NBA 2K24 perfectly replicates pro sport, commercialisation and all

NBA 2K24 review

NBA 2K24 is Sensory Overload: The Game. From the outset, it bombards you with menus, sub-menus, advertising, and brazen in-game monetisation. It also happens to be a very good basketball game.

NBA 2K24 holds a mirror to reality, reflecting modern professional sport’s relentless pursuit of ever-growing commercialisation, diluting what is a great product at its core. Through sheer quality of gameplay, it unanimously retains its crown as the best basketball simulation game on the market. In fact, it’s just about the only mainstream basketball simulation currently available.

There’s a lot that NBA 2K24 does well, in spite of its commercial interests. There are many different game modes to enjoy, and most importantly, the basketball action feels great to play. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a sports game that nails the look and feel of a sports broadcast better than this. A tolerance for bloated gameplay systems and heavy advertising is recommended, however.

Returning to the series after a break

I haven’t played each year’s new entry regularly for a while now, instead preferring to dip my toe in as I please. It was the promise of easier shooting mechanics that drew me into checking out the Xbox Series X version. Be warned that many of the new features are locked to the latest consoles, with the Nintendo Switch and PC versions missing out on a lot of improvements. Steam users, according to player reviews, are not happy about it.

Although it’s been a while since I’ve played an NBA 2K game, I didn’t notice a lot of difference in the shooting. Perhaps it felt a little easier to land good timing on shots, but it didn’t feel revolutionary by any means. Although NBA 2K24 continues the series’ excellent gameplay and depth, individual player movement still feels a bit sticky, for lack of a better word.

This is most evident when on defence, trying to guard a player. Particularly when your assignment changes at the last minute, leaving you scrambling across the half-court to make a stop. I’m willing to put this down to a skill issue, however.

Getting back into the game after an absence proved a little tricky, largely not helped by the overwhelmingly crowded main menu. 2KU is the tutorial mode that runs you through the controls, from shooting to defence, and everything in between. It’s a functional, if barebones way to learn how to play. What’s most annoying is that 2KU is buried in sub-menus, so you need to know what to look for in the first place. This seems counter-intuitive, given that a tutorial is meant to help new players get started.

If you come to NBA 2K24 after an absence, like me, or haven’t played a basketball game before, you’ll likely struggle to begin with. When you’re bombarded with menus and flashy graphics with little context, it’s not the most welcoming experience.

NBA 2K24 pays tribute to the Black Mamba

Much of NBA 2K24 revolves around the concept of legacy. Perhaps the best and most obvious personification of this is the heavy focus on the late LA Lakers legend, Kobe Bryant. Aside from the Bryant branding the game adopts, you can step into his high top shoes and recreate iconic moments from his storied career.

Most of your time, however, will likely be spent playing the returning big-ticket game modes. Whether it be the career-focused MyPlayer, franchise-based MyNBA, or the popular trading card-based MyTeam mode, there is no shortage of ways to play NBA 2K24. These modes only scratch the surface of what’s available, although they’re the ones pushed most heavily on you.

Most of my time was spent playing MyPlayer, where you create a basketballer with big NBA ambitions. For years now, the career mode has incorporated story elements to help ground you in the experience. This year’s narrative revolves around the fact that you’re a third-generation NBA player following in the footsteps of your father and grandfather. Continuing with the game’s legacy theme, it’s all about attempting to live up to the expectations thrust upon you.

NBA 2K24 MyPlayer
It’s cool to see who your player’s basketball style resembles.

At the same time, there’s a long-running sub-plot of aiming to be the greatest of all time (GOAT). All of your progress gets charted alongside a who’s who of the NBA, including Bryant, Michael Jordan, Kareem, Abdul-Jabbar, LeBron James and so on. Pretty much every activity you do earns you GOAT points, increasing your overall ranking. It’s a neat little sub-system that adds more weight to your gameplay and gives you a longer goal to aim for.

We built this city on basketball

A big part of MyPlayer is The City, a small open-world metropolis where you move from one activity to another. It includes the stadium where you play games and train to improve your stats, plus plenty of places to play street ball. Like a modern RPG, NBA 2K24 throws a lot of quests at you, culminating in a big checklist of things to do with various rewards attached. Even with your character’s skateboard, it’s slow to move from one place to another, so I routinely lived in the stadium, sticking to playing the NBA season.

NBA 2K24 The City
It doesn’t take long for The City to fill up with things to do.

That, and the rampant in-game advertising quickly gets wearisome. Billboards advertising real-world products, Gatorade power-ups, and side-quests involving State Farm insurance aren’t new to the series, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying in a full-priced video game. It’s all a bit overwhelming and exhausting, especially if you’re coming to NBA 2K24 after not playing an NBA game in a while. That, and the looming spectre of Virtual Currency as both something you earn and can spend real money on insidiously infiltrates the experience.

Despite this, I eventually found it relatively easy to disengage with anything that didn’t take my interest. It’s a little bit of a shame that there’s so much else to check out, although the friction of gameplay systems and menus makes it tricky to fully invest in much of it.

Undoubtedly, NBA 2K24 is an excellent sports simulation game. When you get past the bloat and take to the court, playing virtual basketball is a lot of fun. It certainly benefits from its monopoly, though, with much of the experience aimed at returning players. Not to mention its unwavering commitment to advertising and encouraging you to spend money.

Perhaps that’s NBA 2K24‘s greatest fault: it replicates professional sport too well, commercialisation and all.

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