NBA 2K24 should have been the perfect platform to celebrate Kobe Bryant’s career and his lasting impact on the game of basketball. Instead, his legacy is overshadowed by the ubiquitous microtransactions and outdated ways of playing. As a result, NBA 2K24 feels dull, haphazard as opposed to a memorable, adrenaline-inducing affair.
Unlike its more innovative predecessor, NBA 2K24 introduces only a handful of new features, the most notable of which is ProPlay technology. While the newly integrated feature makes every layup, dunk, and jump shot more realistic than ever, this aesthetic upgrade isn’t enough to redeem just a fresh coat of paint on a dated and unimaginative foundation. The lack of novel features became especially apparent when I went through the recycled game modes offered within. Fortunately, NBA 2K24 still has some enjoyable modes you can spend most of your time in, including my favorite, Mamba Moments.
Like NBA 2K23’s Jordan Challenges, the latest commemorative offering lets you relive seven of Kobe’s most iconic games. However, mamba moments don’t take you back to the humble beginnings of the Laker legend’s career. Instead, the first challenge you’ll play occurs amid his electrifying career during the 2001 playoffs, five years after he was drafted. While this early challenge was undoubtedly an iconic event in Kobe’s career, I was disappointed to miss out on some of his most memorable, legacy-defining milestones. Kobe’s 81-point outburst against the Toronto Raptors in 2006 was particularly staggering; It would have been a treat to recreate this record-breaking occasion.
MyNBA Eras, a new addition from NBA 2K23 that lets you relive specific eras in the league, returns this time with a new add-on called MyNBA Lite. Although welcome, I am confused by the inclusion of this streamlined Eras mode as its inclusion is redundant and unnecessary. However, playing through the different eras, from the 1980s Magic vs. Bird Era to the 2020s modern era, remains an entertaining experience, as each has its own rules, teams, and players that ensure two playthroughs are the same.
As enjoyable as MyNBA Eras and Mamba Moments were, the highs I experienced with these modes were dwarfed by the disappointment I experienced when entering NBA 2K24’s MyCareer. If you’re looking forward to seeing a new rags-to-riches story in the latest single-player offering, prepare to be disappointed as Visual Concepts has completely abandoned any semblance of a coherent plot – a decision that baffles me. The dramatic underdog narrative of the single-player mode was one of the aspects I enjoyed the most in the previous entries.
Additionally, the path to becoming the NBA GOAT becomes exponentially more problematic if you don’t accumulate a mountain of virtual currency. Since this is your primary method of advancing your player, the amount you earn after each MyCareer game isn’t enough to grow meaningfully so you’ll need to buy enough to rank up quickly.
As always, NBA 2K24’s heavy emphasis on in-game currency and microtransactions isn’t limited to MyCareer, as this need becomes even more evident in the ever-popular MyTeam mode. As with previous installments, you can always grind new rare player cards instead of buying them outright. However, the time it takes to earn these upgrades makes nothing worthwhile in the long run.
Following the innovative and pleasantly surprising NBA 2K23, I expected Visual Concepts to build on its success and introduce even more improvements with its latest entry in the long-running basketball series. But instead of reflecting the Black Mamba’s gradual rise to lasting relevance, NBA 2K24 sadly feels like a stop-gap — a quick hit to temporarily satisfy diehard fans. If this continues, the series could be closer to an unforgettable imitation of Kobe’s signature move: fading into obscurity.