As a rabid Miami Heat fan in Australia, it’s often hard to feel connected to the NBA. NBA 2K6 was my first real exposure to the NBA, and I immediately became a fan of the cover athlete Shaq and the man he called ‘Flash’. I’ve played every NBA 2K since, and as soon as I had a real job, I signed up for NBA League Pass and watched countless NBA games. NBA 2K has always tried to replicate the on-court action as closely as possible; each year, they make strides towards this being the best Basketball simulator on the market and one of the best in sports gaming. Sadly, it’s the off-the-court action that continues to dampen the experience.
My partner always quips every new 2K release, ‘looks the same to me.’ She is right; 2K’s presentation is the same to an outside viewer, and that presentation is always incredible, from the realistic courts, player designs and the motion on the court. It’s only when you put your hand on the sticks that it feels different. One of the big additions to gameplay with 2K24 is ProPLAY, a custom technology that generates authentic movements of actual NBA players into 2K24. This was shown in the gameplay trailer with Kevin Durant performing his signature behind-the-back, hesi, step-back jump shot. This ProPLAY technology seems like a huge new addition, but it only affects a few select superstar players. This is immediately noticeable for their movements and animations, but it will take some time, probably a few more yearly iterations, before it makes a tangible difference on the court. Shooting has had another overhaul this year, with animations and timings feeling smoother, with a clear difference between shooting with a specialist like Steph Curry or big like Jaren Jackson Jr. Contact in the paint and on the perimeter feel more natural. I love the changes to excellent timed shots both in the paint and at range, dynamically updating the green zone based on defenders movements. Defensive AI is still hit-and-miss with even high IQ defenders, getting lost on rotations or simply not picking up an open man. Despite these minor gripes, the on-court action is still best in class.
The online modes, MyCareer and MyTeam have never been my favourite way to play NBA 2K. As a MyNBA purest, last year’s MyNBA Eras was the best new addition 2K, introduced in years. 2K has expanded this mode by adding the Lebron Era, starting in 2010 with Lebron James taking his talents to South Beach. My personal favourite era, I’m sure you can guess why, is a welcome addition that did feel missing in the original Eras mode. The era-specific filters, commentary and players make these modes feel authentic and unique to play as you progress from the 1980s to the present day. This mode continues to impress, with updates to the salary cap system and a new MyNBA Lite if you find the complex cap management too daunting. I’ve already spent several hours tinkering with my Lebron-led Heat and will spend hundreds more over the next year creating different scenarios and challenges for myself. It’s once you spend time in the online modes that, for me, the enjoyment starts to fall apart.
This year’s MyCareer story is bare bones and throws your nearly created build immediately into the City, on an NBA roster of your choosing, with a list of quests and an open world to slowly run around in. Starting as a 60 overall, well below any rookie ever added to an NBA roster, is still absurd, but it’s to feed the Virtual Currency (VC) machine in hopes you’ll spend additional real-world money on top to catch up to the other players you run across that are above 80 overall on day one. This FOMO tactic is familiar to 2K, but it constantly turns me away from this mode every single year. This is a shame, as I enjoy the NBA aspect of this mode, chasing a championship and going through the regular season. This process has been smoothed with the option to simulate to the next key game, and the addition of the GOAT points and GOAT takeovers in NBA games are fantastic to help you punch above your weight when your attributes are considerably lower than other NBA players. These are great additions, but the constant need to remind you of the Season Pass, which is now paid, with two additional paid tiers, and the ever-confusing layout of the City, which seems to be designed to have your player run past the whales, to make you feel like you need to front more cash is not for me.
The Salary Cap mode in MyTeam is a much-needed balancing mode, and the shorter game lengths are excellent; I was surprised how much I’ve played of this mode, considering I don’t typically vibe with the online modes. I enjoy the collection process of MyTeam and building unique rosters with old and new players. Removing the player auction house in favour of a new market where you can spend MyTeam Points (MTP) or VC to buy cards directly from 2K is another minor step to push you to pay more. In previous years, I could use MTP or freely earned VC to buy card packs; if I unlocked an extremely rare card and sold it on the auction house for a huge influx of MTP, a paid player is happy as he got the card he wanted, the free player is happy as I’ve got MTP to spend on cards I actually want. 2K now directly controls this market, with all cards being extremely overpriced, and you can no longer sell your own cards to other players. Instead, you can now buy MTP, a previously free-only currency, and your methods of earning MTP need to be improved by removing the auction house. I enjoy MyTeam’s single-player modes quite a lot, as it scratches a similar itch to MyNBA for me, but like MyCareer, those tantalising rewards are just out of reach, but for an extra few dollars, they could all be yours.
NBA 2K24 is also available on last-gen consoles, with an incredibly paired-down version of all these enhancements and updates. This last-gen version is also bizarrely still released on PC.
NBA 2K24 is still the best and only basketball game on the market. 2K24’s incredibly satisfying gameplay loop continues to provide enjoyment to an NBA fan each year. Last night, I had a double overtime win in MyCareer, hitting the game-tying 3-point basket to send it to the first OT before squeaking out the win in double OT. No game on the market gives that sense of thrill and excitement when you see the ball go through the hoop. However, once you step off the court, the issues begin to pop up, and each year, they seem to get a little worse.
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