A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that NBA 2K20 is the latest installment in the long-running basketball sports simulation franchise on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PCs. The game doesn't include any inappropriate content, but players can be exposed to offensive comments in online play. The most significant concern parents might have is the amount of branding continually being pushed throughout the game, including Nike, Gatorade, Beats, Express clothes, and more. Players negotiate contracts to be ambassadors of these brands in the MyCareer portion of the game, gaining virtual fans as a side effect of these promotions. Players will earn in-game credits by playing the game, which can be used to upgrade a created athlete's stats, buy new clothing or gear, or earn new players for their created teams by purchasing card packs. Gamers are pushed to purchase money to accelerate their progress through the game, and it also dives heavily into casino-styled item spins and pachinko-like peg boards to earn new items. It is also sold in multiple versions which offer varying degrees of content.
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What's it about?
NBA 2K20 is the latest installment in the long running sports basketball simulation, and features lots of new content and features across virtually every single game mode. Ten new legendary teams have been added to more than hundred team roster from multiple eras of the sport, fleshing out dream team squads and competitions so gamers can discover who the best players of all time happened to be. This year also includes all 12 WNBA teams and unique broadcast team for those head to head matchups across Play Now and Season modes. 2K20 also revamps the shooting and dribbling controls in all modes to make the action more dynamic, and even ties some of the gameplay to a revamped badge system where players can lock down opposing athletes with their defense, improve their success with jump shots, and many more options. The MyTeam mode has added new tweaks to the Triple Threat game challenge, as well as evolving player cards that improve their stats as players accomplish certain tasks during games, such as scoring a certain number of points. Some cards and game modes will also have limited time challenges to earn some upgrades as well. The MyCareer mode returns as well, with a new story, "When the Lights Shine the Brightest." Focusing on Che, a young basketball player and captain of his team in his senior year at Bay City College. Instead of leaving school early to be drafted by an NBA team, Che sticks around until his senior league. But when a younger player is injured and kicked off the team before a championship game, Che decides to sit out and sacrifice his chances at a guaranteed place in the league to make a stand and bring attention to the injustices on his team. Can the player lead Che through the draft, and will his decisions for his teammate come back to haunt his chances at success in the league?
Is it any good?
This year's installment of basketball is one of the biggest yet, but its old issues, some of which seem larger than ever, keep this from being a total slam dunk. There's plenty of new content added into NBA 2K20 this year across virtually every single mode. For example, for the first time in franchise history, players can choose one of the 12 WNBA squads and play a quick match or season with those teams. It's a nice addition that rounds out the professional simulation of basketball in North America, and could be expanded in future years. You'll also pick up on some adjusted elements to on-court play, such as a revamped dribble system to help ball carriers break ankles before driving the lane or kicking the ball out for a quick jump shot on the perimeter from an open teammate. MyTeam returns with a dynamic card evolution of players by completing goals in challenges, which gives an additional test to your on-court play. Finally, MyCareer has been updated with an original story, where players are cast as Che, a college athlete that endangers his draft stock when he protests the championship game for his school after an injured teammate is kicked off his team. While there's very little question that Che will get drafted, his impact on the league is up to the player and their skill. Fortunately, some tweaks have been made, such as improving the training sessions in your team facility and the Gatorade center to improve your on-court play in a more substantive way, with larger sessions and stat bonuses that last up to an actual week.
Even so, the career mode is somewhat thin – connections you make and people you talk to in the prologue rarely come back or impact the day to day action of your character. For instance, your roommate in the prologue gets no acknowledgement, apart from a quick line by the announcers when you play his team. In some ways, it highlights the consistent issue of My Career, which is spending money to improve your created character. While there are a lot of ways to earn bonus credits and items (some of which feel right at home in a Las Vegas casino), the truth of the matter is that unless you're willing to sink lots of time playing games to earn cash, you'll have to spend money to make your player even slightly competitive on the court. Worse, unless you're perfect with your shot meter every single time, you'll need to spend a lot of credits on improving your shot stats. Also, you'll have to select badges that boost your shooting chances, thereby weakening your characters in other areas if you want any chance of consistently making a shot outside of taking a layup. Finally, there are other technical issues that haven't been ironed out yet, like a surprising amount of network disconnection issues in the middle of online games. That's not to say that NBA 2K20 doesn't look great or play well, but the ball is a bit flatter and doesn't bounce as well as you'd hope, even with all of this expanded content.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about consumerism in sports games like NBA 2K20. 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?
How well does NBA 2K20 mirror the sport? Are there some elements in the game or in its various modes that you won't find on a real court?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: 2K Sports
- Release date: September 6, 2019
- Genre: Sports
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Friendship
- ESRB rating: E for Mild Language
- Last updated: April 13, 2020
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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.