While it’s not a secret Live 19 has quite a bit to prove given their track record, for the first time in years NBA 2K19 also releases with the task of proving its doubters wrong. In short, both do an outstanding job in doing so, however, one does stand head and shoulders above the other.
So… Which is Better?
The obvious answer would be NBA 2K19, however, it's probably closer than you'd think. Live has taken commendable strides in the past several years. What was first a bi-annual release, plagued by shoddy gameplay and poor mechanics now is a respectable title carving its own niche in the video game sports realm. In Live 19’s “The One’ Feature, it allows players to create their own basketball superstar and live out their dream of traveling internationally to take on the best of the best. Each court is as distinctive as the players on its blacktop bringing a classic NBA Streets to feel. The passing is slick and movement is far superior to last years iteration. Perhaps the best addition, however, is the progression system and the opportunities it affords the player.
Rewards are constant and building a player with a certain playstyle or even a real-life NBA star has never been easier. In my time with the demo, I spent an hour drooling over the options I had making my player unique. My big was based around the “Anthony Davis” archetype but I was surprised at the options I had if I chose the “Dirk” stretch 4 or “Hakeem Olajuwon” post player possibilities.
Live Has A Far Better Progression System
As an avid 2K player I was blown away by how intuitive and rewarding Live 19’s progression system was. I was anxious to see how NBA 2K19’s “The Prelude” would play, as I was closer than ever of making the transition over to Live’s “The One” due to my positive experience with the demo. Unfortunately for EA, 2K Sports brought it once again this year. Already proving to be a much better addition to the series than 18 was.
The first thing I noticed was how each cutscene could be skipped entirely. This is new to the series that forced players to endure through scenes that could sometimes be 15 minutes in length. Look, I’m a fan of both the Metal Gear and Yakuza series, long cutscenes do not bother me. That is if the story was worth it. Ever since the introduction of a single narrative in MyCareer, the story addition has been sub-par at best. At its worst (I’m looking at you Spike Lee and B-Fresh) it’s downright abysmal, perhaps some of the worst storytelling I’ve ever experienced in a video game.
Ironically the prelude demonstrated the best story in the series so far, although I could skip through it for the first time, I was never inclined to. I enjoy it, despite the melodrama. I was unsure of how Hollywood 2K has gotten hiring big names to perform mo-cap but it added so much to the game this year. Anthony Mackie was SO good in the brief time I got to see him perform. Technology has certainly come a long way and I sometimes forgot I was watching a virtual version of the actor himself.
NBA 2K19 has a serious virtual currency problem
What’s never been in question is the gameplay of 2K, and it’s greater than its ever been. Animations are more fluid and perhaps most impressive is the wide array of different finishing moves while driving to the basket. It’s going to be a good year for Slashers as you’ll zip, juke, and glide your way to the rim with all new acrobatic moves. Other notable improvements are ball physics, from what I experienced you can no longer knock the ball away through random collision, at least, not at the rate we’ve seen over the past several years. It’s a fantastic product and one worth sinking your time into, how much time, however, is the real question. Since the introduction of Virtual Currency, 2K Sports has implemented shameless tactics to move to the needle, forcing players to spend real money.
Unfortunately, it seems as if 2K has not listened to their community, as it appeared VC is as big as it has ever been. What’s worse, is now early access for the main release is locked behind the $100 edition of the game allowing players a four-day head start from players who purchase the standard copy. These tactics are outrageous and fans are becoming more vocal about their disapproval of 2K's tactics. With all eyes on EA as a microtransaction tyrant, it’s about time the video game community condemns the actions of 2K Sports for committing even worse implementation of microtransactions.
Overall, I believe this will be the first year players will not experience buyers remorse for choosing Live. While I didn’t get the chance to play an exhibition, as that could be far different, "The One" was well worth the time for progression and presentation alone. Seeing your player being the topic of conversation of episodes of First Take is simply amazing. Despite Live 19 being a respectable title, 2K19 is still several steps ahead of the series as far as basketball simulation goes.
If you were on the fence about one or the other after playing both demos, I’d strongly recommend 2K19 as it’s the superior product. That is if you don’t mind an excruciating grind satiated by outrageous prices for real life currency. You don't have to wait much longer, as the full releases will be September 6th and 11th for NBA Live 19 and NBA 2K19 respectively.