NBA 2K20 (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Justin Prinsloo 29.09.2019

Review for NBA 2K20 on Nintendo Switch

Another year, another entry in 2K's long-running NBA franchise. The team at Visual Concepts aims to up the ante every year, making the game more true-to-life and distinguished with each entry; an endeavour that many other sport simulator franchises could learn from. Of course, there's always a hefty backlash from fans regarding the tactics employed by 2K off the court - the invasive microtransactions chief among them. Regardless, NBA 2K20 strives to do what it does every year: provide players with an unrivalled, life-like basketball experience.

For starters, the fact that this game has been ported wholesale onto the Nintendo Switch from the superior power of the other consoles and PC is a remarkable feat worthy of a perfect score in itself. Not only is every feature in the other versions available on the Switch too, but it runs remarkably well both docked and in handheld mode, with only a few frame-rate dips during cut-scenes. The gameplay itself is what fans have grown to expect of these titles in recent years, minus some of the finer graphical details that the more powerful machines can render.

Truly, the only downgrades to the Switch version of NBA 2K20 are graphical in nature. Textures are flattened and finer details omitted, particularly on player models, to ensure the game runs the way it does on the Switch. It's great to see the same game on every platform, unlike FIFA's latest efforts, which have been missing swathes of content on the Switch ports.

Gameplay-wise, it's more of the same in the best possible way. It would be more surprising, in fact, if the gameplay was a step down from previous entries - every year, Visual Concepts sets the bar a little higher for themselves. More than ever, in 2K20 every player feels unique, and their distinct play styles and mannerisms have been captured remarkably - from James Harden's loping, lazy strides to Russel Westbrook's explosive power. Knowing each athlete's strengths and utilising them in-game just as one might see them do in real life is a massive treat. For those whose knowledge of the game is superior, NBA 2K20 is a most rewarding experience.

Screenshot for NBA 2K20 on Nintendo Switch

That does mean, of course, that the more casual players will have a harder time getting into it. Those not well-versed in the real-life sport may find it tricky to grasp the nuances of this sim, especially because each character's attributes and physical build play such an important role in the way they perform. Using a player out of position is doomed to fail, making this a simulation game in the truest sense. Everything about the game on the court is lifelike, for better or worse. The AI is as ruthless as ever, capitalising on any mistakes and utilising the new player mechanics to the full. Even on Rookie difficulty newcomers may struggle at first.

A new addition to the game is the WNBA. As expected, the women's game doesn't boast as many modes and features as 2K20's well-established men's counterpart, but it is nevertheless a promising start. Thankfully, it's not a case of a simple skin swap for the new women's teams - the WNBA's gameplay is quite different to the NBA's, just as in real life. There's a heavier emphasis on utilising each player in their preferred position, a feature that the regular NBA modes can perhaps thank the introduction of the WNBA for.

All in all, 2K20 is a joy to experience on the court. The commentary team is fantastic and strives to make the game more realistic than ever before. While there are a few issues like the aforementioned frame-rate dips as well as some wonky camera angles on replays and highlights, this is a very enjoyable game.

Screenshot for NBA 2K20 on Nintendo Switch

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and it's off the court where the quality of 2K20 leaves a lot to be desired. The main problem is the most obvious one: the game is littered with microtransactions, ranging from the insidious to the downright invasive. From the story-driven MyCareer mode to the casino-like MyTeam, 2K has outdone itself on cramming their money-grabbing antics into a videogame that would be excellent without them.

The first place these unwelcome invaders appear is in MyCareer. Ironically, 2K20's MyCareer is the best it's ever been story-wise. Players take control of Che, a young college baller who goes head to head with the corrupt organisation in charge of drafting young players into the NBA. This reviewer doesn't know enough about the real-world drafting process to say if this story hits the nail on the head, but other critics have largely applauded the story's take on the process. In any case, this is a solidly enjoyable cinematic experience that doesn't overstay its welcome and includes cameos from actor Idris Elba and Lakers man Anthony Davis.

Once the main story is cleared, players are introduced to The Neighbourhood, a sandbox environment that offers the opportunity to interact with other players, enjoy various mini-games and, of course, purchase cosmetics and skill upgrades with VC in an attempt to reach the coveted player rating of 99. While the "Road to 99" isn't as gross a grind as in previous years, it still attempts to steer players towards purchasing VC with real money, which never sits well in a game that retails at full price. While this isn't strictly necessary in order to meet the mark, it's nevertheless far too tempting, which is no doubt exactly what 2K was aiming for. It's a mark on the otherwise great MyCareer mode, but a dark mark indeed.

Screenshot for NBA 2K20 on Nintendo Switch

2K20's MyTeam mode, on the other hand, doesn't even attempt a soft sell. From the get-go, 2K's take on FIFA's Ultimate Team mode bombards the player with a stifling casino-inspired trip, the basis of which is purchasing "card" packs that have random players in them and subsequently building a team out of the assembled cards to take on opponents online or offline. Aside from dynamic ratings on some of these cards, any sense of progression is merely superficial in nature. MyTeam is simply not worth the time of anyone playing 2K for the fun of it.

MyLeague and MyGM are perhaps the most playable modes in the long term, aside of course from the various quickplay modes. These are where one's aptitude for the intricacies of the game really come to the fore, meaning they're quite punishing to newcomers, but nevertheless loads of fun once their core concepts are grasped. They haven't been changed much - if at all - from previous iterations, but this isn't strictly a bad thing in the sense that they ain't broke, so need no fixing. It would be nice, however, to see them overhauled in future entries just to freshen things up.

In short, NBA 2K20 is a fantastic basketball simulator. It truly shines on the court with its superb gameplay, and the tweaks made this year are significant enough to stave off the "new year, same game" remarks directed at many other sport sims. It's mostly the moments in between the actual basketball, however, that relentlessly hurt the experience. 2K20 is a vision of gaming under the absolute tyranny of microtransactions, and it's one that this reviewer is praying remains contained to a single franchise, if it even has to exist at all.

Screenshot for NBA 2K20 on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

NBA 2K20 keeps things fresh with some welcome tweaks to gameplay, refining a product that was already well-oiled and well-drilled. This year's MyCareer mode is an enjoyable enough experience but it, like most of the other modes, is spoiled by microtransactions. Year on year, Visual Concepts continues to push the bar on providing an excellent basketball sim. It would be nice if 2K could finally start providing fan service to match.

Developer

Visual Concepts

Publisher

2K Sports

Genre

Sport

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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