In The Game: ‘NBA 2K24’ is Shockingly Disappointing and Wants 30% of Your Rent

I have never really been much of a sports guy. In fact, growing up, I would often leave the room whenever sports was put on. I never found myself getting invested regardless of the sport in question. Hockey was hands down the most popular weekly thing to put on for both sides of my family. That would mean that for 90 minutes or so, I would either be in my room playing Guitar Hero or I’d be on MSN messaging my friends. The only thing that could even be considered a sport I was interested in watching was WWE.

Fast forward several years of my life, in my early 20s, having just moved to Toronto. My closest friend tells me that he had really gotten into basketball over the last few months and that I seriously needed to watch a game with him. After being worn down for a couple months, I finally caved and decided to watch a game. We ordered some pizza and had the stream going on his laptop. I was finally ready to see what the deal was. Gordon Hayward was playing his debut game for the Boston Celtics. Not even five minutes into the game he lands wrong and completely destroys his ankle. It was the most gruesome thing I had ever seen. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t look away. I feel like sharing this anecdote is appropriate because that feeling of shock and disgust is precisely how I felt when I saw the absolutely insane and enjoyment deflating micro-transactions in NBA 2K24.

NBA 2K24 brings back its fan favourite MyCAREER mode. MyCAREER lets you create your own character, build your own stats, choose your jersey number, and lets you play in the big leagues. It has always been the major reason to sink some serious time into the previous 2K entries. The problem is that in NBA 2K24 the balancing and overall setup of MyCAREER makes progressing at a steady pace virtually impossible. You begin as a budding NBA athlete waiting to make it to the big time. However, the game doesn’t feel like spending much time getting you there and you wind up going against some all time greats. You begin with ridiculously low stats that make even the most C-tier NBA players look like LeBron James. The way MyCAREER is designed, it thrusts you into playing offence and defence into players that you have absolutely no chance of ever beating. This design choice makes it nearly impossible to win. Since you are losing nearly every game you play, the grind to level up and earn VC (the in game currency) through regular play takes such an immense amount of time. This is where NBA 2K24 grabs you by the collar and says “hey, if you want to enjoy this game, you need to open your wallet.” In order to level up you need to spend the VC you’ve earned. Because you’re not really earning any VC, you either have to grind for dozens and dozens of hours to have a legitimately playable character, or you can spend real life money. There’s even a badge system that you need to spend actual cash on, as well. You can only have a certain amount of badges in play at a time. The WORST thing about this system is that the badges will deteriorate if you do not actively use them. Meaning, they require you to keep spending money to make them useful. This is not a gameplay loop, this is taking advantage of people. This might come as no surprise to you, but it might not even be the most offensive micro-transaction in the game.

Let me explain… each season in the game has a season pass that goes up to level 40. The basic pass will run you just over $13CAD. With these passes you can unlock different loot boxes to open, different athletes, clothing, level skips, etc. You could even buy the Hall of Fame Pass which grants you 10 level skips right off the bat, and that pass will run you nearly $27CAD. Let’s say you got a raise at work and really feel like throwing money down the drain, you could spend $3 per level skip. So you could spend an extra $90, plus tax, to finish the battle pass in one go. Here’s the kicker… the season resets after 6 weeks. If that doesn’t send shivers down your spine I don’t know what will. IF YOU WANT TO SUCCESSFULLY CLEAR EACH SEASON’S PASS, YOU WILL NEED TO SPEND UPWARDS OF $130 EVERY 6 WEEKS.

This is not a free to play mobile game that makes its money on gacha mechanics, this is a AAA video game in 2023. This is deeply offensive and predatorial way to approach game progression. In games like Genshin Impact or League of Legends, they constantly release new playable characters and skins that have a major effect on the gameplay. Many times these additions change the overall meta and shape how you play the games for months on end. NBA 2K24 is a basketball game. It’s basketball! The sport hasn’t changed in a very, very long time. The fact that these games have lootboxes in them is a joke. It promotes the idea that you will one day get something that is worth all the money you’ve put in. Nothing you get through the loot system will change the way you play, therefore, in my opinion, making it an absolute waste of time. The thought of someone spending this much money on a game that already costs $119.99CAD is heartbreaking and it blows my mind that this is still happening.

Despite all of my disdain towards the overall package here, this IS a NBA 2K game and that means that a lot of love and dedication is on display here. The game is fun to play and it’s hard to argue that. Each year the graphics become more and more realistic. It’s pretty insane how I can actually tell which athlete I’m looking at just by seeing their face or how they move on the court. It’s extremely impressive how much detail and work has gone into making the players control and act like their real life counterparts. The player’s faces, however, are often in a weird uncanny valley situation. Players will emote when getting a momentum shifting point, and then instantaneously go dead-pan. It’s only so weird because they look so much like the real players. The live commentary is also terrific and adds a layer of charm to NBA 2K24 that is hard to deny. I tend to play without headphones as it keeps me immersed. It’s a shame that we’ll never get Charles Barkley on the mic, as he is very adamant about not appearing in NBA 2K games. Perhaps if he was present it’d make this game a little more enjoyable.

The one shining light in NBA 2K24 is a mode simply called “The W.” “The W” offers you the chance to start a career in the WNBA. For some odd reason 2K decided not to fill this mode with an absurd amount of ways to spend your real money. It is a streamlined, digestable, FREE game mode. In my opinion, the structure is far more interesting in “The W” than it is in the main MyCAREER mode. You have two different paths to choose from; The Prospect or The Undiscovered Gem. The Prospect starts you out with a 75 overall rating (15 higher than the horrendous 60 you get in MyCAREER) and a celebrated college basketball history. The Undiscovered Gem path starts you out with a terrific 85 overall rating. In this path you are a famous player overseas who needs to make a name for herself all over again in the WNBA. Both paths are interesting and allow for each match to have exciting stakes. You feel like you’re capable of playing with WNBA pros right away, and there really doesn’t appear to be any e-panhandling.

I seldom get this frustrated with video games nowadays. There are a lot of poor industry standards that really bother me, but I can usually look the other way if those issues aren’t staring me in the face. NBA 2K24 is littered with microtransactions and it is single handedly the most egregious use of them I’ve ever seen in a video game. This is all so heartbreaking because the gameplay itself is terrific and seriously makes me wish that this game was designed with a free-to-play model. At least then you’d be able to play it without being pressured into spending money and the people who want to empty their bank accounts can do that. NBA 2K24 makes you pay the heavy ticket price and then asks you to pay even more on a day to day basis. The best thing about this game is “The W,” which will most likely not be very popular or taken seriously and that is a shame. I hope 2K is able to take what worked in “The W” and transition those successes into NBA 2K25. It frustrates me that no matter how much fun I was able to squeeze out of the moment to moment gameplay, I was immediately reminded that I could be having a better time if I just don’t pay my rent this month. I cannot recommend NBA 2K24.

We were supplied a review code for NBA 2K24 and played it on PlayStation 5.

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