First and foremost, I’m going to treat NBA 2K24 the same way I reviewed WWE 2K23: I like basketball, I’m aware of how it plays, but I don’t follow it. I played a fair bit of NBA Street in the late PlayStation 2/early Xbox 360 days, but that’s it. However, I am old enough to remember “He’s on fire!” from NBA Jam.
Anyway, NBA 2K24 is, you guessed it, this year’s offering into the world of shooting hoops and dribbling from 2K. An update in terms of graphics, story mode and superstar-focused events, 2K24 is sure to please the fans of court-based antics, but what about newcomers?
Well, this is going to be a lesson for both you and myself, readers. Can this rookie go toe to toe with the late Kobe Bryant, or should I take up golf? Lace up your Nikes, grab your Wheaties and your Gatorade, and let’s find out.
Like I said, I don’t know the nuances of the NBA. If you’re after a more comprehensive verdict, you should check out Josh’s review of last year’s efforts. It is, for the most part, the same game, albeit with shinier bells and louder whistles.
However, having not played any basketball games in recent years, coming in with a fresh perspective is a positive. As far as visual accuracy goes, NBA 2K24 delivers. I didn’t ever think varnished floorboards would impress me, but here we are.
Could I tell you if all the players are accurately mapped? No, but I can confirm that Shaq does indeed look like Shag. LeBron James has his trademark beard, and the late Black Mamba looks recognisable and regal in his own career mode (more on that shortly).
The stadiums, or courts, whatever, look alive. The sense of excitement is palpable, even if it will become as routine to players as games of FC2024 or NFL will. Again, I’m no Digital Foundry comparison expert, but I can confidently say that this is a visually impressive game. Should be, for all of its 155GB install size [on PlayStation 5].
World of Ballcraft
As with most sports titles, NBA 2K24 has its own career mode, as expected. It’s the usual journey mode to superstardom, but this one is slightly different. For one, you don’t start as a rookie in the college circuit, as you’d expect a career to start. It’s been fast-forwarded to the beginning of your created player’s first major NBA game.
What this means, in basic-for-me terms, is that your player starts on the way to the arena. I mean that literally, as NBA 2K24 has adopted the “The City” mechanic from ’23, creating this weird, open-world hybrid thing.
And I’m sure to those that are invested in the NBA games, this will fit like a new pair of hi-tops. But for someone like me, fresh into this world, it’s confusing as all hell.
The amount of pop-ups and markers is staggering, and if you make the mistake of clicking the wrong prompt, one can easily be redirected from the “main path”. When I did finally make it, I wasn’t filled with joy, more a sense of relief that something had happened correctly.
Am I the wrong person for this game? Arguably yes, but if this were the game’s chance to woo me over to the sport of b-ball, it has not. But it’s not just because of the open world tomfoolery.
Courts Are In Session
Outside of the career, what else is there to do in NBA 2K24? Well, to beat the same drum, pretty much just about every other type of game mode. The rise to stardom might be the main draw, but it’s not only way to shoot hoops.
There’s the usual gamut of quick play and free training modes, to those that want the practice. There’s the WNBA too, adding equal and fair representation for the women in the sport.
And, to appease those that like to keep it to the streets, there’s even Blacktop mode too. This was fun, allowing players to go from 1v1 to 5-aside teams, but there’s one drawback: no flashy special moves. Alright, fine, not a massive drawback, but it would have been nice to appease the simple players like me.
You’ve got your online modes, too, as well as one of the bloody insipid card game things that 2K seem very fond of now. I’ll say the same about MyTeam as I did in my WWE review: you might care for them, I do not. I won’t insult us both by even trying to get my head around them. That’s the great thing about objective reviewing.
Kobe Bryant, RIP
What I will treat with professionalism and respect, however, is the tribute mode to the late Kobe Bryant. As an honour to what the Black Mamba brought to the sport, 2K have given players Mamba Moments. Much like John Cena’s spotlight in WWE 2K23, this focuses on several career moments of Bryant.
Yet whilst I struggled with them, which I’ll get into soon, I did appreciate that this tribute was made. Set as like-for-like moments, in which players must win or lose respective of the context, it added more… well, story to the game, if you will.
Not only that, there are also challenges within each challenge to accomplish too. These add more variety as they go on, from how certain amounts of scored or what time of shot, or a combination of both.
Again, like Cena’s, it’s nice to play out the court life of one of the considered-greatest players of all time. Respect to 2K for continuing this trend.
Okay, back to why I’m not enjoying this game: actually playing it. Am I missing something here, or have basketball games been notoriously difficult for a while now? Again, this is a personal “skill issue”, and shouldn’t be reflective of the review (if that weren’t obvious), but by Christ is this hard. Honestly, I had to check that this wasn’t one of those Spec Ops: Covert Ops difficulty swap glitches situations.
But I genuinely had a hard time stealing the ball. I did the tutorials, obtuse as some of them were, and I still never managed to snag a ball from an opposing player. The only time I was lucky to get the rock was either a rebound, or after an opposing basket was scored. So, as you can imagine, that left me on the back foot for a lot of games.
Is it just me, not “getting” the mechanics of the latest game, or has 2K really just upscaled the difficulty? I had it on Rookie, not that that seemed to make any difference. Sound off in the comments if it just me being an uncoordinated spaz, or there really is a steep learning curve.
Pay-Per-Viewing This Horrible Trend
Right, repetitive soapbox time: I absolutely hate MyTeam. I hate the practice of monetising progression in games, as well as hating how prolific it is. I’ve ranted about this before, but I’m going to rant once more. Now, I was “fortunate” edition to be sent the Black Mamba edition of the game. Now, whilst I’m very grateful to be sent such a version (please don’t blacklist us), it highlights something above there: fortune.
You see, to progress in MyCareer, one needs to invest points into their player. My star, ol’ Dunkly McFunk, was sitting on an average of seventy points in each stat, making him average at best. That’s because the Black Mamba edition gave me an additional amount of points to pump into him, like digital steroids.
Anyone else, those who buy the standard edition, are going to be much lower in terms of starting stats. So we’re already off to a biased start. But what makes it worse is the grind-or-pay aspect that follows. Yes, you might be an absolute god and win every game, earning more points easily. But if you’re not an NBA 2K24 savant, you’re going to have a hard time.
And that is were the whole, “Why don’t you speed this up by buying points with real money?” aspect comes in. It’s sad that’s that what it comes to nowadays. Yes, I get that some people don’t have the time to grind, but that doesn’t mean a feature should feature so heavily. Same with MyTeam, the card game aspect. You could get lucky with a winning pack, or you can cheat the system and pay for better odds.
Yes, it sucks, and yes, I know it won’t go away. I am but one man shouting at the wind, but at least consider trying before we give into these practices. It’s why I don’t touch GTA Online anymore.
Bursting Your Balls
To summarise, I personally didn’t have a good time with NBA 2K24. However, and this is the caveat, that doesn’t mean you won’t. If one is a long-time NBa fan, then as far as this goes, it’s a well-crafted basketball sim. When things did click for me, on occasion, I had fun. The amount of content is staggering too, again, if you’re into all of that. 2KTV, the WBNA, Eras, Playoffs… it’s all there if that’s what you’re into.
Naturally, reviews are subjective. Whilst I may not have had a good time, that doesn’t imply a bad game. Granted, I could have gone more in-depth about every aspect, right down to the shoe creator system. But then, if it’s not something I’m enthused about, I’d rather players discovered it themselves than have it soured by me.
And whilst I had the microtransaction bullshit, my opinion won’t change on the core gameplay here, and that’s the important bit. So yes, whilst I will be removing this whopper of a game the moment this publishes, it doesn’t make it a bad game. But it is most certainly not a welcoming game to anything wanting to dabble.
NBA 2K24 is another installment in the annals of sports game history. In the moments that it works, it works well. But it’s not welcoming for newcomers, and the insipid practice of MTX is about as subtle as a ball to the face.
NBA 2K24 is available now on PlayStation 4 & 5 (reviewed on latter), Xbox One and Series S|X, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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