Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Games
Platforms: Xbox Series X (Reviewed), PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Playstation 4, Switch
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $69.99 USD – Available Here $119.95 AUD – Available Here
When it comes to yearly sports games, fans never quite know what to expect. Usually when a new game in a series is released, fans hope for updated features and an improved experience but when it comes to sports titles, that can be a hit and miss experience. While I may be a bit biased, raised in Chicago during the Chicago Bull’s championship run with Michael Jordan, last year’s NBA 2K23 stood as a significant improvement for the only major basketball game in town but those looking for the same experience this time around will find themselves disappointed. Rather than celebrate the franchise’s 25th anniversary with a slam dunk, NBA 2K24 flops on the court worse than LeBron.
The core storymode of NBA 2K24 has been mostly gutted as players will find themselves no longer following a rising star storyline, rather instead joining the ranks of the NBA as a prodigal son whose father and grandfather were basketball legends with only minor storylines actually playing out from time to time. The MyCareer is set in a fancier looking “The City” this time around as it is modeled after a gorgeous Miami-styled beachfront to explore but other than that, those who enjoy a bit of narrative with their MyCareer will find this lacking almost entirely here.
The other signature story mode that has been implemented since last year is the “Mamba Moments” that highlight some of Kobe Bryant’s career. Similar to the Jordan Challenges of last year’s entry that followed Jordan’s career, this one follows Kobe Bryant’s career in a much smaller fashion. Coming in at only seven games, less than half of what was offered in the Jordan Challenge, Mamba Moments are still fairly entertaining and feature some of the great moments from Kobe Bryant’s career but feel lacking, especially since some of his best moments seem to have been left on the cutting room floor thanks to the anemic amount of games on offer.
Let’s be clear before we continue. The actual gameplay on the court in NBA 2K24 remains as entertaining and tight as ever with incredibly tight controls and gameplay mechanics that nearly mimic real-life basketball and easy to use and master shot-meters. Playing against the standard AI can be a challenging experience as the opponent is no slouch as they will make use of proper formations, passing lanes, and openings to drive towards the basket if players leave someone unguarded. Along these same lines, ally AI is incredibly intelligent and will play well-enough with mostly smart choices, outside of some odd time-outs being called from time to time.
Playing both offensively and defensively remains an enjoyable experience regardless of what side of the ball players are on and that remains a major highlight in every game mode offered in NBA 2K24. It is worth noting that the only notably new gameplay mechanic added into the game is a mostly graphical one as the “ProPLAY” feature that translates real life NBA footage to gameplay footage just makes in-game animations and transitions look far smoother and more natural rather than anything truly impactful, though it is nice to see odd character collisions mostly smoothed out. This is both a good thing and a bad thing, as this means most of the on-court mechanics that players are familiar with from last year’s game remain the same, an incredibly fine-tuned set of gameplay mechanics that make matches competitive, but also bad because it lacks much in the way of innovation.
Off the court is where NBA 2K24 begins to show its ugly side. As mentioned before, the primary mode for most players is MyCareer where players create their very own character, even being able to use an app to scan their own face into the game, and work their character through the career, playing in The City against others in online matches and more. The problem here is that 2K has continued to implement the Virtual Currency (VC) system to an extreme degree, more than ever before to the point that players will need to spend money if they wish to have any shot playing against anyone online. Despite starting with an extra 100,000 VC that is used to upgrade the MyCareer player, this will raise the 60 rating starting character to around 74-75 depending on how they distribute their points. While this may give players a small boost over others, it is not even a drop in the bucket considering the fact that VC of any kind can be bought with real money. Sure, VC can be earned through gameplay but the rate earned seems lower than ever before and also is dictated by player performance and a bit by chance, meaning if you end up doing poorly because your character is too slow or can’t hit a solid three-pointer, tough luck unless you want to grind for points or open the wallet.
This doesn’t even touch upon the fact that any type of cosmetic items players may want to dress their character up with also cost VC. Meaning you may want to buy a new shirt to change out of the default but say goodbye to multiple hours of VC gain. As mentioned before, this wouldn’t be too much of an issue if it wasn’t for the fact that the game almost expects players to spend money as their character will constantly be on the losing end until they start to grind their character up, even in standard matches against the computer. This doesn’t even touch on the actual online play where some players have already dropped thousands of dollars to maximize their player’s stats and crush everyone on the court, regardless of skill. The City’s design offering numerous pick-up courts and different types of match-ups feels useless when playing against those willing to pay-to-win.
To make matters worse, 2K has also implemented a poor Badge decision as well this time. Badges in previous games allowed players to eventually unlock certain boosts to their character that may help them under specific circumstances and help them customize their character to best fit their playstyle. Now however, badges have a regression system. This means that if players find themselves needing to focus on other elements of gameplay rather than their equipped badges, they’ll actually lose their boosts and need to grind them back up. This creates a vicious cycle of having to force players to grind at multiple levels, even punishing players should they choose to swap things out or find themselves in a bad matchup for their trained skills.
Thankfully, those who wish to avoid the entire VC aspect will still find that there are some modes devoid of it. This includes the aforementioned Mamba Moments as well as anything involving The W and MyNBA or MyNBA Lite. The W still feels like a tacked on mode that gives players a limited MyCareer mode with their created female basketball player and feels untouched from last year while MyNBA has added in a new “Era” to play with, giving players an additional selection to choose from when selecting what type of league they want to control. MyNBA allows for free customization and all kinds of fun, changing history to their liking and playing it their way, meaning those who want to really sink time into the game’s single player options will find it the most delightful of the entire package. The Lite version of this is a more limiting and faster moving option of the system, giving players who don’t care too much about the various minutia a chance to move through a season and management faster.
It is also best to avoid MyTeam entirely unless players really want to open up their wallets as players make use of VC to buy various booster packs to obtain a random pack of cards. These could be anything from trash to the best players in the game but those who want to do the best will once again either need incredible luck with their draws or need to open their wallet once more. Oh and there’s a season pass with a paid tier too so there’s that.
Audio & Visuals
The NBA 2K games have always been gorgeously detailed to the point of appearing life-like and the implementation of the ProPLAY mechanic has made the character model animations all the more impressive as players will truly find that this is, yet again, the best looking iteration in the franchise. Players of all levels of fame are lovingly recreated with high levels of detail and the stadiums, mascots, and even fans are designed excellently with gorgeous presentations that make it feel like players are playing an actual NBA game someone might be watching on television. The City is also far prettier this time around, though as mentioned players will need to open their wallet or grind forever if they feel like buying customization items while sacrificing their stats.
The voice work from the commentary team and announcers in the games is just as impressive as ever, with there being a massive library of lines that players will struggle to hear repetition unless they play for hours straight. The soundtrack of menu music and in-game music during intermissions and time-outs is fitting for the game, though it does feel like it is missing some signature mid-game songs heard during a usual real life match.
NBA 2K24 remains an incredible looking and incredible feeling basketball game that is absolutely filled with some of the most exploitive microtransactions in the industry. The gameplay on the court is as tight as ever and no other basketball game, not that there are many others, match the experience and fans of Kobe Bryant will find that Mamba Moments is at least a decent tribute to the Hall of Famer. That being said, any element that touches the game’s online is tainted with the desire to milk players for their money or grind them into the dust if they want to stay competitive in any way. MyNBA still feels like the purest form of enjoying the game but be prepared for nearly everything else to be a step back or beg players to pay more money.
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