Tech reviews

NBA 2K24 Review – Flow, but No Hustle

Last year’s NBA 2K23 was a true championship-worthy basketball game, offering up rewarding on-court action, a refined career mode, and a variety of nostalgia-tweaking content (like the returning Jordan Challenge) that wasn’t necessarily focused on nickel-and-diming players. In other words, this year’s NBA 2K24 was provided with a very solid foundation to build upon.

That said, annual sports franchises often have difficulty stringing together wins, opting instead to coast following a success. Is NBA 2K24 another dynasty-building win? Or is it a half-hearted layup after last year’s slam dunk? Lace ‘em up, it’s time to hit the court yet again…

NBA 2K23 made some key strides forward on the court, offering more approachable shooting mechanics, rebalanced AI that made attacking the paint a more viable option, and improved animations that brought a new sense of realism and excitement to the action. NBA 2K24 largely continues down this path.

Shooting is even easier to master this year. The game offers a large array of differently shaped shot meters and the ability to finetune the feel and timing of shooting. In NBA 2K games, shooting works by pressing and holding the appropriate button or right analog stick, then releasing it at the correct time, and the new “Shot Timing Visual Cue” option lets you specify when that correct time is – at the arc of your jump, once the ball leaves your hands, ect. Everybody has a timing that just feels right to them, and now you can make the game recognize that as the ideal timing. In the past, I would often get dinged for releasing my shot too late, because my brain naturally registers the ball leaving my player’s hands as the correct time to release the shot button. Now that’s not a problem. I was good enough at shooting to get by in the past, but now I feel properly empowered when taking control of a 3-point-draining monster like Steph Curry.

The other big addition this year is the new ProPlay tech, which allows NBA 2K developer Visual Concepts to capture animations directly from real NBA footage. The changes ProPlay make to the game may not be immediately noticeable, but you’ll be struck once you see the likes of Kobe, Shaq, or current top stars like Nikola Jokic on the court as they really do move like their real-life counterparts. And the new animations aren’t just a cosmetic improvement – your players really feel like they’re moving in a realistic, rewarding way, rather than just sliding around the court.

While Visual Concepts’ constant investment in NBA 2K’s animations has paid off, a bit more attention could be paid to the series’ overall visual fidelity. The current engine looked impressive when it debuted back in 2020, but here in 2023, it hasn’t kept pace with the latest AAA blockbusters or even other sports franchises. Everything just feels a bit flat and lifeless at this point.

As always, NBA 2K24 is roughly split into three parts – MyCareer, MyNBA, and MyTeam. This year MyCareer fully jettisons any real pretense of being a “story” mode. The elaborate cinematic story prologues that used to be a part of NBA 2K have been gone for a while, but this time around, even the basic rising star arc and simple roleplaying of last year’s game has been scratched. This time around, you begin as a rookie NBA star who’s immediately earmarked as the next LeBron James and it’s up to you rise through the all-timer rankings by earning GOAT points. This is done by winning games/championships and completing various challenges (defeating a rival, breaking certain records, ect.)

While the spectacle of some past NBA 2K career modes is sometimes missed here, I actually like this year’s setup quite a bit. NBA 2K24 cribs notes from MLB The Show’s “March to October” mode (something I’ve been encouraging other sports franchises to rip-off for years) in that you only have to play certain key games, most of which have some sort of unique objective attached. You can skip the rest of the matchups, with the game simulating your performance based on how you did in the last key game. At first the new MyCareer setup may seem intimidating – dethroning Jordan as the GOAT requires 9 million points and 7 championship rings – but the new key games approach means you can get through seasons fairly quickly. On a more basic level, I just found climbing the GOAT rankings more satisfying that the more abstract “get your guy to level 99” challenges of past NBA 2K titles.

Once again, your various MyCareer activities are contained within The City, an open hub that also houses various online multiplayer features. This time around, The City has been redesigned as a more compact seaside town, reducing the amount time required to get where you’re going. Personally, I’ve never found running around these hubs particularly compelling, but if hitting the Rec and Pro-Am courts are your thing, this is the best version of The City to date.

Moving onto NBA 2K24’s other modes, the MyNBA management mode hasn’t changed much at all with the new LeBron James historical era being the only major addition. The Ultimate-Team-style MyTeam mode also sticks to its usual incremental changes, with the big addition this year being a new marketplace where you can buy individual cards instead of opening randomized packs and hoping for the best. That’s a welcome change in theory, but it coincides with the removal of the auction house that let players sell their own individual cards. In other words, while this new marketplace may be more friendly in some ways, it’s also a clear case of 2K exerting more control over the process. As for WNBA content, as usual it’s all a bit barebones compared to what the men get, although the W career mode has received a few welcome tweaks and improvements.

Finally, following on the heels of The Jordan Challenge last year, we have Mamba Moments, which takes the player through some of the highlights of Kobe Bryant’s career. While the overall approach is similar, Mamba Moments just feels a lot less developed than The Jordan Challenge, consisting of only 7 chapters (Mike got 15) with less effort spent on presentation. If we’re being brutally honest, Kobe just didn’t have as many iconic moments as Jordan, but still, I feel like Visual Concepts could have dug a bit deeper here.

Of course, no NBA 2K review is complete without examination of the series’ sometimes-overbearing monetization. Last year, I gave NBA 2K23 credit for adding a lot of content (Jordan Challenge, MyNBA Eras) that wasn’t focused on pushing extra spending. Unfortunately, most of those MTX-free additions have stagnated or backslid this year, while the monetization in MyCareer has been dialed up yet another notch. It’s now harder to earn money in MyCareer and your Badges will actually regress if you don’t use them enough, which feels like a purely punitive move designed to encourage further grinding and spending. One of the great things about basketball is its accessibility – nobody’s priced out of a sport that only requires a $20 ball to play. If only 2K and Visual Concepts embraced that ethos in their take on the game.

This review was based on a PS5 copy of NBA 2K24 provided by publisher 2K Sports.


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.