As 2023 rapidly comes to a close, we can’t forget about our yearly basketball sim ‘NBA 2K24’. Developed by Visual Concepts and published by Take-Two Interactive, this years entry focuses on changes to badge progression in MyCareer, salary capping in MyTeam, the giant City, the new animation technology ProPLAY, and seasons. This entry also marks the 25th anniversary of the NBA 2K series, Visual Concepts has been working on the series since its inception and has changed the game’s fundamentals plenty of times since that first SEGA published title hit stores.
I’m a bit rusty, but lets hit the court.
Third Generation Prime
NBA 2K24’s menu is refreshed from 23’s, but in the end its all the same idea. You’ll find your MyCareer, MyTeam, MyLeague, The W, etcetera here. The menu is smooth and getting about is as easy as it always has been. I jump into MyCareer to start off, and for the uninitiated MyCareer you build your own character and start them right away into their NBA career instead of starting in college. You can also join any team you’d like, which I wholly prefer over prior releases. You start off as a third generation player following the footsteps of the greats, and but how you play is more than just the number on your jersey.
You’ll build your player through a fairly robust character creator. This time around I opted to use the face scanning feature which requires you to use the NBA 2K app on your phone. I let the game do its magic (one crash aside) and I got something that potentially resembled me (it got the fat cheeks right). Besides that, you can modify the face a bit and from there work on your character’s build and stats from scratch or by choosing a basketball pro as a starting profile. From there, you’re tossed right into 2K’s huge city with plenty of cutscenes that are scripted well, but I never really paid attention to ’em.
Off the bat I would say some of the biggest changes is to the game’s animation techstack. Dubbed ‘ProPLAY Technology’ by Visual Concepts, the company touts it as a big improvement to how players react to moment-to-moment plays, instead of “relying on motion capture by actors”. And you know what, things have really changed for the better here. Dribbles and passing look a lot more natural than prior games. It’s almost like magic, watching players walk the court ball in hand. Jumping into gameplay is smooth as it always is and making GOAT shots is satisfying… Up until they get blocked or you miss.
Sadly this animation system doesn’t make it over to the city, where the skateboard still feels like you’re dragging a rock across sand. But this place is huge, with lots of other players running around and features plenty of sidequests you can tackle. Of course, you can always opt to hit the courts and play with others straight away though prepare to get smacked around by everyone building specific 6 foot 8 players for everything that isn’t center.
But what I think is 2K24’s defining mode this time around is Kobe Bryant’s ‘Mamba Moments’. A series of games in Kobe’s career that players can relive, down to the very footage captured during those games as well as the signage. These games also have challenges that match the kinds of plays Kobe accomplished during those matches. It’s a nice touch to Kobe’s legacy and a mode that I wholly recommend players try out before they begin endlessly grinding MyTeam.
Watch Your Spending
Like every year, MyTeam flashes its shiny colours at the player. Card packs that have players from all over NBA history and the like, and you’ll get a chance to pick your starting cards from NBA teams all over (Go Pelicans!). A returning mode to 2K24 is ‘Salary Cap’ where teams of yours will be limited to an overall salary, and those player salaries that will change over the course of the season and depending on your usage of the cards. It’s one of those systems where you’ll see how things play out over the course of the game’s lifespan, so we’ll see how Visual Concepts keeps this fair.
But I can’t say I’m a fan of this mode, and particularly in this year’s edition. MyTeam in my experience has always felt luck-based and you can only really have fun if you have some of the best cards. But this year’s 2K incorporates not only the ability to purchase MyTeam Points (currency used to purchase card packs) but also these new ‘Season Passes’ that give players bonuses per level up in MyTeam or MyCareer. You can purchase the ‘Pro’ or ‘Hall of Fame’ pass for $9.99 slash $19.99 respectively, but also the most expensive pass gives players a 15% EXP boost and 10 whole levels skips. The Auction House is gone too, for what that’s worth.
For a game that already has so many monetisation methods this is not cool at all. For reference, even the 100k VC bundled with the Black Mamba Edition can barely get your character in MyCareer to an overall rating of 76 (and that takes a bit to grind to). Still, Triple Threat is still a fun grind to play and then you can go online and destroy your opponents and play with friends. Crossplay is truly a blessing to the age of online modes.
A Swoosh and a Dunk
NBA 2K24 is a marginal improvement from the last game and that’s been the case for a while now. The Womens NBA mode remains largely unchanged from 2K23 as is MyLeague. But the game offers a solid tracklist this time around, songs like ‘Bad Habit’ and ‘Rumble’. The changes made to offence play feel good but I felt like unless you have a strong defense build, you’re better off just hoping they miss.
The new animation system is great and even to the untrained eye it’s a solid upgrade to prior releases. There’s still not much of a tutorial system still, especially with the dribble system which Visual Concepts have made some significant changes to. The badge system time around is really tough too, as I felt that I could barely nudge any of them past the first tier and they would keep regressing if I didn’t focus on a particular play like 3-pointers. But I digress.
NBA 2K24 continues the series’ strong basketball simulation elements, but some egregious monetisation this time around and changes to progression make this entry a little more frustrating than it has to be. Still, the ‘Mamba Moments’ mode is a super cool tribute to an awesome player and for me, quickplay with family is where it’s always at. ∎
Review | NBA 2K24 (Next Gen)
Xbox Series X
- New ProPLAY tech makes animations feel and play out substantially different.
- Play and character controls are still as strong as ever.
- 'Mamba Moments' is an awesome tribute to a great player.
- Battle pass system, VC, and other monetisation feel even more egregious this time around.
- Defense plays are much less rewarding, focus on offense.
- Team and opposing AI are still spotty at times.
- Lack of tutorials especially for features like dribbling.