NBA 2K24 on PS5
Here we are again, friends and fellow video game enjoyers. Whether you’re more of a casual follower or one who follows basketball religiously, the NBA 2K series has been churning out games for you since 1999. But if NBA 2K23 was a series of steps with most pointing in the right direction, then NBA 2K24 feels like a stagnation of sorts. The level of detail from the previous entry remains and is even expanded on, but only slightly, while microtransactions seem to take on an even bigger role. Your player’s path in MyCareer can be made to feel so much quicker this time around, and yet, still ring hollow. The on-court action aims to be as authentic as ever, but does it risk taking away from the fun?
It’s difficult to truly grade sports video games on any sort of scale given the fact that each of them present the player with so many game modes to sift through. But as has been my adage for the past couple of years now, you will get out of NBA 2K24 what you wish to. If a player-locked MyCareer Mode isn’t for you, then dive into NBA Eras. If you’ve long tired of micro-transactions, then why not choose a path in the WNBA? Oh, you don’t feel like charting a career path at all? Well then you’re in luck, as Mamba Moments — the latest 2K Showcase — lets you play through the highs of Kobe Bryant’s illustrious NBA career.
Even still, NBA 2K24 doesn’t quite hit every single mark it sets out to.
Becoming the GOAT at Your Own Pace
If you’ve read any of my past reviews, particularly those of sports titles, you’ll already have an understanding of just how much I gravitate toward Career modes. NBA 2K24 is back with another, only this time you can just play basketball if that is your wish. On the surface, that’s a win, but underneath the surface there is always going to be something to criticize. It’s excellent that this year’s mode makes it simple on the player: Become the greatest of all time. They even incorporate Eras into the story by making your player a third-generation superstar. That all works.
But as is often the case with these titles, playing basketball can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. That’s because you’re building a brand, investing while making your way throughout The City, or completing seemingly endless objectives while staying on track to become the GOAT. NBA 2K24 does an excellent job addressing most of these potential pitfalls by making side quests entirely optional this time around. They even allow you to simulate to key moments and games throughout your career, using statistics from games you’ve previously played in order to ensure simulating doesn’t hinder your player’s numbers.
However, just because players can focus solely on basketball this year, and just because you’ll earn Virtual Currency every time you play, doesn’t mean purchasing accessories — or more importantly, upgrading your player — comes cheaply. In order to keep up with The City or your peers in the NBA, you’ll have to either devote most of your free time to this game or fall prey to the dreaded microtransaction. And this time, it feels a little more obvious than it did previously.
Eras Return, but Only Just
Last year, MyNBA Eras quite quickly became one of my favorite inclusions into the long-running 2K franchise. It returns this year, but with only one additional era to choose from: The LeBron Era. That makes plenty of sense considering MyCareer makes you play as the greatest prospect to enter the NBA since LeBron James himself. That said, it doesn’t feel as though enough of a step forward is taken in this regard.
Is it excellent to go back a few years in time and draft a teenage Giannis Antetokounmpo? Absolutely. After all, every re-draft in the world would have that man going first overall. Kobe, Michael Jordan, and the Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird Eras all return, which is a plus. Being able to conduct franchise fantasy drafts with so many options is a plus, but now we’re clamoring for more. It’s good to see the previous eras make their return, but what if we could go back even further?
Last year, this was a fresh addition to the series. All of the elements are there again this year, and that is undeniably good, but now there is a hope for what could be.
Choose Your Path to WNBA Greatness
Speaking of Career Mode, I want to take a moment to highlight one thing I absolutely adore about NBA 2K24. That is the ability to genuinely choose a path when it comes to the WNBA. I love this little feature so much, in fact, that it really should just be the default. Unfortunately that is not the case, but don’t let that take away from this.
And that’s part of this whole thing, right? NBA 2K24 offers so many game modes to enjoy. There are five separate eras of professional basketball to enjoy (when you include the Modern Era), but maybe there’s a version of this game that exists where you can bounce from one to other throughout a career. Maybe not. Perhaps that’s a little too arcade-like.
Still, if there’s one thing I would like sports video games to focus more energy on, it’s giving their Career Mode more choice. Choosing your background in the WNBA is an excellent step.
Mamba Moments Feels Incomplete
Last year, NBA 2K23 delivered a Michael Jordan refresher at the perfect time by featuring him in their Showcase Mode. This time around, players get to take the court as Kobe Bryant. Starting as a 22-year-old “Mamba” in the 2001 Western Conference Semifinals, the experience concludes with his final Championship in 2010. Yet only having seven “Mamba Moments” to experience feels a tad on the low side. It feels even lesser when you compare it to the John Cena Showcase in WWE 2K23, where players got to experience 12 different matches as well as three additional bonus matches as they journey through his career.
That said, the “Mamba Moments” that players do get to experience are more than worthy of inclusion. Similar to the stagnation of MyNBA Eras this time around, it feels as though there isn’t enough Kobe Bryant in a game that both centers around him and features him on the cover.
For what it’s worth, there were 15 games in the Michael Jordan Showcase last year. And heck, that was the second time he was featured in the showcase. “Mamba Moments” was certainly a step worth taking, but it’s also a step worth expanding on. As is, it falls a little short.
The Never-Ending Problem of the Microtransaction
Here’s the thing about video games and microtransactions: they’re probably going to be intertwined forever. That will always be a major issue. Not from a personal ‘I have a problem with spending’ standpoint, I should say. More from a general ‘This doesn’t feel right at all’ one, though. The biggest problem is that they’re central to everything you can attempt to achieve.
Upgrading your player can be tedious if you don’t throw money at the problem. Overall, I can see that being a killer for casual gamers. It’s even something I could see making folks hesitant to purchase this game for full price. I will always advise players to not spend even more money on a game that’s already $70. Especially on what essentially comes down to random chance. I mean yes, you can purchase more virtual currency solely to upgrade your player. But what about when it spills over to MyTeam? That there is an option to purchase Virtual Currency and MyTeam Points for $149.99 is, quite frankly, absurd.
Even if this isn’t just an NBA 2K issue (it isn’t), microtransactions remain a major problem here. One that can easily take away from an otherwise fairly enjoyable experience. The gameplay tweaks on next-gen platforms aren’t overwhelming, but there are gradual steps being taken. Streamlining MyCareer is a step in the right direction even if it doesn’t entirely hit the mark. Having another era to choose from coupled with the down-to-the-detail presentation that continues to set NBA 2K above the rest is a win.
Yet with all of that, you still cannot shake those microtransactions. Which means that even with all of the good NBA 2K24 has to offer, I cannot allow myself to let them off the hook entirely.
A streamlined MyCareer experience.
Choose your own path in the WNBA.
Still the best presentation of any current sports title.
ProPlay tech gives next-gen versions a gameplay boost.
Even with a streamlined version, MyCareer feels oddly predetermined.
The Kobe Bryant Showcase could use more moments.
Microtransactions are more invasive than ever.
NBA Eras does not expand enough.
September 8, 2023
PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
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