There is no doubt about it NBA 2K23 is the most inspiring work in the series, or any other of all sports video games. The real question is how much of its stunning depth will most players ever see.
It only took me about 20 minutes to amaze me – none of those in the game. All I did is move on to MyNBA Eras, a new hybrid of a history mode simulator and a franchise that allows players to rewrite stories in ways that I didn’t envision. I just wanted to see what happened when I stopped the Kings in Kansas City (they went to Sacramento in 1985). Of course, I knew you could prevent franchise relocations; 2K Sports made sure to mention this audience-friendly fact in a series of announcements earlier this summer.
I wasn’t expecting everything else that happened in the off-season league games – mainly because I haven’t played MyNBA that much since the mode was rebuilt two years ago. I rejected the veto on the ownership of the 45-second shot time clock and the seven-team tournament to determine the draft order (neither of which was actually proposed in real life), and have seen them every year since. Rewriting history can go as deep as taking the 1984 MVP from Larry Bird and handing it over to Moses Malone.
This is on top of all the standard things I could do as CEO of Kings, but I chose to just automate to see what the non-Sacramento Kings looked like in 1986. I’m somehow quit NBA Hall-of-Famers John Stockton and Patrick Ewing – here’s what a Draft Tournament can do for you! – in the face of Ralph Sampson and Michael Jordan Houston Rockets on opening day.
Even Jordan’s childhood idol – NC State legend David Thompson – was still in the league, with the Golden State ranked 83. MyNBA Eras lets you start the franchise from today (season 2022-23) or three historic points (2002-03). , 1991-92 or 1983-84). Thompson missed most of the 1983-84 season as he was in the process of recovering from addiction, and retired from professional basketball at the age of 29. In the MyNBA eras, this tragedy never happens.
This is the level of the historic version that I would expect to find in a PC management sim, not a console game, and certainly not one that also fits into the Jordan Challenge museum exhibit and the full WNBA career mode, now in its third year. both for individual players and clubs. Since the Jordan Challenge was last released in 2010, the NBA 2K series is what I call “Desert Island” – just as with it and the console (and power), you can experience isolation for a year. NBA 2K23 is a game with a mission to mars. And back.
Yet all that value – which you get in the base game – is threatened by the huge audience of MyCareer and MyTeam and the game’s constant calls to spend extra money in both modes. Do not get me wrong; I play them along with millions of other people, and I especially enjoy the engaging elements of the MyCareer lifestyle. I also spent shameful amount of money for the progression and costumes of the characters I created. MyCareer and MyTeam deliver quick highs given their more compact gaming experience and instant rewards, compared to the old school slow burning career modes. And while I have so far managed to resist a siren song to top up my virtual currency, a copy of the 2K Sports review has provided me with the $ 99.99 Michael Jordan Edition that starts players with 100,000 VC.
The city being the central world where your MyCareer player lives and plays street baskets seems to be a sign that Visual Concepts realizes how much of its population might not see the rest of the game without holding a hand. There’s a huge landmark where players are informed about the Jordan Challenge (and they can even start it directly from MyCareer), for example, and there are tons of rewards around the world if you manage to complete 40 of the 45 objectives of this mode.
For those who may want to dive into bite size in MyNBA Eras, the Jordan Challenge is the perfect solution. The presentation we’ve already covered in great detail is the perfect presentation of 15 games from his career, complete with a TV television look that includes old school chyrons, CRT and scanline filters, and even a comment from one of the actual announcers who followed most of Jordan’s career, Mike ‘ and Fratello of NBC. You’ll also get all of these features with your MyNBA Eras games. What you don’t get are breathtaking – I mean virtuoso – cutscene reproductions of Jordan’s biggest highlights when you play three stars.
But you’ll understand how the gameplay has been fine-tuned that the visual concepts applied to each of the four eras, almost as if the studio were building four separate games. Example: Playing Bad Boys Detroit Pistons from 1989 with Jordan, I got to the baseline against my defender on a ride that I can finish in a dream with my MyCareer rider, let alone someone like His Airness. But 6-10 Rick Mahorn came over and absolutely wrapped me in a tangle of arms and legs that I hadn’t seen before. Back then, the NBA was much more of a physical league and NBA 2K23 it really made me feel the bullseye Jordan had on his back – which made me appreciate all his feats even more, despite the physicality.
There are modifications to the shooting, defense and off-the-ball behavior of the players in the main (and today’s) game, in which I see the developers coming together in an endless pursuit of authenticity. Even so, I don’t feel like I really “got” them, so judging their effectiveness is difficult. From what I have heard on social media and read from others, there is widespread agreement that shooting is more difficult this year, even as the game gives players new menu options to give them a bigger window at the time of release.
It’s hard to explain, but shooting with the shot meter in previous editions (as opposed to simply using player ratings and rolling the dice in the background) felt either incredibly difficult or too powerful (especially in the hands of skilled online users). 2K Sports seems to want people to focus more on watching their player’s animations rather than the gauge, and to release either the shot stick or the X / Square button when they see him on top of the jumper. Four new options are available, ranging from very early to very late version.
However, I still don’t know which ones are really right for me. Sometimes I think I’m in the beginning and then I put my shot gauge back into late territory so I move on to that. Next, the shot feedback reading says I have an early or slightly early release on the midrange jumper which should be easy to nail. Sometimes I can’t tell if my grades are taking over (my MyCareer, who I have the most problems with, has an overall 76 points) or if I am not focusing properly on my technique. In the absence of a more informed tutorial than the ones provided so far, I can just go back to percentage shooting and skip the timer.
On the other hand, there is a player’s behavior off the ball that made my created midfielder three assists in his first game for the Charlotte Hornets – by comparison, I went through half a season before getting that many in a game in NBA 2K22. It was a breath of fresh air, standing 15 feet away near the baseline, with my back to the basket, and when the shot clock hit 5 I saw my AI teammate flash behind me to do an easy back pass and two points. Unless I called for pick-and-roll last year, my teammates were either following a scheduled game or standing still waiting for me to do something.
However, there’s a new “open up” pass that I need to spend a little more time in game mode learning to bounce. It resembles the “pass guide” introduced in NBA 2K21, but which I forgot to use. All the passes I completed above were AI initiated – which is great – but ‘opening the player’ requires holding down B / Circle and waiting for the AI player to recognize the call (denoted by a basketball icon underneath it) and then hitting A / X in the right moment. I have had several occasions where my teammates did not answer the “open” command. This is probably because squeezing the left stick on the guy you want to open may be counterintuitive just before holding down the button.
Finally, defense is greatly helped by the new shading mechanism used to defend the ball, although it can be difficult to understand at first. Pressing the left stick button will adjust the defender to the area where he has the best cover in front of the defender. If the opponent moves in this direction (and the defender follows him), he will be much less effective in walking to the basket or firing a shot. There is a lot to understand at the moment, and it is difficult to understand how I can use shading to force changes as opposed to reacting to someone’s movement and trying to steal the ball. This seems to be more of a visual explanation of last year’s system where correctly guessing the stride leading the ball would put them at greater risk of stealing or increasing dribbling. But coupled with a reduction in block power and simple steals, NBA 2K23 more appropriately, it places emphasis on basic defense on the ball over dramatic means of stopping a goal.
There is something to judge in NBA 2K23, and many of these judgments are yet to come from a troubled community, various influencers, and people like me. But NBA 2K23The attractiveness and value, once in a very long time, far outweigh his harsh and continual exhortations to spend money and the guilt and disgusting feelings he carries with him. As I said in August, no one can complain that Visual Concepts has done nothing for its franchise mode. So, if microtransactions are really bothering you so much, you can always go to MyNBA Eras and rewrite your 40-year history at no extra cost.
NBA 2K23 started on September 9 PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X; versions lacking many of the features in this review have also been run for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC i Xbox One. The game was reviewed on the Xbox Series X using a pre-order download code provided by 2K Sports. Vox Media has affiliate companies. They do not affect the editorial content, although Vox Media may receive commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find more information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.