NBA 2K24 Review: A great entry bogged down by microtransactions

 NBA 2K24 Screenshot.
NBA 2K24 Screenshot.

The NBA 2K franchise — as well as any sports franchise that exists today — often receives a ton of criticism for how many things never seem to change. Whether it be similar play style, no real additions to modes, or something else, there is a big stigma of stagnation around sports titles.

With 2K's latest release, NBA 2K24, however, things do change. Developer Visual Concepts delivers a surprisingly strong entry into the series, complete with streamlined play and big additions to fun modes.

Unfortunately, that great change is tied tightly with an extreme overreliance on microtransactions, stopping this game from reaching the heights of a sports classic.

Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by 2K. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing.

NBA 2K24 

The NBA 2K series remains the most realistic basketball game in the world, and is back this year with some big changes to animations, minor tweaks to game modes, and more.

Buy at: Amazon (Xbox) | GMG (Steam/PC) View Deal

NBA 2K24: What's good

NBA 2K24 Screenshot
NBA 2K24 Screenshot

When it comes to NBA 2K24, or any of the best Xbox Games out there, the first thing that many will notice will be just how great the game actually looks. The NBA 2K franchise has always done a great job mirroring the realistic looks of a basketball game, but things get taken to another level in 2K24.

The game is undoubtedly the best looking 2K ever, and even better on modern-day consoles like the Xbox Series X. Things look so real that sometimes you might mistake it for an actual game of basketball if played on the right settings. Lights bounce and reflect off the court, players move fluidly after fouls or stoppages in play, and the banners and signs all over mimic that of a real-life game.

As it was last year, the broadcast and commentary are still pretty top-notch, although you will get some recycled lines every now and again the more that you play. In the end, though, 2K24 is a visual marvel for sports titles.

NBA 2K24

Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K
Genre: Sports
Install Size: 161 GB
Playtime: ~40 hours
Release date: September 8, 2023
Price: $69.99
Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Windows PC (Steam), Nintendo Switch, PS5, PS4
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X

Alongside stunning visuals, NBA 2K24 also boasts some major key upgrades in animations in the game in the form of ProPLAY. ProPLAY is a new way for the 2K franchise to show animations and movement in the game. Unlike past titles, which used motion capture from actor performances, ProPLAY instead sources animations from natural movements and plays that happen in the real-world NBA.

This means that instead of actors trying to mimic the on-court play style of someone like LeBron James, ProPLAY can instead just watch James play and source his movements to translate in the game. That results in some surprisingly stellar animations in 2K24.

Superstar players like James, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant all not only look incredibly lifelike, but play like their real-life counterparts too, right down to more minute things like Steph Curry's shimmy and movement after a made three.

While there's nothing exactly groundbreaking about the way 2K24 plays, it does feel a lot smoother and more reliable than in years past. Players no longer snap onto position or react immediately, but will instead move as they would in real life, allowing for a greater degree of control if you know you're playing.

NBA 2K24 Screenshot
NBA 2K24 Screenshot

Shooting and dribbling in 2K24 also feel a bit more forgiving than in years past. While last year leaned heavily on player's ability to perfectly sync up their shots, this year feels like you might get away with still hitting some big shots even if they aren't perfect.

Dribbling also sees the return of 2K23's adrenaline boost feature, which limits how often players can use a burst of speed or do a tricky move in any certain possession. While it's no longer as tough to get used to now that it's been in the game for a full cycle, it does still demand practice from players, and (thankfully) eliminates the occurrences where players may just spam moves online in a game.

2K24's new ProPLAY system allows for the most lifelike animations to date in a 2K game.

Defense also received a tiny upgrade in 2K24 thanks to the ProPLAY system. Now, both perimeter and paint defense are more effective thanks to the increased responsiveness. Instead of sliding or getting lost on the court like in past years, 2K24 features a bit more fluidity when trying to navigate a screen or reach out to steal a block.

2K24 also features what it calls "revamped contest logic," which aims to reward players who properly contest an opponent's shot. The newer system gets rid of some issues of "ghost contesting" that appeared in past years, but not completely. Still, though, defensive gameplay as a whole does feel better.

NBA 2K24 Screenshot
NBA 2K24 Screenshot

Outside of gameplay, 2K24 brings back its Jordan Challenges that it revived last year, albeit with an entirely different star: Kobe Bryant. The late NBA legend was the cover athlete for this year's game, and the game features "Mamba Moments" to honor him. Similar to the Jordan Challenges, these moments allow players to recreate some of Bryant's most iconic moments on the court.

There are a total of seven moments in total, all of which have various objectives to complete in order to beat them. Getting through the moments with every objective rewards stars, which in turn unlock in-game items for players to use. While the moments are not as fully fleshed out as 2K23's Jordan Challenges (there are no interviews or documentary-esque narration that players before each one), it's still a fun mode that players will love to go through.

MyNBA (2K's version of a franchise mode) also returns, complete with its new "Eras" format that debuted last year in 2K23. The mode allows for players to start up a franchise in whatever "era" of basketball they choose. This year, there are five eras to choose from; The Magic vs Bird Era, The Jordan Era, The Kobe Era, The LeBron Era, or The Modern Era. Each era puts you right at the forefront, mostly in NBA Drafts that featured legendary players, to help give you a kick-start.

Just like last year, MyNBA remains an incredible mode, and surprisingly one that continues to get a lot of from Visual Concepts. While other sports titles often neglect or take forever to update a mode, MyNBA has seen change after change to it throughout the years, and mostly all for the better.

MyNBA also features a streamlined version of itself as well, called MyNBA Lite, that is fun, but does cut down on what makes the actual game mode so good. Other modes, like The W (which allows fans to play as WNBA teams) and MyGM and MyLeague, also return, although don't feature any big overhauls.

NBA 2K24 Screenshot
NBA 2K24 Screenshot

When it comes to game modes, the two core ones in the 2K series are MyTeam and MyCareer. MyTeam, the trading card team building mode, is back and mostly the same, albeit with a few big changes. Players can still build up a team of stars by collecting cards and completing collections.

However, after listening to player feedback over the years, Visual Concepts has gotten rid of the in-game auction house, instead opting for a constantly updating store that offers up what it deems to be the best deals for cards in the game.

It's a bit of an odd thing to see, especially since auction houses are pretty commonplace in sports games. MTP (the in-game currency for the mode) output has also increased, giving players more money to spend on cards and other accessories. At its core, though, the mode hasn't changed a lot, but it's still a fun one if you're into the "Ultimate Team" style of play.

MyCareer, on the other hand, has seen some major changes to the mode for the first time in a long time. Unlike past years, the story and narrative of MyCareer takes a bit of a backseat to the actual gameplay, and for the better. Instead of having an intricate backstory, players are simply high-level draft picks that can pick what team they play for, and then they're off to the races.

MyCareer features some streamlined changes, which are great for hardcore players.

This change goes hand-in-hand with MyCareer's other big change, a "GOAT" tracker. This new feature allows players to track where they stand up in comparison to some of the greatest players to ever play.

The mode also features a new, streamlined way to play in the form of "Key Games." Instead of having to play every single game in a season, players can opt to sim forward to big moments.

Moments include your debut as a rookie, playing against current legends of the game, and more. These key games also come with specific objectives to complete, which upon doing so will reward you with more in-game currency and a faster track to the next GOAT tier.

All in all, the changes are very welcome for a game mode that has often felt extremely sluggish and hard to progress through.

Unfortunately for 2K24, however, these big changes can't cover up what is quickly becoming a large issue in the franchise.

NBA 2K24: What could use some work

NBA 2K24 Screenshot
NBA 2K24 Screenshot

For years now, the NBA 2K franchise has had a large reliance on VC (Virtual Currency), in-game currency that you can spend in modes like MyTeam and MyCareer. In past years, it did feel almost impossible to play the game on an even level with others if you didn't spend money, and this year, unfortunately, it's only gotten worse.

Nearly every single aspect of 2K24's MyCareer mode is laden with VC-funded activities. From upgrading your player's skills, to doing something as simple as wanting to buy clothes or tattoo your player, you will have to spend in-game currency — and a lot of it — if you want to get the most out of the game. This normally might not be an issue if costs in the game weren't so exorbitant, but they are, and seem to be getting worse every year.

Much like past MyCareer modes, 2K24 features The City, a hub world for players to explore. The place is filled with gyms, courts, and shops to wander about in if you're looking for something to do in between games.

It's here where the reliance on VC becomes a real issue.  Simple things in NBA 2K24, like buying a pair of shoes or buying in-game boosts to make your skills slightly better, rack up a large bill.

MyCareer and MyTeam's heavy reliance on microtransactions is becoming a huge issue.

Even wanting to do something core to the gameplay like tweaking player animations can cost up to $2 of real-life money. When I wanted to give my MyCareer player tattoos, a full sleeve of just one tattoo cost 9,000 VC, the equivalent of around $3 in real life.

It's an issue that also rears its head in MyTeam, where some of the best cards are locked behind packs that cost upwards of $50 just for the chance.

That's not to say that grinding and playing the game without spending a dime isn't possible. There are various methods to earn some extra VC, and per-game rewards are enough to help you level up from time to time.

However, for a game that's biggest modes feature playing with other people, it can almost feel like a requirement that you'll have to pay extra just to be good enough.

NBA 2K24: Should you play it?

NBA 2K24 Screenshot
NBA 2K24 Screenshot

At the end of the day, NBA 2K24 may be one of the best games the franchise has ever produced. It features incredible animations and solid gameplay that feels like you're playing and watching the real sport.

However, the heavy pushing of microtransactions in the game feels almost too much this year. It's nothing new to the franchise, and something that fans complain about almost regularly.

The toughest part, though, is that the game is the only real basketball game to play year in and year out, and due to its popularity, people come back to it regardless of its issues.

When it comes to 2K24, the game is genuinely fun, and if you're someone who can look past and avoid spending a ton of real-life money on it, you will enjoy it. However, it's something players will have to ask themselves before they dive into the game, which is a shame, as the game has greatness right in its reach.

NBA 2K24 

The NBA 2K series remains the most realistic basketball game in the world, and is back this year with some big changes to animations, minor tweaks to game modes, and more.

Buy at: Amazon (Xbox) | GMG (Steam/PC) View Deal