NBA 2K23 Review
NBA 2K23 is back and better than ever. Or is it? Featuring Devin Booker and bringing back His Airness Michael Jordan along with the aptly named Jordan Challenge, it sounds like a routine outing to retain the crown as the best basketball game out there.
With advancements in technology allowing for a more realistic playing experience, there’s only so much that 2K and Visual Concepts can do to add to the overall package that will merit a totally different feel. For this year, a variety of subtle changes made based on player feedback and real-life conditions make this year quite possibly the most realistic installment yet.
This or that?
As someone who always tries out MyCAREER first over anything else, I was excited to see what scenario would be offered this year. Despite its cheesiness, the 2K20 MyCAREER story was a personal favorite due to its high production value and numerous cameo appearances that made it feel like an actual story mode.
2K21 switched gears and introduced a lackluster story that did little to engage the player, with 2K22 following the same trend and getting players into the games faster but leaving out parts of what made the mode actually fun and relatable. For this year, the premise of being selected as the draft pick ahead of your rival seemed like a dramatic way to play things out.
In NBA 2K23, we’re once again introduced to MP (My Player), the unfortunate rookie being blasted on social media for being picked a draft slot ahead of crowd favorite Shep Owens. This mode is basically your “quest” to earn the trust of the fanbase, proving your worth as the draft pick that your chosen team gambled on by picking you.
For all intents and purposes, MyCAREER is basically the story mode for NBA 2K23, but this year there was almost no story involved, or at least a story that wasn’t engaging or relatable enough to connect with for the long haul. In between the bad writing and awkward scenes, the “story” that held up MyCAREER throughout the years has now been relegated to the bench.
Since you’re headed straight to the NBA, all of the pre-draft and collegiate shenanigans are off the table, pitting you against the stars off the bat. To compensate, NBA 2K23 has filled the city with a ton of side-quests, though most of them aren’t even fun and worth it to begin with.
It also goes without saying that NBA 2K23 is still rife with microtransactions, which makes modes like MyCAREER feel less relevant than ever. Players will get VC’s worth of chump change every game they play, and it really feels like the game was balanced around the actual usage of microtransactions instead of treating them as an optional boost.
Thankfully, one other mode that compensates heavily is MyNBA Eras, which asks players to answer the big “what if’s” throughout NBA history. Players are given a choice of starting in 4 eras: Magic vs. Bird, The Jordan Era, The Kobe Era, and the Modern Era. Each of these eras will give players control of a team that will have era-specific presentation packages and situations to deal with, letting them change the course of history to something one can only dream of.
It’s a much more enjoyable mode than MyCAREER because it really focuses on the love of the game and the engagement of the player. Imagining certain scenarios and dream match-ups coming to life keeps the mode fresh and is easily one of the best changes to NBA 2K23.
Some players, or most, won’t spend time with MyCAREER compared to other modes that offer more gameplay, and in NBA 2K23, gameplay is king. Realistic gameplay, that is.
It feels a bit redundant to say that NBA 2K23 has gotten the basics down to a science, and some of the changes this year feel logical and aim to balance out the players and positions even further, showing an understanding of how the game is currently played in real life.
Bigger guys feel heavier this time around, and when faced with a mismatch on the post, will usually result in an easy two points down in the paint. The same can be said with the smaller, speedier players, able to run circles around the defense before stepping back for an uncontested three-pointer. In essence, size does matter in NBA 2K23, and it is immediately one of the most noticeable changes as a whole.
Another change this year is what’s called the “Adrenaline Boost,” which is implemented to take care of pesky players that overdribble. All players now have this boost that will run out each time they use it, which will severely hamper their playmaking skills once it runs out. The idea is fantastic, to be quite honest, as it promotes ball movement and running plays to set up the offense, but everyone from the PG to the C has the same boost levels, making it a head-scratching design choice.
Shot meters are also back, but this time with a plethora to choose from. I’m personally not a fan, and turning them off may be frowned upon by other players, but it’s great that NBA 2K23 has a lot to choose from even though they’re mostly the same.
Badges also receive an overhaul, introducing a new tiered system that feels more thought out than previous iterations. The badge system feels more like a natural progression this time around, needing to equip lower-tiered badges first before higher ones.
The Jordan Effect
One thing that NBA 2K23 gets right is the return of the Jordan Challenge, and getting it right is even an understatement of how good the mode is. There is a definite feel of care and detail that was put into this mode-from the retro filters to the old-school broadcast touches, the level of attention by Visual Concepts is staggering.
There are a total of 15 challenges to conquer, each with production detail that will make the basketball fan in everyone jump with glee. Everything from the gameplay to the look and feel is perfect, even topped off with commentary from the likes of Mike Fratello to legendary Bulls PA announcer Ray Clay.
From its last appearance back in 2011, all challenges have been overhauled to take advantage of the current systems, making the Jordan Challenge a must-play mode even for those who have already played it before.
Don’t get me wrong, the mode and how it all plays out isn’t totally new, but all of the little details mentioned above make it feel like a whole new experience that merits a playthrough. The beauty of it all lies in how the mode feels to a fan of Jordan and of the game, and there would be no question that the Jordan Challenge is truly worthy of His Airness.
What we liked:
- The Jordan Challenge is amazing
- MyNBA Eras is a refreshing take on the mode
- The attention to detail such as the era-specific filters are a very nice touch
- Top-notch gameplay and visuals
What we didn’t like:
- The push for microtransactions seems to be getting worse
- MyCAREER is a shadow of its former self
Verdict: Wait for it…
NBA 2K23 is by no means a bad game. Year after year, the team has been adding tweaks and making changes to the formula that further solidify it as the best basketball game out there. The addition of the Jordan Challenge is the cherry on top of the cake that makes this content-complete package truly delectable.
Once a highlight, it feels like MyCAREER has been relegated to the background in NBA 2K23. The lack of an engaging story is sorely felt, and following in the faded footsteps of NBA 2K22, MyCAREER this year has just gotten worse, much like the ever-present microtransactions. This year, more than ever, the decision boils down to what mode you actually enjoy playing the most.
Overall, NBA 2K23 feels like the most realistic it’s ever been, and that may be a good or bad thing depending on who you ask. While the gameplay remains fun and engaging, some parts of the whole feel like they have regressed in favor of others. There’s a definite give-and-take here that’s more pronounced than in previous years, and players will just have to pick their poison.
*NBA 2K23 was reviewed on a PS5 with a review code provided by the publisher.