The NBA 2K series continues to be the standard by which all other sport games should be compared and aspire to be when it comes to franchise mode, and that’s the case again this year with NBA 2K20. While MyGM could use some fine-tuning to make it more robust, MyLeague is simply the best franchise mode offering in any console sports game.
NBA 2K20 has a lot more to offer outside of just MyGM and MyLeague, but this review will focus primarily on those modes as that’s what our community here enjoys playing the most. There is a lot of coverage out there already about MyTeam, MyCareer, etc, but if MyGM and MyLeague details are what you’re looking for, this is a review you should find helpful.
MyLeague Customization Options
It’s simply staggering how many options exist in creating a MyLeague. This is nothing new for the NBA 2K20 series, but we still have more new options this year than ever before. Best of all, you can once again seamlessly run a 30-36 team user-controlled league with any number of those teams set to an effective and efficient auto-pilot. No other game allows for this much control, this much involvement, or for those interested, un-involvement. For a franchise-mode junkie, this is as perfect a feature in any console sports title to date and is typically only something you’d see in a deep PC sports simulator such as Out of the Park Baseball or Football Manager.
I’ve talked a lot about what Franchise Mode 2.0 might look like in the future, and community has always been a focus when I envision exactly what FM 2.0 might look like. The NBA 2K20 team has embraced community elements of MyTeam and MyCareer and–albeit a small dosage for now–has introduced those elements into MyGM with the incorporation of the MyGM Leaderboard. Now you can see how your GM skills stack up against others playing NBA 2K20, and I can only imagine this is just a start to where the NBA 2K20 team will take this interaction in the future. It’s simply another example of how this development team continues to be trailblazers in the sports-gaming community.
This is the only game that truly gets the details of the sport it’s replicating right. Truthfully, Madden and EA NHL, while fun games, do not portray their sports as accurately as they should, and Madden, especially, mirrors more of an arcade game with each new year. While EA NHL has made great strides, it still misses the true messiness of the NHL with neutral zone and board play undeniably absent. MLB The Show comes close to representing the sport well on the field, but not without massive adjustments to the game sliders, and each year that is becoming harder and harder to accurately portray as that game too begins to slide more towards the Diamond Dynasty crowd.
NBA 2K20 is the one game that I never find myself messing with gameplay sliders. NBA 2K20 has a much better flow to both offense and defense this year; I cannot just dribble and dance my way to the hoop with every possession, and on defense I can stay with my man much more effectively and not just shut them down with any defender every single time. There’s a noticeable difference to the players I’m controlling on both offense and defense depending on the player’s ratings, including their badges and even body size.
I love that the game now shows you shot feedback while you’re on defense as this was something I mentioned to their development team a few years ago as being a nice reward for folks focused on playing a strong defensive game. NBA 2K20 just gets all of the details right, right out of the box. You’ll see the proper number of fouls called, the proper number of three pointers taken, and you’ll see each team able to play a unique style all their own making each game you play (or sim) in your MyLeague very unique. These are simply elements other games do not do well, if at all.
You’ll also see what I consider the best presentation of any game, ever. Whether that’s the live broadcast in-game, the truly remarkable 2K TV series, or even the little details of the draft lottery being played out with commentary from reporters, the presentation simply adds to the gameplay experience.
It’s hard to put into words exactly, especially for folks who play this series year-after-year. What always strikes me is that I am not a great NBA 2K player by any stretch of the imagination, but applying a strategy and a gameplan allows me to hang in against guys who are definitely better on the sticks than me. While this is something that other games struggle with, NBA 2K20 does a remarkable job.
I’m a big fan of game-generated draft classes, because I trust the developers to provide for me a continual player pool to keep the roster base balanced and as accurate as possible. NBA 2K20 does a solid job with their game-generated draft classes as you’ll see the top players coming from schools like Duke, Kentucky, Arizona, Louisville, and even the expected amount of players from overseas. Player ratings are very accurate in that you’ll see most top rookies in the high-70’s with some very special (and appropriately rare) draft classes have a top player or two rated as high as the mid-80s.
The issue that needs work here are the badges. In the default roster, Zion Williamson and Ja Morant have 19 and 25 badges, respectively. The highest number of badges I could get the game to generate in close to 100 test draft classes was 13. It’s not that 13 is an unrealistic number, but perhaps the issue here is that the top two picks in the 2019 NBA Draft are simply too good in the default roster. Their ratings are appropriate–81 for Williamson and 79 for Morant–but not even when you load up the historic 2003 LeBron James in-game draft class do you see that many badges in a rookie as LeBorn only had 14 (84 overall).
MyGM Activity Points
I love this feature and how it’s used to tie into the MyGM leaderboards. It’s definitely a good foundation to build on for the future of this mode and other franchise-like modes as NBA 2K20 blends community elements into these historically solo modes. While the idea is well done, it’s a bit cumbersome. I also think it’s not gamified enough, meaning that it feels more like a chore/task list than an actual authentic simulation of being a GM and dealing with the everyday interactions you would in that position. I’d rather NBA 2K20 hide the inner workings of APs and allow for more organic tie-ins to things happening around the league and with your team.
The…Not So Good
While I raved about the incorporation of a MyGM Leaderboard, that incorporation does not come without a figurative cost. In order to have a meaningful rating system, the NBA 2K20 team had to limit the options available to users who play MyGM in order to be able to maintain an apples-to-apples comparison between MyGM players. This makes perfect sense, but the default settings folks are locked into are head-scratchers in some places. for instance, the quarter minutes are locked in at 6 minutes. This isn’t too big of a deal, however the mode also locks the ability to normalize the minutes and stats of a 6-minute game into the OFF position. This means that any game you actually play in your MyGM will end up having a box score that looks more like a high school basketball game than one from the NBA. Does it ruin the mode? Perhaps not, but I haven’t found myself able to connect again with the mode since I encountered it.
Where Does NBA 2K Go From Here?
NBA 2K is THE trailblazer in the sports gaming world. The challenge for this team is to now continue to lead as they are seemingly the only development studio who have continued to truly advocate for both the massively popular Ultimate and MyTeam modes as well as remembering their roots of franchise with MyLeague and MyGM. The NBA 2K team is undeniably the only ones who have found ways to tie the modes together effectively.
The biggest suggestion that I could offer to the NBA 2K team would be to continue to tie community into their franchise-style modes and to finally bring carryover saves as an option moving forward. This review didn’t even talk about Online MyLeague, but imagine being able to continue a popular online league over to the next NBA 2K release. This team has already demonstrated what they are capable of, and I’m already looking forward to NBA 2K21.