NBA 2K19 MyCareer
When talking about "guilty pleasure" games, I always come back to the same thing; sports game story modes. Regardless of the sport, I've always been interested in the various ways companies inject narrative and unique gameplay into their flagship games. Over the years there have been a slew of sports games that have attempted story driven campaigns, but most fail or come up short. Some sports (mostly professional wrestling and casual compilations) thrive on their single player modes of play. The more popular games like Madden NFL and NBA 2K focus on their online components. However, recent entries in some of these key sports franchises have started introducing deeper and more complex single player modes, usually with a focus on narrative. NBA 2K19's MyCareer mode is a definite step up over other recent iterations, but it doesn't quite hit the mark like FIFA's " The Journey" story mode does. Regardless, there are some very neat things in NBA 2K19 that other developers should make note of, and continue building upon.
The Way Back Steps Up
NBA 2K19's narrative effort is tucked into the MyCareer mode, and is titled "The Way Back". It chronicles the journey of an up and coming basketball star, who you create and customize in a player editor. I've found that most truly great sports stories focus on a preexisting character, like FIFA "The Journey" lead character Alex Hunter. There is often more life and emotion in predetermined characters versus custom created ones, and that stands true in "The Way Back". The lead character is a bit unlikable, determined to prove he is the best athlete around. This cocky attitude is reality checked early on, when they are overlooked in the NBA draft. You also have a best friend, Corey Harris, who predictably gets drafted to the Lakers. Meanwhile, your character gets shipped off to China, where they must deal with competing in a foreign country. This "fish out of water" story is a bit weak, but presents one of the first key gameplay elements that make the mode exciting.
Your introductory games take place in China, and unless you're fluent in Chinese, you'll feel just as lost as your character. Besides a friendly translator who does his best, every commentator, spoken line, and ref call is made in Chinese. This presents an interesting change of pace, as your focus is immediately of the game and performing well than anything else. The different culture makes way for some exciting competitors, highlighted in fun matches. More than anything else though, these early matches reduce the glitz and glamour that comes with the NBA. No eccentric cheerleaders or firework; just solid basketball in an unfamiliar place. This also sets an early precedence for originality within the story, which is executed to varied results.
NBA 2K19 starts off in China without the glamor of the NBA.
This interesting turn continues, as you progress to the G-League before getting drafted. In between, you participate in several fun sequences. For example, you spend time shooting casual hoops with the locals during your time in the G-League. One section of the game even lets you play a retro version of 2K in an arcade. These are the fun sequences I want out of sports story modes. It's awesome when a developer can take the fundamentals of the sport and gameplay and adapt it into interesting and inventive chunks.
The VC Grind
Once you get drafted in the NBA, most of the fun story distractions and sequences stop popping up. Instead, you must focus on your normal season of hoops, all while trying to impress your coach and team with your abilities. This represents a more standard NBA 2K experience, which will of course require you to earn plenty of VC. VC stands for virtual currency, and it's the lifeblood of NBA 2K. You get VC for nearly everything; completing games, performing well, practicing, and competing online. You'll need tons of VC if you want your custom character to be playing like a true NBA star.
If you've got the time, VC can be earned in-game at a slower rate. You can also grab VC by spending real money, boosting your character quickly. If you plan on spending lots of time playing NBA 2K19, you might want to consider grabbing some VC. To compete online, you'll definitely want to get leveled up a significant amount. Otherwise you might find your character missing shots, losing defensive position, and more.
Even with the VC grind taken into account, NBA 2K19's MyCareer mode is one of the best in the franchise's recent history. There are plenty of awesome story moments and some cool gameplay sequences to enjoy, and the beginning hours are a joy to play. Although it ultimately falls short towards the end, I really had a good time experiencing my trek through China and the G-League. It might not be a perfect sports story mode, but NBA 2K19's MyCareer is impressive in its own right.