NBA 2K began the story mode trend for sports video games five years ago. Each edition since then has featured a new tale, rather than a sequel. This year’s story, The Way Back, steps well outside the boundaries of the game’s namesake league, and goes international in search of the hero’s redemption.
In that way, The Way Back looks like the best qualities of last year’s Longshot in Madden NFL 18, and the second act of The Journey in FIFA 18 — albeit done with the production values and star power fans have come to expect of 2K Sports’ flagship series. The Way Back plops the protagonist down in China’s top flight pro league (formally called the National Basketball League), where plenty of Americans have played in the past. NBL games in The Way Back will even feature Chinese language commentary, further adding to the player’s sense of displacement.
Stateside, the hero ends up in the NBA G League with — I mean, with a name like this, who else? — the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. From there, it looks like it will play out like a typical bootstrapping sports story, but Visual Concepts and 2K Sports get style points for the novel settings and presentational touches.
The cast includes Anthony Mackie (Falcon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe); Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense), Aldis Hodge (Hidden Figures, and MC Ren in the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton), Michael Rapaport (numerous New York tough guys in a 25-year career) and Rob Huebel (Transparent and Bob’s Burgers).
Once again, the first chapter (The Prelude) of NBA 2K19 is available for players to try out free on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Progress carries over for those who purchase the full game, which launches Sept. 11 on PS4, Windows PC and Xbox One.