The greedy guys over at Visual Concepts are breaking all greed records with the greediest game of the year.
The sports gaming year didn't start off very strong with the mediocre Madden NFL 24 and unfortunately it continues on the same track with NBA 2K24. While Madden has its problems on the court, NBA is near perfect there, but everything else sucks the joy out of it. One comment on the NFL review wondered how I can have any expectations for these games year after year. The reason is that I know how good they could be. NBA 2K24 has every reason to be the best sports game ever with a great presentation, gorgeous graphics, and (most importantly) fun basketball mechanics. But the series has now evolved into full-on pay-to-win, which is terrible for a fully-priced game. This year, it's even worse.
Whilst I would have preferred MyTeam (the game's Ultimate Team) to be completely without microtransactions, I personally have no problem with a game mode containing them. It can be avoided if you want. But that requires all other game modes to be free of it. One of the worst ideas 2K ever had is to introduce this in the career mode where you create a player and play against computer-controlled teams. This is a problem that has arisen as they have now merged the single player and online mode into one. The character I create can be used both to play a career against computer-controlled opponents and play online against other players from around the world. Since it is the same character, there is only one way to upgrade the player: spend currency. I know people will argue that this currency can be earned in the game and that it doesn't require a credit card, but that's certainly not the whole truth. The rate at which these coins are earned is slower than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at his current age, and what remains then is to pay for improvements or play with a character who has around 70 in total attributes.
This leads to other problems. With such low trait scores, my player will not be able to compete online, as there is no way for me to try to defeat someone with 90+ attribute stats. And in all honesty, what players would want my character on their team? My centre can pull down rebounds, as that's where I spent all my available points, and nothing else. He is so bad at shooting that he wouldn't hit sand in a desert.
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Speaking of the career, 2K has decided to completely drop the film-like angle they had for a few years. I'm sure many people think this is a good thing, but it was also something that made the NBA 2K series stand out from the crowd. In NBA 2K24, it's as simple as me being a gamer who wants to be the best. Nothing more, nothing less. There are a few side-tracks like being able to play historic games in my father's and grandfather's careers, two each, to be precise. Otherwise, it's all about my character's basketball with no silly missions.
What I like this year is that I no longer have to play every game in a season. You can play only key games, like my debut, my centre duel with Nikola Jokic, and others. If you want to play every game, you can do that too. As I said, it is possible to take this created character and play online and if you have played in recent years, the setup is familiar. There is a city that acts as a hub and you run to wherever you want. In one location there are three-on-three matches, in others there are ranked club matches. I like this, but wish there were different characters between the two different modes, because now, as I said earlier, the single player mode is pay-to-win.
I briefly mentioned MyTeam above, but the game mode has become even greedier than before, something I didn't think was possible. We all know how Ultimate Team modes work. Buy packs of cards, hope to get the best players, get lower quality players, and use them in your team to play matches. This was already pay-to-win, but 2K has managed to squeeze in additional ways to get money out of your wallet. They've now added a season pass, which of course allows you to pay for a premium version with better prizes at each level. Each season, which is around a month in duration, has its own season pass spanning 40 levels. If you're not keen on trying to fight your way slowly (there's far too little XP) through these levels, you can simply pay your way to level 40. They saw a chance to make some extra money from a mode that makes a ton of money, in a game that players pay full price for, and they took it.
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All this I mentioned above is so incredibly boring. The series has, in my opinion, the best presentation of any sports game on the market and is even better this year. It feels like watching a television broadcast with all the different commentators, drone shots of the city at halftime, halftime talk with Ernie Johnson, Shaq, and Kenny (sadly still missing Chuck) from TNT, player reactions on the bench, and much more. Add to that a very good experience on the field where everything feels right. Slow, heavy centres and fast, sniping guards. Screens and alley-oops. They do basketball so well. LeBron feels like LeBron and Steph feels like Steph with animations and movements. The only thing I think is missing is good counterplay, or fast breaks if you will, as it doesn't feel as fast and exciting as it should.
In addition, the game has some great game modes. Last year it offered some of Michael Jordan's best moments as playable opportunities and this year it's back with a focus on Kobe Bryant. Mamba Moments as they are called are not as good as last year's Jordan Challenges, but Kobe fans will appreciate them. MyNBA, which is like a season mode with selected team, is back with the incredible Eras mode. This makes it possible to play seasons in several different decades. Want to play and try to run over Bird's Celtics? Sure, go ahead. Jordan's Bulls? Go for it. Now there is also a new era added which is a LeBron era with the 2011 "Big Three" Miami Heat.
Had they chosen to focus on these things along with the solid basketball experience and unparalleled presentation, this could have landed a really high score. But with such a strong focus on extracting money from me, they are instead extracting joy from me. What could have been a perfect sports game instead becomes a begging little brother that always seems to need more money.
6 / 10
The presentation is incredible. The basketball is great. The Mamba Moments mode are a nice tribute to Kobe. Many great game modes.
Just gets greedier every year. Basically full pay-to-win. Unnecessary addition of season passes in MyTeam.