Updated: Jul 17, 2022
Sometimes apps just need a little love
I've been trying to find a good basketball game on mobile for years. When I was invited to test out NBA 2K mobile before its release, I thought this might be what I've been finally looking for, but it turned out to be a rather boring experience that one could hardly call basketball. More than 3 years later, I ended up accidentally downloading the app again after it was released (I honestly didn't remember that I tested it.) After a few weeks of playing the fully released game here's what I think needs to be improved so that NBA 2K Mobile can actually be a worthwhile experience.
Fouls are almost non-existent. The only fouls that are called are reach-in, traveling goaltending & the occasional 3-second violation. Due to the game's horrendous contact physics reach-in fouls get called for either no reason or just slightly brushing the ball handler as they try to get past your defender even though you didn't reach. I've seen several goaltending calls for literally rebounding the ball after a miss as well. The traveling fouls are hilarious because they are not travels at all. If you pump fake or hesitation step after catching a pass, the chance of a travel being called is probably around 30%.
What really breaks the game is the ability to do hard fouls when going for a block. At times it looks like your players are getting tackled mid-air followed by the ball flying into the stands, yet a foul is NEVER called. I can't tell you how infuriating this is, especially when it's a close game that you almost won even though you're dealing with the broken attribute scaling when it comes to power levels (more on that below.)
2. Ball contact & contact in general
Good lord the physics in this game could use some work. As mentioned earlier you get random reach-in fouls as players are moving past each-other. The ball will also go through people or randomly get clipped on invisible barriers. I can't tell you how many times my players have been in the passing lanes trying to snatch a pass, only for the ball to go through their hands or chests entirely. There's a need to also talk about the numerous times when your player swipes the ball, it clearly goes off the opposing team player's body, yet they still get possession.
3. The dribble stick
The dribble stick can be enabled if you want. I see why they don't have it enabled by default. It's pretty unresponsive & usually takes a few tries to pull off the right moves. Even then, some of the moves seem completely random and/or dependent on the combination of dribble moves you are trying to execute. For example, it seems like you can't outright spin at times, but if you cross-over then do one of the other dribble moves like a hesitation, your player will do a random spin sometimes. Usually, it's so random it catches you off guard & causes you to miss a shot or use up all of the shot clock.
4. Fix the shot clock
The shot clock is pretty much there only to signify how much time a team has for their "turn." It doesn't seem to reset upon most fouls, rebounds, or anything that is dictated within the NBA rules from what I can tell. This means the strategy of getting offensive rebounds or catching fouls in-order to extend possession times does not work. It also means that even if you get a defensive rebound the other team STILL gets a shot clock violation. It makes no sense whatsoever & unintentionally destroys a game's rhythm.
5. Fast breaks are almost non-existent
NBA 2K Mobile's AI can be atrocious at times & hardly anything represents this more than fast breaks. Almost every time a fast break is started, the AI players will stop, turn around & demand for the ball instead of running with you. A lot of the time they just casually jog up court even in the last few seconds of close games. Frequently your own player-controlled character will for whatever reason not do more than a nonchalant jog, letting the opposing team immediately get back to play defense even though you have the joystick pull as far as it can go. This compounds the frustration you feel from playing in general.
6. Not registering button presses
Far too many times will you press buttons & your players either not do anything or not do what you want. I can't tell you how many times I've long pressed the shot button only for the player to pump fake, pressed block/rebound only for the player to just stand there. The shot meter is also delayed by a few milliseconds. I've noticed after I stop holding the shot button, the meter continues to go up & have had to adjust my playstyle accordingly.
7. Broken level scaling
The level scaling when facing higher level teams will make you want to break your phone. It doesn't matter if your team has a 1000 power level & the opposing team is 1090...2K will have you playing as if you're complete scrubs against the 1992 Olympic Dream Team. You will miss every shot, even greens (perfect releases) & wide-open layups on fast breaks with no defenders even on that side of the court. Your only chance is to go purely for dunks, but even then, it's like you're playing against a team full of Michael Jordans. Every shot will be blocked or heavily contested, every ball stolen, the AI's defense is able to recover instantaneously & contest shots after getting crossed over or pump faked. I've had an AI player bite on a pump fake in the post then proceed to reach behind him to block my shot as he's coming down from his jump & I'm going up for what I thought would be an easy dunk.
I'm the type of player that only plays the hardest difficulty on consoles, which includes "Hall of Fame" difficulty in the NBA 2K franchise. The slider levels when the opposing team is a certain power level above you (usually above 40-50 I noticed) in NBA 2K Mobile are insane. I'd understand if they were several thousand levels above me, but when it is relatively close the gameplay should reflect that.
8. Predatory practices
Unfortunately, this has to be said. This game has the gold standard of predatory mobile practices implemented. You will run into non-stop whales in events, especially suspicious Asian accounts that are most likely farming events so they can sell a decked-out account for profit. NBA 2K Mobile indirectly pushes players to buy packs filled with high-level players just to compete as the game is beyond infuriating without them. There is no room for items that cost a hundred dollars in games that are targeted towards children. I would argue there's no room for that in any game period since it is all digital items. They also should increase the card drop rate percentages for the higher grade cards. If you're asking for players to spend $25-30 worth of coins on a high-end pack then the percentage rates have to be better than .05 - 1% for the cards that are worthwhile.
9. Player models
One of the funnier parts of the game is looking at the player models & how off they are. Giannis & Anthony Edwards are especially funny because they look nothing like them. Even Nikola Vucevic from the Chicago Bulls is clean shaven when as far as I can tell he hasn't been clean shaven since his college days & his rookie years which was 2011/12. Bulls rookie Patrick Williams is also hilariously unrecognizable with his monstrous bobble head in-game. It seems as if whoever is working on the game isn't even trying. Could they not simply port over the current models on the consoles/pc?
10. More consistent teams in season mode
It takes away from the NBA's recognizability when you're constantly playing against seemingly randomly thrown together teams of players from all over the NBA. When I play against the Chicago Bulls I want to go against DeMar DeRozan, Zach Lavine, Nikola Vucevic, Coby White, Lonzo Ball, etc. I don't want to play Jayson Tatum, Pascal Siakam, Magic Johnson, etc. in Bulls uniforms. Could it get boring after a while? Possibly, but that is why you DON'T HAVE 50 SEASONS. I've never even heard of people playing 50 full seasons in normal 2K games let alone expecting casual players to do it on mobile. With the length of the seasons increasing as you progress, we're talking over 500 games to reach season level 50.
To top it all off, from what I've been led to believe you don't get to keep your players each year. Once 2K decides the entire season is over for everyone (most likely when the new NBA season begins,) all of the players you sunk a crap ton of time & money into are now only "mentors" to the new team you must form. Mentors are essentially another gear item that can be equipped to players.
Overall, the developers of NBA 2K Mobile have a lot that they still need to work on if they want to make this a viable mobile basketball simulation. As it is now, it is too barebones & boring to present a worthwhile experience. The grind is also way too much. I thank the devs for recently giving out a diamond Ray Allen on Twitter (@NBA2KMobile), but the fact that it didn't count towards my Google Play Games achievement for getting a diamond card was rather disappointing. While I don't intend on collecting every card, I do want to try to get a diamond so that I can unlock that achievement before quitting the game. NBA 2K Mobile is a far cry from the full console experience & in another galaxy compared to notable console versions like NBA 2K15/16. It is still a better basketball experience than any other mobile basketball game I’ve played in the past though which just shows how terrible the market is.
NBA 2K Mobile Diamond Ray Allen Redemption Code: RAYALLEN20
*Only valid until 7/14/2022
A few hours after posting this I pulled a pink diamond Kemba Walker card from the usual post game draft & unlocked the legend achievement. I now consider myself officially retired from this game. Below is my final highest power level team. Good luck everyone!