I’ve always been a fan of the NBA 2K games since I first played NBA 2K back on the Dreamcast. The promise of a realistic simulation of the only sport I really care about was obviously alluring, and the in more recent years, the video game itself was the catalyst for me following its real life counterpart again. That’s why it’s such a shame that this latest entry in the series is so underwhelming and broken that it’s hard for me to want to play more of it until the inevitable patches hit.
I know not a lot of my readers have a big familiarity with the NBA 2K games, so I’ll do my best to summarize some of the core systems in place. Like most sports games these days, you can choose between a variety of modes from creating a player and taking them through their career, to playing as a general manager of a team, to whatever their card collecting mode that I never touch is about. Normally I stick to the franchise mode, where you pick a team or teams, and just run them through the years managing trades and contracts, along with playing the games too.
This year I decided to try out the career mode, which tasked me with creating a virtual version of myself and taking him through climbing the ranks as a college player with the hopes of getting drafted in the NBA. The story itself is all over the place, having your player decide to look Idris Elba (no, really) in the eyes and say that he isn’t going to play in the championship game, because a player I’ve never met on my team got injured and lost their scholarship. By the time I ended the pre-NBA story mode, I was a first round draft pick that got selected by the New York Knicks.
Now here’s where the game part gets in the way. NBA 2K launched in a hilariously broken state with players reporting a wide variety of glitches and bugs ranging from funny, to game breaking. Some people noticed their player names weren’t showing up on their NBA jerseys, animation glitches that allowed their opponents to just break the rules of basketball to suit their needs, and a whole lot of server issues that led to lost progress.
That last one is made all the worse when you take into account the VC, or virtual currency that runs the game. VC is money that you either earn in game or pay for with real money that allows you to upgrade your stats and buy clothes and shoes for your character. To spend any of this VC, the game pings the 2K servers and authorizes the transaction to make sure you haven’t done anything unsavory. What that meant for players though, was that loading screens, purchasing, and earning, were all reliant on the servers holding up. They did not. That meant a lot of people weren’t getting any money for their games, or losing cash because the servers messed up the transaction. It was a real bummer.
2K has since patched the game to fix some of these loading issues, but while not as egregious as it was at launch, some of these problems still persist. I’ve also encountered a new one that makes playing the game, all the more laborious. As a player, you’ll need to attend practice and complete drills to upgrade your players badges. Badges are like perks that help you do things that aren’t explicitly stat related, or boost you over what your stats dictate. A badge can enable you to see where a rebound where land when a missed shot is put up, or make driving the lane easier for you. In these drills, you gain a 1 to 3 star rating depending on how good you’ve done. But with a new glitch in the progression system, getting a 3 star rating just subtracts your score from your total progression, so the better you do, the more experience you lose. It’s made progressing normally impossible, to the point where I don’t even want to touch the mode until they fix it.
On top of all that, there’s just the abundance of things trying to get you to spend money in the game. We’ve all seen the slot machines and “gambling” hooks that 2K themselves showed off in a promotional pre-release video, but there’s just stuff everywhere in the career mode encouraging you to spend real money. Not to mention your player is so easily outmatched by everyone in the NBA that you’ll basically be demoralized into paying for VC to boost your stats.
It’s all such a shame because the actual game part of NBA 2K20 is fun. Sure it’s got some weird animation glitches that pop up once in a while, but otherwise the act of playing basketball is still fun. My main issues with NBA 2K20 are that the modes I mostly play, the franchise mode, has not been touched in any meaningful way since last year, and all the gross micro-transaction stuff that is always in the series. I’m sure I’ll end up putting in another few hundred hours into the game like I always do, but man, I wish they’d shake up the formula a little bit.