed that the team had ambitious plans to expand on the WNBA inclusion after this edition, but career mode is not included just yet. There will however be a season mode for WNBA, in which you can control a team of your choice, make front office decisions and ultimately try to lead your team to the promised land.
The WNBA mode as a whole is something that the Visual Concepts team feel passionate about getting right. They know that the women’s game is different and they have worked passionately to match the player mechanics, strategic approaches and skillsets of the W.
Daniel Durham @Vexati0usFTW
“Anything about MyCareer mode for this year. It’s literally one of the only modes I ever play. What’s new? What’s improved? How am I more immersed?”
Along with Spring Hill Entertainment (LeBron James & Maverick Carter – also feature as characters), VC have put together an interesting and filmic piece that drives your MyCareer destiny, under the title ‘When the Lights Are Brightest’, directed by Sheldon Candis. As you can see from the trailers, the production includes performances from The Wire’s Idris Elba, Sin City’s Rosario Dawson and Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch. It begins with a dramatic narrative that sparks an interesting and thought-provoking conversation about college sport.
Whether the story continues to engage beyond the small sample size I was able to fit into my session is yet to be seen, but the signs are hopeful.
Geraint Jones @gera1nt
“In the classic teams are the Magic ’01 Team of TMac and G Hill going to be in there? #NBA2K20?”
Pete Toal @PeteToal
“Would love see more info regarding the classic teams. Which players are on the newly added teams & who is not?”
I didn’t actually experience any gameplay with the classic teams, but I can reveal that there are 10 new teams featured. Newly featured are the 2009-2010 Portland Trail Blazers, the 2015-2016 Cleveland Cavaliers, 2013-2014 San Antonio Spurs, 2002-2003 Phoenix Suns and most notably, All-Decade teams from every era of NBA history. The new additions push the overall amount of playable legendary teams over 100.
Sadly, none of those teams include the aforementioned Orlando side, unfortunately.
Aaron G. Eamer @eamer
“If it’s still a ridiculous ball-ache of a grind in MyCareer, or they’ve actually tried to make it enjoyable again.”
I had the chance to sit down with 2K20 Senior Producer Ben Bishop, who I asked about the common concerns around MyCareer and the rate of progression. He told me that the feedback was taken on board, and that progression is much smoother than last year.
In 2K19, many felt as though your player could make huge steps early on and then it became a monotonous drudge to maximise your player’s skillset. He told me, with a great deal of confidence, that this had been combatted. The general feel is that as well as introducing a fresh storyline, the 2K team have created a more satisfying MyCareer overall.
Captain Hindsight @HindsightNba
“Try to find out whatever you can about the possible player builds and badges that we can create.”
What seemed to get the more accomplished and dedicated gamers most excited on the day was the massive increase of badges and more flexible skillset customisations this year. You can create a much more nuanced player, with a variety of combinations – including 50 new badges and over 100 archetypes -that will set you aside from everybody else in the community.
When information about the wider scope for player building was revealed in the room, I heard legitimate gasping noises that could have only been made by sleep-deprived, energy-drink-guzling YouTubers and in that moment, I knew just how exciting this would be for the 2K community.
Oliver Primus @OliverPrimus
“The biggest difference between last year’s game and the new one?”
That’s a big question, and I guess it comes down to what game mode you are most invested in.
The inclusion of the WNBA is a significant step for obvious representation reasons and from my limited one-game experience, I believe that they have absolutely nailed that. Also massive developments, MyCareer’s impressive production value has taken another leap and the more complex player building will be a delight to all players.
In terms of general gameplay itself, improvements have been made to mirror the authentic NBA experience. Finishing at the rim and on-ball movement has become more specific to players and the latest evolution of Pro Stick means that you can find a multitude of ways to beat defenders. Off-ball mechanics are incredibly realistic, with uncanny cutting and screening movement.
NBA 2K20 is a natural progression from last year’s game, from what I could gather. Whether you are a dedicated gamer or a casual player, drawn in by their larger obsession with the league like myself, I trust that you will be satisfied.
I hope that helped.
Featured photo – Joe Pinchin / Hoopsfix / 2K Sports / Double Clutch illustration – Matthew Wellington
Josh is a hoops, music and TV sitcom fanatic who survives primarily on copious amounts of pasta. He fell in love with basketball when his mum and dad showed him Larry Bird footage at a young age.