NBA 2K19's The Prelude Tackles the Chinese Basketball League in a Novel Way

NBA 2K19's The Prelude Tackles the Chinese Basketball League in a Novel Way

NBA 2K explores basketball outside of America.

The Prelude demo isn’t anything new for the NBA 2K series, but taking the American sport and transplanting it into the heart of China very much is. For three years now, The Prelude has given us a snapshot of the MyCareer mode of NBA 2K, starting us out from the bottom as a struggling rookie player, and challenging us to make it on an NBA team.

NBA 2K19 is no exception to this rule, introducing us to yet another failed player from the jump. Only this time, our journey starts out in the Chinese basketball league. As an undrafted rookie from America, our character journeys across the Pacific to make a name for themselves, hoping to one day return to America as an established player in the NBA. Considering that the MyCareer series has in the past been directed by Spike Lee of all people, the mode taking a decidedly more cinematic approach than, say, Madden’s Longshot mode, is no surprise.

But from the very outset of NBA 2K19’s MyCareer mode, everything is alien to our character. They’ve been jettisoned to the Chinese league without speaking a word of the native language, which puts us very much in the same boat—both we and our player character are a fish out of water in China. We’re here to do what we do best: play basketball and score points (or improve upon what we do best, considering we went undrafted).

Before we can even get on the court in NBA 2K19’s MyCareer mode, we run face first into the language barrier. We’re assigned our own personal translator from the moment our career kicks off in the Chinese league, and from there it’s what seems like both of us against the world. The coach of the Shanghai Bears isn’t interested in adapting for our sake—he’s busy shouting orders in the native language of Wu Chinese, leaving our character turning helplessly to the translator like a lost puppy.

The language barrier for an American player looking to make it in the Chinese league is painfully evident from the opening moments of NBA 2K19’s MyCareer, but it doesn’t stop there. Even when you’re actually on the court and playing, the commentary is in Chinese, leaving you wondering if the commentators are ridiculing your play, or whether they’re ignoring you entirely. Having the match commentary in Chinese is a really interesting move from 2K; as a result you're left feeling more immersed—and more lost—in the Chinese league, thousands of miles away from where you began your basketball journey.

I mentioned that Madden’s relatively new career mode, dubbed Longshot, is nowhere near as cinematic as NBA 2K’s ‘story’ mode of sorts, and it’s also nowhere near as daring. 2K has taken one of the biggest sports in America, and one of the biggest sports video games in America at that, and successfully transplanted it into China with an authentic feel to the entire experience. It’s certainly a novel idea to take the journey of a player and kick them over to a foreign league instead of grinding up the ladders in the NBA, and it’s one that looks to be paying off for NBA 2K19.

As for the full game of NBA 2K19, it’s set to launch worldwide on September 11, so we’ll have to wait until then to continue our career in China. Head over to our NBA 2K19 guides hub, for everything else you need to know about the game.

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Hirun Cryer

Staff Writer

Hirun Cryer is by far the most juvenile member of USgamer. He's so juvenile, that this is his first full-time job in the industry, unlike literally every other person featured on this page. He's written for The Guardian, Paste Magazine, and Kotaku, and he likes waking up when the sun rises and roaming the nearby woods with the bears and the wolves.

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