It’s September, and you know what that means! It’s time for another entry into the long-running basketball videogame series with 2K’s latest release: NBA 2K24. But has much changed since last year's title? It’s important with practically every sports game not to expect a huge overhaul in mechanics for each yearly release. As long as 2K has kept what was great about NBA 2K23 whilst expanding upon it, I’m sure most NBA fans will be happy — providing they can navigate around the ludicrous amount of microtransactions crammed into seemingly every menu. But enough with the preamble, let’s sink some triples!
I’ve always felt that some sports games can be difficult to get to grips with. The majority of them aim to be as realistic as possible, resulting in some widely complex control systems. Whilst that can still be said about NBA 2K24, it feels like the in-game tutorials are slightly more substantial this time around. It’s definitely not a game newcomers can just pick up and play, but the foundations are there to provide those starting out with a chance to sharpen their skills. Of course, the wide range of difficulty modifiers, CPU sliders, and in-game options are still here, allowing for fine-tuned precision on exactly how you want to play your single-player matches.
Every mode featured last year makes a return, although instead of reliving Michael Jordan’s career highlights, we’re treated to “Mamba Moments”. This mode allows players to recreate some of Kobe Bryant’s greatest performances across his legendary career. These aren’t quite as scripted as what you’d find in the WWE 2K series’ showcase mode, where each objective must be completed to advance. No, you’re free to play each of the seven games how you want, although completing specific objectives does unlock some Kobe-themed rewards for MyTeam and MyCareer.
Speaking of MyCareer, unfortunately, this feels like a step back from last year's iteration in terms of narrative. I love a good “rags to riches” story that gives me the incentive to boost my custom 60 overall stats nobody to a high 90s legend, but there was nothing like that this time around. You’re still given main and side quests with the optional cutscene here and there, but it definitely feels less like a personal story and more of an unsubstantial reason to grind. And grind. And grind some more. Unless, of course, you want to shell out real-world cash to bypass the monotony. This version of The City is — in my opinion — the best it’s ever been, with gorgeous beaches and fantasy-inspired locations; there’s certainly a lot to see and do!
It seems redundant to even write about it at this point, but here we are regardless. NBA 2K24 is perhaps one of the most microtransaction-heavy titles I have ever played. It is undeniably pay-to-win when playing MyCareer or MyTeam, and the gap between players who’ve dropped big bucks on boosting their created characters and teams and those who try to progress legitimately (good luck with that, you’ll be there a while) is definitely noticeable. If you like the collectable card aspect of MyTeam, building your ideal team one step at a time, then you’ll definitely find some enjoyment with it. I certainly did, once I decided to stay well away from the online modes!
I spent the majority of my time playing the many other modes NBA 2K24 offers players. Nothing has seen any drastic changes from last year, although The W mode continues to be more fleshed-out; hopefully one day we’ll see a female MyCareer! However, that will probably just mean more chances to get players to spend their cash. A personal favourite of mine, MyNBA, is back this year with an additional era (LeBron James’) and lets players potentially alter history and change not only the outcome of crucial games but also who signs for what team. It’s a great “what if” mode that NBA history buffs will likely get the most out of. There aren’t any new game modes, though, but when a game is so packed full of them to begin with, it’s difficult to imagine what sort of additions could be made!
This may be hyperbole, but it seems like every yearly sports franchise boasts of a “new, game-changing technology” that brings the in-game action closer to the real thing than ever before. ProPLAY, however, is one such innovation that undoubtedly delivers. By some feat of technical wizardry, 2K has done away with motion capture artists this year and has used the movements of real players during games to really nail the authenticity of every conceivable animation: every jump shot, slamdunk, and layup looked superb. I was sceptical at first — 2K usually has great mo-cap — but the difference is genuinely noticeable and takes one of the best-looking sports sims to the next level!
Smaller, less noticeable improvements have been made to the gameplay, particularly when dribbling and defence. There’s more versatility and combinations when on the ball, with such fluidity and responsiveness to the gameplay that you could almost fool someone into believing it was a real basketball game. This goes for the presentation as well, with unrivalled levels of detail when compared to watching an actual game. From the pre-match commentary discussing each team's key players to the half-time show with Shaq, Kenny Smith, and Ernie Johnson breaking down the action thus far. Sure, it sounds a little autonomous and stiff at times, but it’s genuinely impressive to see just how close to the real game that NBA 2K24 gets, both in terms of its graphical prowess and true-to-life audio.
I’ve enjoyed my time with NBA 2K24 so far and will continue to do so until the next game rolls around. Yes, it’s littered with microtransactions, two premium season pass options, and an online community of people with more money than sense, but once I ignored all that and focused on the core gameplay, I was hooked. ProPLAY is genuinely a great new addition to the series, and I hope 2K continue to improve on it for the foreseeable future. Whilst it’s certainly not as big a leap as NBA 2K22 was to 2K23, there’s no denying the fact that this is still a title that will keep NBA fans entertained until September 2024.
NBA 2K24 (Reviewed on PlayStation 5)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Pay-to-win mechanics aside, NBA 2K24 is a solid basketball sim with unrivalled authenticity; just don’t expect a huge leap forward from last year’s title.