A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that NBA 2K19 is the latest installment in the popular and acclaimed basketball simulation for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PCs. The game doesn't feature any offensive content, although players can sometimes be exposed to inappropriate comments during online play. Players will be exposed to tons of branding and products in virtually every aspect of the game, with brands like Nike, Under Armour, Reese's, Gatorade, and more consistently showing up on menu screens, on billboards, or as key portions of the game. Players have the opportunity to become brand ambassador of some of these products as part of the MyCareer portion of the game, promoting these items to their virtual "fans." Players can earn virtual currency to upgrade their created athlete's stats, acquire new gear, or packs for their created teams by playing the game, but there's a clear push for gamers to spend real money to accelerate their progress.
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What's it about?
NBA 2K19 is the latest installment of the long-running basketball franchise, which builds on many elements from last year's game. For instance, the MyGM mode builds on the story in this managerial sim, and puts you in the role of controlling an expansion franchise. Players will manage all of the details, from uniforms and the arena to hiring staff and drafting athletes, as they try to lead this new organization to the top of the league. The MyTeam mode returns with new challenges, as well as MyTeam Unlimited, which lets you pit your best squad against anyone around the world. There's even a new playground-styled mode called Triple Threat, where you play three-on-three matches against either divisional teams or online opponents. MyCareer has a new plot this time around as well; this year, created players step into the shoes of AI, an undrafted basketball player who journeys to China to improve his game and hopefully catch the eyes of the league. Eventually, he winds up traveling back into the G-League in the states, before eventually catching onto a team and pursuing his dream. This year, players will be able to negotiate contracts for sponsorships, and the Neighborhood has been expanded with new mini-games, competitions, and ways to earn credits to improve your athlete.
Is it any good?
This year expands the boundaries of virtually every single mode and feature of the game, but some of last year's issues, while improved slightly, still linger over the gameplay. Whenever an NBA 2K game comes out, it's expected that you'll find lots of content to keep you playing for hours, but NBA 2K19 stretches the boundaries of the code to bursting. The MyGM mode puts a bit of extra pressure on you to lead an expansion team to success, which is just great. Players that sometimes avoid the franchise mode owe it to themselves to try this one: You get an excellent take on the challenge that the back offices in organizations face in putting together a winning business. MyTeam is more fun to go through this time around as well. Apart from the extra challenges and online competitions, the three-on-three mode of Triple Threat brings things back to the playground when you and your friends would argue about which players were better. Thanks to this mode, you can put those questions to rest. Finally, making the created athlete in MyCareer a baller that has to prove that he belongs in the league is a bold decision that works well. The story, which highlights the challenges of G-league players and athletes from around the world trying to get a break, feels like a refreshing twist from previous years, which have just automatically launched you into the spotlight on your squad. Add to this the ability to negotiate contracts and game incentives for your athlete as he starts to deliver on his potential, and you're starting to see the building blocks of great storytelling.
But the weaker elements from last year still remain, even though they've been slightly improved. The developers clearly listened to the gripes about fans being squeezed for every bit of in-game currency while being pushed to spend money, and they loosened the requirements somewhat. Now players have the opportunity to earn more credits with daily spins, and can play more mini-games to collect cash. Unfortunately, you'll still find that the rates of some enhancements, game packs, or other necessary extras to make your players competitive are steep, while the cash you earn by playing games is still a bit light. As a result, the push for diving into your wallet, while lighter than before, is still a real struggle. The shooting system is still a bit questionable as well, as players still have to balance their shot meter with the positioning of a defender and their athlete's stats for a shot to succeed. The range between light coverage and smothered defense still seems to be razor thin, so low post play, fast breaks, and perimeter shooting by only the steeliest shooters in the league almost take over for pulling up a jump shot or a running layup. These issues, and the massive advertising blitz you have in every game, have to be taken with grains of salt, though, because there's so much content to love in NBA 2K19 that you can take a little bit of bad with so much basketball goodness.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about consumerism in sports games like NBA 2K19. Does the inclusion of logos add to the realism, or are they only being used to push products? Is there a reason for there to be a logo on every street corner in the game? Do you feel uncomfortable with an athlete that you create being a spokesperson for different products?
Talk about how NBA 2K19 compares to real-world basketball. How well does it mirror the sport? Are there some elements you won't find on a real court?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.