’NBA 2K19’ hands-on preview
Shot meter accuracy, options
Emphasis on playmaking
Better offensive/defensive balance
Steeper learning curve than previous games
Fire and ice
NBA 2K19’s big new on-court feature is the Takeover system, a mechanic that boosts players’ key attributes. Throughout the game, Takeover meters for each of your players fill. Once filled, you can activate Takeover. An icon below your activated player blazes red to let you know that he’s capable of nearly superhuman feats of basketball.
You’ll see seven different Takeover icons, each designating a different archetype. A player skilled at taking it to the rim has a better chance of squeezing by defenders when he has Takeover activated. A lethal three-point shooter, such as Steph Curry, has a better chance of hitting a long three. An excellent passer has even better vision for finding open teammates. A great defender plays even better one-on-one defense with Takeover activated. Some elite players, like LeBron James, have multiple Takeover abilities.
We didn’t have the chance to try out all seven Takeovers (rim protection, rebounding, and post scoring round out the list), but the four we dabbled with worked as advertised. They’re a blast to use, as they make you think about setting up superstar plays that brush aside your opponent’s best efforts. Using a Takeover to execute a play successfully will surely put a smile on your face.
Takeover rewards the good and punishes the bad, and for that reason, it works well inside a serious basketball sim.
Takeover only lasts a few possessions, but you can have multiple players in Takeover mode at one time. That said, Takeover doesn’t make your players unstoppable like the “on fire” system in NBA Jam. You still have to play solid basketball to fill your Takeover meter and continue playing smart even when it’s activated.
While NBA 2K19 giveth, it also taketh away. A freezing snowflake icon will appear after consistently poor performance. Fire off brick after brick, and your once confident sharpshooter will go ice cold. That penalty makes you think twice about every shot. Do you really have a good chance at making the basket? Or are you shooting because you can’t think of anything else to do?
Takeover rewards the good, punishes the bad, and marks NBA 2K19 as a surprisingly serious basketball sim. The game isn’t about shooting a barrage of spectacular threes or disrespecting opponents with stylish dunks. It’s about setting up winning plays while denying your opponent the same.
Finding a lane
NBA 2K18 felt tilted towards offensive, but finding open lanes and good shot opportunities in 2K19 requires a game plan. Forcing your way to the hoop simply isn’t a plausible strategy. You need to call screens, run actual plays, and create good ball movement. Defenders fill open spaces quickly, and one-on-one defense is hard to shake.
The shot meter and feedback system has improved to more accurately portray the action on the court.
You can still exploit defenses, but you’ll have to work for it by making full use of the wide range of dribble moves. The series has always had a lot of nuance, but NBA 2K19 wants users to dig deep into their bag of tricks to find success. A well-timed hesitation move can fake out a defender, a shifty crossover can shake tight coverage, and a rhythm dribble, which now has unique signature moves, lets you assess the defensive coverage. A new dribble move, hard stops, lets you put together a nifty string of moves, stutter stop, and then break away from your defender.
You can’t take a break on the defense, either. In 2K18, pressing up against the ball handler with L2/LT was a bit of a cheap trick. Once a shot went up, you’d automatically reach a hand up to contest it. That doesn’t happen anymore. Playing active defense, and getting a hand up to contest shots, is on you. With offensive players poised to dig deeper with dribble moves, you can’t take possessions off and hope for the best.
That means good defensive play is rewarded in a way it wasn’t before. Creating steals has always been a challenge. Even when you felt as if you perfectly timed your attempt, you’d often get shut off or commit a reach-in foul. In NBA 2K19, we were able to pick players’ pockets and block shots more easily. Carefully watching ill-timed dribble moves and recognizing the prime opportunity to steal the ball creates valuable fast break opportunities.
You must shoot like a pro
You must time your shots in 2K19, and it feels more difficult to make a perfect shot than ever before. With that said, the shot meter and feedback system have improved. You now see the meter on all shots at the rim, so it’s harder to miss a point-blank lay-up; though you must get used to varying timings that change depending on the lay-up animation.
We loved that 2K19 nudged us towards play that looked and felt like what we see when we watch a real NBA game.
The feedback system, which identifies how open you are during your shot, is also refined in 2K19. Shots that looked wide-open were properly classified as such, while contested looks were, crucially, graded more appropriately. If a defender is draped all over you, then expect the shot to be heavily contested. But if they are late on their contest, it is accurately detected, which gives you a better chance of making the shot if your timing is spot on.
Shooting, like the other aspects of the game, rewards smart play. It took some adjustment, but by the time we finished our session, we loved that 2K19 nudged us towards play that looked and felt like what we see when we watch a real NBA game. Yet the game’s changes are also far more than skin deep. NBA 2K19’s many changes make it a smarter, deeper experience that reflects the moment-to-moment tactical decisions real NBA players make in every game.
NBA 2K19 launches September 11 on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.