Reviewing the NBA 2K series is sort of a strange task when you really think about it. Unlike most games, you can't just judge a new edition of 2K with a fresh lens. Since these games come out every year, and they each have the exact same appeal to players, it's all about comparing it to those that have come before. The goal of the franchise is to improve on the mistakes made by the previous installments, while also adding some new elements to keep things fresh and exciting. Some previous editions of the game, like 2K18, totally whiffed on both of these objectives. NBA 2K20 is exactly the opposite, improving on the past and delivering a great experience. At least, for the most part.
Let's start with the good news. NBA 2K20 does a lot of things well, but there are two elements of the game that are truly fantastic: The MyPlayer campaign and the smooth in-game offensive mechanics.
The MyPlayer campaign is the crown jewel of 2K20, there's no doubt about it. The stories featured in 2K18 and 2K19 were wildly unrealistic and outlandish, putting players through stories that seemed to have nothing to do with an actual journey into the NBA. Produced by Maverick Carter and LeBron James, and featuring performances from Idris Elba, Rosario Dawson, and Thomas Middleditch, the 2K20 campaign is so much more grounded than any other iteration in the past. It also dives into real-life social issues and challenges that players face every day, really exploring the theme of being "more than an athlete" that has been a large factor in James' career. It's also very cinematic in its style and cutscenes, making all of the bits between games actually feel important. You want to know what happens in the story, which can't really be said for any of the other campaigns over the years. It may take a little long to play through, especially when you get into the pre-draft combine, but it's hard not to enjoy every minute of it.
The other major improvement in 2K20 is the offensive-minded gameplay. Over the last few years, the 2K franchise has tried desperately to make each part of a game feel as real as possible. It eventually became almost too real, making it difficult to create shots or move past defenders; 2K20 totally fixes these issues. Handling the ball has never felt more fluid or authentic, allowing the offense to fire on all cylinders. I've truly never had this much fun playing in exhibition games, because scoring has never been so accessible. This does make defending an opponent a lot more difficult, but it's a trade-off worth making.
Microtransactions are still present, and it can be really easy for people to spend their way to the top. Both MyTeam and MyPlayer suffer a bit from these, as well as the strange loot box-type games, but that's to be expected at this point. It's annoying, but par for the course. The real problem with 2K20, and it's a big problem, is its online play.
You've likely seen people complaining online about 2K20 by now. #Fix2K20 was trending on Twitter over the weekend, and for good reason. There are glitches galore when playing online, no matter which game mode you're in, but that isn't the most frustrating part. It seems as if the gameplay actually changes, quite dramatically, when shifting online. The players are slightly slower, the shot meter is much more unpredictable, and all of those great offensive changes 2K20 made simply disappear about 60% of the time. Playing online can be a total nightmare in this game, a difficult fact to stomach when so much of it is designed for online interaction.
There is a silver lining to all of this: the online issues can probably be fixed. There have already been patches to the game to help eliminate the glitches and smooth everything out. If 2K20 can work these things out early on, it'll cement itself as one of the most enjoyable installments in the entire franchise.
Rating: 4 out of 5
NBA 2K20 is now available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch. A review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.