2K Day is seemingly a national holiday. Each year, anticipation builds for the next release and players scour YouTube and Twitter for any scrap of information they can get their hands on. We got our first taste of NBA 2K20 with the demo that was released back in August. Players were able to experience the all-new MyPlayer Builder and experiment with what kind of build they would take into MyCareer. They were also able to play around with 2KU, which remains one of the best sports tutorials in the genre. With players anxious to see what else is in store for NBA 2K20, here are my initial impressions of the full game.
- Player motion has taken a big step forward. Players no longer look like they are on skates. There are still some hitches here and there but overall it looks improved.
- Dribbling is, different. Not in a bad way, either. It’s much more contextual and will take some time to get used to. It’ll be interesting to see what the iso community comes up with, but so far the crazy momentum dribbling has been tamed.
- The new dribble styles do a good job differentiating players. LeBron is different than De’Aaron Fox who is different from James Harden. There are multiple generic styles like quick and fundamental and some dribble styles specific to a player.
- Stamina has been reworked so that players can’t just hold down the sprint/turbo button all the time. It’s been buffed since the demo so that players don’t tire as quickly, but it’s still something that needs to be watched as you play — for good reason, and hopefully 2K holds strong here.
- There is a tangible difference between playing as a good team, like the Warriors or Rockets, and playing as a bad team like the Knicks. The new dribble styles and badges really separate the great players from the average player.
- The AI has received a bump. Playing the Warriors on pro difficulty in NBA 2K19 was still fairly easy. In NBA 2K20, the CPU is more aggressive and fits the style of the team it is controlling better. It seems as if tendencies are being relied upon more this year. Curry shoots moving 3s behind screens while Harden will cut to the basket off ball or do his iso step back.
- Defense seems harder if your player isn’t rated highly enough. When playing as a poor defender, I would routinely get smoked like a brisket against good offensive players. Conversely, a great defender can wreak havoc against even the best offensive players. Lockdowns should still be very valuable.
- The new circle around the ball handler that shows direction and if the ball is vulnerable is useful, but takes some getting used to. It does take a bit of immersion away to stare at a player’s feet when playing defense and trying to figure out which way the opponent is going, but it does help prevent blow-by animations.
- Speaking of blow-by animations, they are still in, but to a lesser degree than the demo. It’s also dependent on what the matchup is. De’Aaron Fox could blow by certain poor defenders consistently, but when matched up with a defensive star like Patrick Beverly the blow-by animations were far less frequent.
- Space is harder to come by if you’re not using off-ball cutting and running plays. The defense is much better at closing out on shooters. You can still green a contested jump shot but just know that defenders get there quickly.
- Jump shots are slow without the quick draw badge. I understand the rationale behind making quick shots something that only the best shooters should have, but it is jarring in how different it is with certain players.
- The WNBA is fun and different. Since the ladies are shorter in general, it means that there is much more open space on the floor. I just wish they got more than Play Now and Season. I really hope they get into MyCareer and MyLeague next year.
- One more note on the WNBA: I sort of dislike that their games are relegated to 2K19’s G-League announce team. This would’ve been prime territory for a Doris Burke-led booth.
- There are still way too many missed layups. They did not get the love that contact dunks got. MyPlayers will want to have consistent finisher badge upped.
- Rebounding remains a legacy issue. The ball will still hit the ground more often than it should, especially if a guard is going after the board.
- Presentation is once again top notch. Easily the best commentary in sports games. New splash screens are really well done.
- Female referee is in. Not sure if she was there last year but it was definitely something I picked up on immediately in 2K20.
- The color palette pops more this year. Very vibrant and the skin textures are also more realistic.
- Seems like last year’s City and Earned jerseys are not available. This is most likely because many teams are getting new ones.
- You can finally choose what color your individual accessories are for each uniform. This is something I have been wanting for years.
Overall, my initial impressions of NBA 2K20 are very positive. It remains to be seen how the servers hold up under a heavy load and if all of the extra assets for events cause lag. There also remains the specter of microtransactions throughout the game. From an initial gameplay perspective, however, NBA 2K20 plays a great game of basketball. Even if it’s somewhat different than you remember, I think you need to give it a chance before wishing for more turbo or a return to the old in some respects.