sEach fall we’re blessed with annual releases from some of the most popular video game series out there. In recent memory, no other franchise has enjoyed such a cult following like NBA 2K. Each year the series gets a fine tuning, along with updated rosters and varies tweaks that take the game to a new level.

NBA 2K19 hit the scene on Friday with more hype than I can recall in the last few years. Right out of the box it’s clear that 2K is set to shine again with buttery smooth gameplay and an exceptionally deep Career Mode that takes you on a journey from no-name to star. That’s not to say this year’s release isn’t without any issue as microtransactions continue to be a bother throughout. Despite that, NBA 2K19 continues to reign supreme as the best basketball simulation on the market today.

Getting Started |

One of the things that I love about NBA 2K19 is how easy it is to start playing the game right away. A brief intro followed by a ‘play now’ option, which has you to tip-off briefly following your matchup selection. You’re greeted with a reproduction of TNT’s pre-game show with virtual versions of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal.

While it’s easy to get into gameplay, there’s still a hefty learning curve when the ball is tipped…at least for this NBA 2K veteran. Despite the controls being familiar, 2K’s focus on making gameplay more lifelike than ever resulted in a beatdown by the CPU on the default difficult over my first five games. While I struggled out of the gate, there was a feeling that NBA 2K rewarded me along the way for my efforts. After a few hours, I felt more at home with the flow of the game and I was throwing down vicious dunks with Victor Oladipo in no time.

On that same wavelength, we’re seeing the return of NBA 2KU, which is perfect for beginners. I found it helpful as well as a way to quickly refresh your muscle memory. There’s guided 5 on 5 gameplay along with the ability to build your skills in 1-on-0 situations. It’s worth circling through here, at least in my mind, whether you’re a pro or not.

Gameplay and Visuals |

Each year, it feels like 2K just gets better and better. Gameplay remains to be the best recreation on the market today, besting NBA Live by far. Basketball fans love the 2K series because its captures the essence of the sport unlike any other title out there. You see, basketball is about more than the game. There’s a culture connected to shoes, fashion, music and more. 2K recognizes that with impressive customization across the board and licenses for all the hottest shoes out there this year. It doesn’t feel like a game in this regard, it feels like an experience.

NBA 2K19 shines yet again with in-depth game play controls, which is a large part of what makes this the best basketball simulation on the market today. In-depth playbooks and a host of player-specific moves, such as James Harden’s step-back or Steph Curry’s pull-up. The library of tactics and moves is so deep, that’s hard to imagine using them all to their best ability. But the sheer number of options here is what keeps me coming back to NBA 2K19 each year.

The visuals have taken another step forward this year, with impressive player recreations that now seemingly show emotions that we’ve come to expect from all of the biggest stars in perfect fashion. I’ve never played a sports simulation that was as visually consuming as NBA 2K19.

Game Modes |

As with past iterations, the key game mode here is MyCareer which takes you on an RPG-style journey from no-name to NBA star. This year’s story is called The Way Back which takes you on the road to Chine, to the NBA G League and eventually to the NBA if you play your cards right. I’ve put a few evenings into MyCareer, and I can say that delivers the same quality that we’ve seen on previous generations. Unlike other sports simulators, NBA 2K delivers dialogue that doesn’t feel cheesy or pre-packaged, rather it adjusts to your story making each experience fresh and new. It’s the gem of NBA 2K19 and a must play if you opt for this year’s release.

Along with online play, there’s a continuation of The Neighborhood which takes you to the blacktop for play against the CPU or friends. Franchise mode gives you the option to coach or be the GM and make decisions along the way. That’s in addition to the usual exhibition gameplay and 2KU that was referenced earlier. There’s enough action here to keep you entertained throughout the year.

Conclusion |

NBA 2K19 returns this year with all of the same features we’ve come to love in previous iterations. Advances in MyCareer mode and overall visuals deliver a best-in-class experience that basketball fans are sure to love. Microtransactions continue to be a downer as VCs must be used to purchase any notable upgrades, read: you’ll need real money here. That’s a downer that I would’ve like to see eliminated but 2K is likely working hard to cash-in on the momentum here while they can.

If you’re a basketball fan, this is the way to go. NBA 2K reigns supreme as a best-in-class experience for hoopers. You can buy NBA 2K19 on Xbox One or PlayStation 4 for $59.99.

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