If you’re looking for a quick take on the latest version of NBA 2K, I can tell you plainly, I really like this game. While that is something of a summary of my time with the game, it doesn’t cover my feelings in totality.
For more detail, take a look at the good, the bad and the bottom line with NBA 2K23.
The Gameplay is Fun and Balanced
Chief among the positives associated with NBA 2K23 is the vastly improved gameplay. If charged with pinpointing the most improved areas of the game that have made a world of difference in my early gameplay experiences, I’d call out the stamina system, shooting, transition defense A.I. and the effectiveness of a defender who impedes the progress of a ballhandler.
Finally, players aren’t allowed to spam dribbles and high-energy, turbo-boosted moves until finally gaining a step on diligent, but weary defenders. Players have a stamina supply per possession which goes a long way in stopping the cheese that contributed to the lack of balance in gameplay.
If you’re playing away from Park and with NBA teams, some of the old bad habits will carry a penalty over the course of a game.
Shooting, quite simply, is a little harder, but not so difficult that mastering it is impractical. Last year, it felt like EVERY player could hit 5 threes per game if they were left open. As it is, that shouldn’t be an issue in NBA 2K23.
The transition defense A.I. in the NBA 2K series has been putrid for as long as I can remember. Thankfully, I’m feeling and seeing a difference with bigs making logical decisions when choosing who and what to prioritize in these situations. If you’ve been playing the series for years, it takes some getting used to because long-time fans are likely accustomed to compensating for the stupidity of A.I. players. They’re still a bit dense at times, but nothing like years past.
Last but not least, staying in front of a player on defense feels attainable and when a defender beats a ballhandler to the spot, there is a reward of a picked-up dribble, a reset or perhaps a steal. All of those results have been a part of the 2K world for a few years, but now they seem to happen at more logical times.
Overall, playing the game in any mode feels as good as ever. Let’s hope we don’t see a plethora of changes that make us forget how the current state felt.
Jordan Challenge is the New Standard for Interactive and Digital Sports History Representation
When I initially learned about the reboot of the Jordan Challenge, I was mildly interested, but not like: “Ooh, great.” I loved it back in NBA 2K11 and I enjoyed the buildout of the concept to more NBA legends in NBA 2K12. I didn’t know if the reboout would offer enough to make me care.
After playing through it, I can say, I not only cared, but I appreciated the experience. The work that had to went into recreating 15 of Jordan’s most iconic moments which includes all of the ones from NBA 2K11 plus some new challenges, is remarkable.
The attention to detail with filters, signage, uniforms and even the audio commentary is excellent. I’m hoping NBA 2K24 follows suit with a similar blowout to the concept as was the case with NBA 2K12.
The Kobe Bryant Challenge in NBA 2K24 makes sense the same way the Jordan Challenge made sense with NBA 2K23. Having Bryant as the cover athlete for next year’s game with a mode dedicated to him would be a fitting tribute to the late NBA icon. Also, it would be great to see other retired legends like Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Steve Nash get similar treatment in an expanded version for next year’s game.
MyCareer is What You Make it
The MyCareer experience has grown exponentially over the past 7 years. What used to be a basic and linear task list consisting of playing player-locked as your created hooper has evolved into a monstrous and seemingly unlimited collection of activities that could be dizzying for some.
This year’s game didn’t hold back features, but they are compartmentalized enough to allow users to get what they want from the experience. For gamers who still simply gain enjoyment from playing through their NBA career without dipping their toe in the park, hopping on a skateboard or one of the new vehicles in the game, that version of MyCareer still exists.
For those who love all of the frills and layers that have essentially transformed NBA 2K into an MMO, those elements are bigger and more accessible than ever.
The storyline begins right after the NBA Draft and MP (your player which can of course still be customized to your heart’s content) has a rival in Shep Owens. He’ll also encounter previous characters from the MyCareer storyline history, NBA talents and rappers like J.Cole.
It’s another solid story, even if you’re like me, and not particularly interested.
The PARK and Pro-Am experience is augmented by most of the aforementioned gameplay enhancements, but the biggest addition to the City vibe is the return of affiliations.
Many fans pined for this element to return to the game and 2K finally obliged by bringing back the Northside Knights, Beasts of the East, South City Vipers, and Western Wildcats. For many users, this will be one of the driving points in their MyCareer experience.
Before you get to any of those features, I’d be remiss not to mention the insanely detailed and fun MyPlayer Builder process. This has long been a technical exercise for serious players, but thanks to the amount of information and new jump shot metrics like defensive immunity, it has been taken to a new level. If I’m being honest, it’s a joy to see on the screen.
In totality, MyCareer will still be the mode most 2K players spend their time in, and there is no shortage of things to do.
MyNBA Eras Widen the Gap Between 2K and All Other Franchise Modes
The NBA 2K series has had the best franchise mode for well over a decade, but the gap was closing a bit with some of the advancements from other sports video game franchises.
The operative word in that sentence is “was.” In NBA 2K23, 2K introduces the ERAs concept and the entire franchise mode landscape has been changed forever.
In NBA 2K23, you can begin play in the NBA (with time-specific filters, presentation, logos, uniforms, arenas and rule set) in 1983. The rosters (aside from the players they couldn’t get licensed) are intact and gamers can literally try to re-create history or change it by playing fully functional and customizable seasons until they progress to present day.
If that’s too far back, you can start in the Jordan Era, the Kobe and Shaq Era or present day. With rosters and draft classes fully-customizable and shareable, you can fill in the gaps that have been left by a lack of licensing.
For those who aren’t in to the retro filters (shame on you) and who want the game to look like a contest on new-gen hardware from the beginning, you can turn the filters off.
There will be some issues early on, which is something that gamers in this era simply have to accept as titles are bigger and more involved than they used to be. However, early on, I’m not seeing mode-breaking issues–at least not in offline MyNBA.
In any case, adding this extraordinary concept to what was already the best franchise mode in existence deserves applause.
MyTeam is Great…Until It’s Not
From the day MyTeam launches until around February, the mode is loads of fun to play. Users race to get the best lineups possible and try their hand at Triple Threat Online as well as in MyTeam Unlimited.
All of those functions are back with the addition of player-lock availability in every mode, which helps with specific challenges, and Clutch Time is now a launch feature rather something adding post-release.
2K has finally done away with contracts, which is probably about three years too late. However, better late than never.
Around February, most of this enjoyment gets dulled a bit for me, and that’s likely to be the case again this year barring some other post-release feature being added. I’ll expound in the “bad” section, but for most hardcore MyTeam players, this year’s version will not disappoint.
The City Continues to Be a Marvel
Whether you enjoy partaking in the many activities available in the PARK, it’s hard not to appreciate what VC has accomplished in building the City.
Each year, the developers expand on a living and breathing virtual city that houses several in-game activities, but is yet separate from features like Play Now Online, MyNBA and MyTeam, which could arguably be separate games.
I’m not a huge fan of the City overall, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what’s been created and how many 2K fans love it.
The Historic Players Need a Major Facelift
2K has gone out of its way to build the most amazing tribute and acknowledgment to the history of its sport. No other sports video game leans in as hard to the legends and bygone eras of the game they simulate.
Because of how much 2K does with legends, it makes sense for them to improve the visual representation of the players from the past.
Many of the legend renders are using the same heads from several past generations of consoles. Because of the awesomeness of Eras, seeing subpar facial renders for players like the ones used for George Gervin, George McInnis and others creates an immersion breaker.
It’s Time to Expand the Number of Body Types
Also along the lines of visual representation of the player models, the number of body types needs to be expanded. There are several players whose arms are notably too short. This is the case with some of the legends like David Robinson, Xavier McDaniel and more.
Again, when so much effort has been put into representing the players and different eras, their likenesses need to be more accurate to drive the concept home.
The Create-A-Player Options Are Still Too Limited
Roster creators are probably the only subgroup of 2K fans not overjoyed with this year’s game. That’s because they weren’t given a ton of new tools.
The roster creation in 2K isn’t bottom of the barrel. You can create and share players, rosters, draft classes and even logos, uniforms and courts.
However, there still aren’t enough hairstyles. The face templates are fine, but the morphing that is allowed is far beneath what you see in MLB The Show, WWE 2K and other sports video games.
I’d love to see this area of the game expanded.
MyTeam is Still Suffering From the Absence of a Salary-Cap Mode
The MyTeam mode is in desperate need of a salary cap mode to balance the experience. I mentioned earlier, the mode gets stale or a bit ridiculous around February when the amount of overpowered players removes the balance and much of the strategy.
The influx of high-powered cards renders most older cards obsolete and usually leaves me wondering why I’m still playing. Yes, Limited Mode offers a little more of a structured challenge than Unlimited, but it’s event-based nature doesn’t give me a go-to option if I want to play a version of MyTeam that rewards more strategy and team-building concepts.
After playing this year’s game, at the top of my wishlist for the mode is a seasons concept that blends franchise mode qualities with the card-collection functionality currently present in MyTeam.
The most modest option on my wishlist is to simply have a salary cap mode that places limitations on the number of high-tiered cards thereby making all the cards in the game more valuable, and in my opinion, the mode more fun.
Pro-Am Still Needs Commissioner Tools to Facilitate User-Created Tournaments & Leagues
The Pro-Am scene is still alive and kicking and like PARK and most other modes in the game, it is improved with the enhancements to gameplay. What’s still missing from NBA 2K23 are commissioner tools that make it easier for users to run their own leagues.
There are several organizations already running Pro-Am leagues, but they are forced to put in a ton of work to do what the game should make easier. Adding these tools is not an easy lift by any stretch, but if it is added, 2K would only be helping to grow and establish its own eSports scene.
No Carryover Saves in MyNBA
Roster makers put in so much work each year creating historical and fantasy content, and also filling in the gaps left by 2K when an agreement can’t be established with players from the past.
It sucks to have to create all of that over again just to extend the appreciation of what is already a great game, but is also enhanced by a community that makes the most of the tools 2K provides.
Because of a lack of carry-over saves, a function 2K has never provided, the roster creators could tire of adding the same content each year when all of the work they’ve done is outdated when it should be evergreen.
The Bottom Line
The NBA 2K franchise is back and moving in the right direction. After years of stagnant gameplay mechanics and subtle improvements to its franchise mode, this year’s game has taken huge, direction-defining steps. NBA 2K23 offers an amazingly customizable experience. With the exception of a few perhaps philosophical issues and some lingering old assets still in use, this year’s version registers as an All-NBA first team selection within the series’ storied history.
- Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC – PS5 version reviewed
- Developer: Visual Concepts
- Publisher: 2K Sports
- Release Date: September 9, 2022
- Price: $69.99
- Score: 8.5 out of 10