We’re about a week away from the month of August and there’s very little news released about NBA 2K19. Most fans are starting to get antsy as they wait to hear what changes have been brought to the table for this year’s game. Luckily, I was able to attend a 2K event where I had some hands-on time with the game, chopping it up with Mike Wang and Scott O’Gallagher. I got in about five full games, playing against YouTube personality Chris Smoove (@Chris_Smoove) and YouTube/Forbes writer Brian Mazique (@UniqueMazique).
Here’s a quick list of some of the changes, improvements and remaining nuances I noted while playing:
- New and Added Animations, Better AI – in the games that were played, there were what looked like a lot of new animations in all aspects of the game. There were new and varied loose-ball animations where players would battle for the ball. This tied together well with the AI. There were instances where the ball got knocked loose and you saw Draymond Green get right on the floor and dive for the loose ball; in another loose ball battle, I saw JaVale McGee fight for the ball, but when it got to the point where he should have gotten on the ground, he didn’t. This speaks to the individual player’s hustle and willingness to get down and dirty.
- Defense/Defensive AI Improved – the improvement on the defensive side of the ball was evident right off the bat. I felt there was a heavy responsibility on the player to stay in front of their man, which was beautiful. The blow-by animation(s) that plagued NBA 2K18 look to be reduced dramatically. Playing against LeBron James, I was able to stay in front of him to an extent with Kevin Durant, but you would see LeBron’s strength take over and he would get by Durant. I saw bumping when a dribbler would try to get by the defender but was locked down. The on-ball defense was great. This was also a welcomed sight; I really think that defense is that much better this year, and the balance it gives to the offensive/defensive battle makes both shutting down an offensive possession and scoring on offense feel rewarding on both sides.
- Small Changes To Controls – I noticed a few small changes to some controls on both sides of the ball. Mike Wang pointed out a couple changes to us as well. One change that will either be a gift or a curse was the “stop” dribble; a quick tap of LB (we were using Xbox One dev systems for the build of the game we played) made your player do a stop-hesitation type dribble that could be chained in various different ways. This looks to be something that will give us some absolutely nasty dribble moves from players that can or do master the sticks. On the defensive side of the ball, it looked like there was a slight modification to shot contests, which was fully the responsibility of the player. This, to me, is awesome. Mike Wang voiced to us that this change was made to take away from a user running around in a contest stance, which is completely unrealistic. It’s now on you as a defender to reach up for a shot contest; it appeared that you had both a “straight up” contest, and then more of followed through contest where your player would kind of reach up for the contest — but it looked like they would get on their toes and almost mini-jump for the shot contest.
- Dribbling Is Smooth, Defense Stealing Is Smooth – Dribbling in the build we played felt smooth. I didn’t really find an instance where I was put off by what the player was doing with the ball in relation to what I was doing on the sticks. This extended over to the defensive side of the ball where steals did pop up a few times; steals looked viable and had clean animations due to good timing by the defender. In one instance when I was playing a game against Chris Smoove, we were trying different things that were issues in NBA 2K18. I had the ball with Kevin Durant and was purposely over-dribbling. Durant’s handles, as should be expected, were silky smooth and looked good. Smoove timed his steal with his defender (I think it was Josh Hart) and reached in just as Durant was crossing the ball back and stole the ball cleanly, which lead to a fast break. Seeing this on both sides of the ball is promising and bodes well for the game.
- Shot Meter Options – one thing Mike Wang pointed out to us was the change with the shot meter, where you could choose Hands, Feet, Both Hands and Feet, or Off. A lot of people have had gripes with the shooting in the past. I personally don’t have a problem with the shooting and layup meters in the game. I think that obviously there’s a dependability on trying to “green light” your shot or layup, obviously depending on the situation, but there’s also the reliance on form and animation. This is fine with me.
- Dramatically Improved Player Clipping – This was obviously one of the biggest issues for NBA 2K18, as you’d see clipping all over the place. In this build, I don’t think any of us saw any major player clipping. We were told that there was a big emphasis on fixing this issue for NBA 2K19, which was more than welcomed. There’s always obviously going to be clipping in the game, but the improvement seen in what was played hopefully leads to a cleaner NBA 2K19 with much less clipping.
- Less Cheese (For Now) – You cheesed, or hated people that cheesed in NBA 2K18. Bad news for the cheesers so far: It looks like you’ll have to find some new things to exploit, or just play the right way (the horror!). Chris Smoove and I wasted away a whole quarter with Mike Wang watching, trying to zig-zag dribble and do other cheese moves. We couldn’t pull them off. I managed to somehow pull off a step that would have led to zig-zag dribbling, but when I tried to switch back and take off it didn’t work. It looked like when you tried too quickly switch back, your player would actually do what looked like a crossover dribble back to their opposite hand, moving with their momentum. This took away that quick, drop of a dime cross that we saw last year. Chris and I both professed our elation with this as we had to use our skills to get by the defender instead of cheesing by.
- Altered/New Badges – it looked like there were some new badges added to the game, as well as some changes to existing ones. In a game against Brian Mazique, he caught fire with LeBron James, and the “Fire” badge was an actual animated flaming circle around LeBron’s “main” badge. While playing against Chris Smoove, Mike Wang mentioned you could press LB on offense to see all the player badges on the floor that was part of the new “Takeover” system. It looks to be a neat new addition to the game in terms of giving you more visual cues.
- Shot Coverage Readings Still Off – For the most part, shot feedback looked to be on par, but there were a couple instances where the Shot Coverage feedback was terrible. Mike Wang did take note of these, so hopefully it gets fixed.
- Rebounding Still Needs Work – Rebounding still needs some work. I saw some very nice rebound battle animations from players trying to get position on the box out, namely Boogie Cousins and JaVale McGee fighting for position. The problem is we also saw a few rebounds where players had no business getting the ball as they weren’t in a position to get the ball. The play that really stuck out was one where I should have had an easy rebound with Jordan Bell, whose hands looked like they were about to grab the ball from the side of the net, but instead the rebound was grabbed by Lonzo Ball who was in the front of the basket. Ball jumped from just inside the half circle in the key, and in what appeared to be some sort of vacuum animation, Ball jumped up, grabbed the rebound from Jordan Bell, and both players floated to the left of the basket to the baseline. We showed this to Mike Wang who took note of this.
Here’s Chris Smoove’s footage and impressions from our gameplay from the 2K event:
These were a list of the things I noticed with my hands-on time with NBA 2K19. Is there anything you’re looking forward to for NBA 2K19? Anything you’ve read about that has you excited for the game? Drop a comment below to let us know!