There was a time, back in the early ‘20s, when 2K Games was on a roll. Every new iteration the studio released added a touch of something new and something big. Whether it was a new game mode or a new environment, it would feel like playing a new game and, consequently, like taking a step higher in the NBA 2K franchise.
Until recently, new iterations began to add little tweaks here and there. So much so that if you were to place the entries side by side, you’d see similar games – too similar to warrant a whole new entry. I guess the question is whether NBA 2K24 alters the trend for a better future. Does the newest entry in the franchise steer the NBA 2K series in a new direction? What changes can you expect to see in NBA 2K24? And are the changes worth your time and money?
When all is said and done, will NBA 2K23 and NBA 2K24 look and feel like similar games? Or will 2K Games have taken a leap of faith toward a brighter future? Let’s find out in our NBA 2K24 review.
Right off the bat, you see the Black Mamba in all his fame and glory on the Kobe Bryant and Black Mamba edition covers of the NBA 2K24 video game. It’s the perfect way to celebrate the Hall of Famer and LA’s Lakers Legend.
However, the way the series does so is pretty much the same as how they did NBA 2K23's Michael Jordan’s Challenges. Players will relive Kobe Bryant’s most iconic moments in a game mode called Mamba Moments – specifically, seven of the superstar’s most legendary games.
It’s the perfect platform to reenact the Black Mamba's booming career. But the studio misses a sweet spot that I feel would resonate more with experiencing Kobe Bryant’s rise to stardom. Instead of rewinding us back to the superstar’s humble beginnings, we’re dropped off in the middle of the basketball legend’s enthralling career during the 2001 playoffs.
This was five years after Kobe Bryant was drafted into the NBA, thereby presenting a missed opportunity to recreate some of his early career’s unforgettable milestones. Even so, we don’t get to re-experience Kobe Bryant’s 2006 staggering 81-point outburst, the second-highest total in NBA history, against the Toronto Raptors either.
Combined, it makes Mamba Moments not nearly as enticing as NBA 2K23’s Jordan Challenge. However, it still manages to recreate the tone and atmosphere of Bryant’s most iconic moments.
A Little Too Similar
Placing NBA 2K23 and NBA 2K24 side by side, it’s difficult to spot any difference in the visuals between the two games. Especially on current-gen platforms, you’d hardly say the two games were different from each other. But that’s to be expected, as annual franchises seem to have reached a saturation point with revamped visuals.
In the same breath, next-gen platforms do have a solid one-up on most other franchises, thanks to incorporating ProPLAY technology. It allows 2K Games to translate real-life NBA footage into the game’s animations. As a result, players’ movements are as accurate as they can be. And players like LeBron James look and play like their real-life counterparts.
Even passes and offensives like pick-and-rolls feel harder to exploit. All layups, jump shots, passes, dunks, and dribble moves, as well as signature movements in general, translate at an unprecedented level of precision and authenticity. Gone are the repetitive, aimlessly dribbling, robotic look and feel of earlier games – at least for PS5 and Xbox Series platforms – for now.
A Little Tweak, Here and There
The same four game modes that were present in NBA 2K23 are the same ones you will find in the new game. So, that includes MyTEAM, MyCAREER, MyNBA, and PlayNow. However, while the game modes remain the same, you do notice some new features here and there. For instance, it seems the traditional badge system has taken the boot.
Meanwhile, the reputation points in MyCAREER mode are back. There’s also the addition of the MyNBA Lite feature, which is more of a streamlined version of the original MyNBA. It allows you to draft, trade, and win championships faster by removing previously bogged-down, in-depth processes like salary and trade rules. It’s a nice route to take when escaping in-game purchases and a better, less intense starter for newbies.
Pay Up, Play Now
Speaking of in-game purchases, it’s sad to see the efforts NBA 2K24 put in moving forward come tumbling down simply because of rampantly placed in-game purchases. Take MyCAREER mode, for example. Even if you stack up on virtual currency, it still barely helps to increase your player’s overall rating.
You could play for hours and only find yourself gradually crawling your way up to your desired number. There’s no time or money to spend on the fun parts of customization, like animations and dressing, which, by the way, are so much better this time around. Instead, your eyes remain set on upping your player’s rating to reach a point where you can at least go head-to-head with online players.
But let’s say you didn’t want to compete online. It’s still frustrating to compete with AI players who have way higher ratings. It’s hardly even a matter of skill or precision. Rather, which player can spend real money to level up? I’m talking hundreds of dollars, which, even within days of launch, lots of online players had already given in to the money overlord. It makes the whole “optional” microtransaction redundant, such that at the end of the day, you have two choices: pay up or grind for virtual currency slowly and painfully.
Now, let’s say you’re a newbie. You’ve just got the regular edition and are starting out at a 60 rating. To upgrade, you need to win matches. But how do you win matches against already-good players? How do you get better? Well, you only have to cough up a couple hundred dollars, and you’re good to go.
What About the Story?
MyCAREER always had compelling stories for single-player modes, usually a rags-to-riches take on a basketballer’s journey to stardom. Yet this time, there’s no such story, or at least one with a coherent plot of some kind.
It follows a player-created character called MP, whose journey branches off into several loosely connected storylines, all barebones. Not to mention the low rating you start with and the neverending mountain of amassing virtual currency you have to climb to be nearly as good as the likes of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant you’re supposed to become.
It leaves MyNBA as the only microtransaction-free safe haven where you manage to put in a decent amount of fun gameplay. You get to choose which team to draft and even enjoy the new LeBron era that follows the superstar’s 2010 journey of leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to play for the Miami Heat.
It’s tough to say just how worthwhile NBA 2K24 is. On the one hand, it brings back many of the elements we know and love about the franchise. These are tried, tested, and true concepts that have solidified the series as the number one simulator of hoops culture.
On the other hand, though, the experience is bogged down by microtransactions. And that would have been “okay,” were there a chance to still enjoy the game without having to pay up.
But you can’t. Either way, you submit to the super grind fest of nearly every game mode. From MyCAREER to MyTEAM, it takes forever to grind out better ratings or new rare player cards. Meanwhile, other online players have already given in and paid up. Whether you’re playing in single-player or multiplayer mode, you’ll have to either submit to the grind, which often doesn’t make it worthwhile in the long run, or take the easy way out and say yes to paying up.
It’s sad because underneath that is an on-court gameplay experience that’s the best it’s ever been. It’s the most authentic and realistic take on actual real-life games, translated down to the most minuscule detail, thanks to the groundbreaking ProPLAY technology. To enjoy it, you’re forced to navigate to MyNBA, which, despite being similar to NBA 2K23, offers a microtransaction-free haven where you can at least catch a breath.
Perhaps the most diehard fans will make the most of their experience playing this game. Newbies, however, may succumb to frustration a little too soon. The same goes for multiplayer fans, who’ll have to make peace with pay-to-win.
NBA 2k24 Review (PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, & PC)
Newest Hoops Culture Experience
When it comes to hoops culture simulation, the NBA 2K series is the best of the best. However, the series has recently taken a hit in terms of innovation, frequently releasing similar iterations with minor tweaks here and there. For the most part, the new ProPLAY technology ensures an authentic and realistic translation of real-life NBA games into NBA 2K24 animations. On that front, the game’s look and feel are the best they’ve ever been. However, the game’s overemphasis on microtransactions is a pain and may very well be what makes or breaks the experience for some.