I’ve never been much of an NBA basketball game fan, which is surprising because everyone around me seems to love it. I’ve played the 2K titles from the last few years and all I’ve noticed was that the game never really changed with each release. That seems pretty typical of most sports games, but NBA, for whatever reason, was only a new roster experience each year with a whole new MyCareer experience that has been pretty trash. The game competes against EA Sports’ NBA Live and everyone knows there’s not much competition between the two – until maybe this year.

I played the demo for NBA Live 19 and it’s much smoother. The graphics have enhanced way beyond my expectations, but honestly, that’s really it. NBA Live has always fell significantly short of 2K, but you can finally see some changes that could carry the two titles right alongside one another in the years to come. That’s my short praise of NBA Live, now back to 2K. The 2K19 Prelude gives you an opportunity to begin the first part of the MyCareer story, where you’re playing for the Shanghai Bears in the Chinese Basketball League. You play as A.I. As you may have already guessed without knowing anything about the story, A.I. wants to get into the NBA. He had played in college for a short period of time alongside his friend and star player, Corey Harris. Corey ended up moving on to the NBA and A.I. was stuck moving around from teams and leagues he didn’t care for because he ultimately wanted to be in the NBA.

You start off in MyCareer playing and working your way towards recognition in the Chinese League games, before being able to play in the NBA Global Tour, where you play against the NBA All-Stars. It wouldn’t be MyCareer if your old friend, now an enemy, wasn’t part of that NBA All-Star team. It also wouldn’t be MyCareer if there wasn’t drama to go along with it. You play the game and, at halftime, A.I. and Corey share a moment where they make a bet on who will score the most points by the end of the game. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, but at the end of the game you finally get the recognition you’ve been wanting from Corey and you end up talking to the media together.

Your character and Corey go out to dinner in Shanghai, where you get along for the most part. You both notice an arcade and you go in and find an old school 2K machine and the both of you reminisce about the times in college where you played the game. You then sit down and play the old 2K game, where you’re forced to be the Rockets and Corey plays as the Celtics, where, of course, he gets the stacked team of Allen, Garnett, Pierce, Rondo, and Perkins. You, for the most part, only have McGrady, Mutombo, and Yao Ming. The game felt a little more polished. The graphics were garbage, but the nostalgia was there. My game was 25-25 with 1 second left and I took a timeout and inbounded the ball to Yao Ming and put up a buzzer beater. A.I. and Corey would have responded to the end of the game the same way regardless of how you won, but the way in which I won made for what was said between them to mesh very well. You seem to be getting along, but Corey ends up coming off condescending and making A.I. out to feel as if he’s not good enough yet again. The two ultimately end up going their separate ways.

Fast forward a few more cutscenes and you’re in front of your Shanghai coach. You find out from the coach that you have progressed well and that you’ve been traded. The coach walks away, as well as your translator that you’ve been working alongside since day one. You yell out to the coaching staff “Where am I going” but receive no response. The next scene is of you arriving in Los Angelos, where a driver picks you up and you get into the back of a limo and drive away. You’re left wondering where the next part of your career is going and that is the end to the NBA 2K19 Prelude.

Although the 2K19 Prelude was short, I felt like I got to experience a good bit of what it offers. 2K has been able to do what most other sports game fail at, which is give you an in-depth storyline on your character. You have interactive, character customization that no other sports game can offer. The story itself may have been bland in the years passed, but you can see there is promise moving forward. Madden’s Longshot mode and FIFA’s The Journey mode have showcased to the world the potential for story modes in sports games. We can only hope that the NBA gaming franchises can follow suit. The game itself, for the most part, appears to be the same as past years in regards to gaming mechanics, except for a few tweaks. The game feels smoother and you feel as if you have more control of your character on defense and offense. 2K, for the time being, has the one up on NBA Live, but based off my short time with the NBA Live 19 demo and the NBA 2K19 Prelude, there’s not a whole lot that separates them as of now. The gaming experience goes to 2K, but the graphics are about a tie. The two games have their own take on a story mode and, depending on your mood, both can be fun. The full game is still a week away from release, but not a whole lot will change for the most part. I’ll be picking up 2K and playing my EA Access trial for NBA Live, but the majority of my attention will be focused on 2K, yet again, this year, but I don’t believe that will be for many more years to come. This is more of an impression and expectation article and less of a review. The review will come after about a week or more of me playing the full released game when it launches worldwide Friday, September 7.

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