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NBA 2K23 - Review

The same new game, with baby steps towards innovation... kinda
Score: 4/5
Reviewed by B.J. Bunneh3000 Brown on Xbox Series X/S - September 22, 2022   

Sports games like NBA 2K23 are difficult to review since the sports gamer community has varied reasons and expectations of the game. Some players, especially content creators, will only play MyPlayer so that they can prove their Esports pro chops. Other players will only play MyTeam so that they can brag and boast about the collection of high ranked players they’ve collected. Then there are casuals who simply want to play as their fave team in a mock season. NBA 2K23 has all of that and more so the real question is how is NBA 2K23 any different than NBA 2K22?


In NBA 2K22, there was a significant difference between how player builds were created as well as how the story began as well between next gen and current gen. This year the difference has mostly been resolved. Now player builds can be created in current gen the same as in next gen. In 2k22, current gen could only choose from a few different graphs that had generic allocations for the player’s stats. That has been removed so that builds on next gen can be identical to builds on current gen. 
The player badge system is different on next gen than it is on current gen however. Current gen operates as it did in 2K22. Next gen places an odd tier based system on the badges which complicates things a bit. The reasoning for this change and how it balances things better remains to be seen, but it is clear that 2K has spent more time developing the next gen version than the current gen version (which also means PC gets the current gen version...for now).

Also, the story begins the same way in next gen as it does in current gen which is nice. Thankfully players are allowed to simply choose what NBA team drafts them rather than playing their way in. While this is great I’m sure some will miss the experience of making their own abbreviated high school and college career. This means that the primary difference in MyPlayer between the two versions is basically experiencing The City in next gen versions versus experiencing The G.O.A.T. Boat in current gen. While the extent of this difference remains to be seen, the main known difference is the exclusion of ‘affiliations’ in The G.O.A.T. Boat.
These affiliations are MyCareer ‘guilds’ that have different leaderboards and challenges each season that provide unique gifts and rewards. The guilds are named the Beasts of the East, the South City Vipers, the Western Wildcats, and the Northside Knights. Once your career begins you are randomly assigned an association but it can be changed once free of charge. After that, the change costs VC. 
As with 2k22, there is a ‘season pass’ reward structure where challenges must be completed to earn season XP and season based rewards. Thankfully there isn’t a VC cost to join the season pass and hopefully there never will be... unless 2K goes the free-to-play route (which is doubtful).
Whatever way you slice it, this mode is ONLY for hardcore fans. The amount of grind, money, and time that is necessary for this mode is insane. If you stream NBA 2K23 professionally, I suppose this is a good mode with its J. Cole and other NBA star guest appearances. However, most players could care less about developing a rap or fashion off court career under the guise of ‘RPG elements’. Many kind of wish there was more of a sandbox or roguelike way of developing a created player’s story/career from a single player perspective. I’m sure gamers (casual and otherwise) would rather see their custom player have rivalries against current NBA players (or even historical) instead of the half hearted stories developed here to highlight The City. 
As usual, feelings on this mode will vary... A LOT.

Offensive and Defensive Gameplay Changes

Each year 2K makes a few changes to how to do certain moves on both defense and offense. This is done in an effort to prevent players from spamming the turbo button or pressing the steal button over and over until they get a deflection. Here are the noticeable changes made at launch.
On offense, players will notice there are three bars underneath their stamina bar. These bars are the ‘Adrenaline Boosts’. This is activated by the right trigger and initiates a quick sprint or a difficult maneuver. Once these three bars are depleted, the player will be slower for the remainder of the possession. This is done to prevent overdribbling.
There are also multiple shot meters that can be used up to an eventual 15 selections. Even alley oops require a button press at the right time to finalize. While a bit shocking at first, after a bit of practice, it is still easy to do.
On defense, players will also notice that when squared up against an offensive player, there are three zones on the front of the offensive player’s arc that are either green or red. This highlights where the defensive player has the offensive player locked down allowing for easier drive prevention.
Still, skilled offensive and defensive knowledge of the game will be required to excel on higher levels of difficulty. Getting perfect releases change depending on the closeness of your opponent, their height, as well as the difficulty of the shot you are taking. The pick and roll play on higher difficulties is not an automatic alley oop as in previous versions as it seems the game AI reacts better. The play also causes the shot meter to slow down as well unless the ball handler manages to get a lot of separation for the shot.

MyEras aka MyGM

The MyEras mode of NBA 2K23 replaces the old MyGM mode of NBA 2K22. This new MyEras mode allows for players to begin their fantasy season or franchise mode at four different historical points: Magic vs Bird (1983), Jordan(1992), Kobe (2002), and Modern(2022). Each of these ‘eras’ essentially cover a decades worth of NBA history. While the rule changes and expansions of these eras will remain, the draft orders will randomize. You will also get to make the decision to allow for the semi-accurate draft classes to be used each year or a custom made or ‘randomized’ one. 
Also, the ‘game presentation’ of each of these eras is different, showing the standard definition broadcasts in the older eras as opposed to the crisp 4K resolution of the modern era. MyEras gives the player total control of how the league progresses from each of those points.
However, many might wish that they were able to start playing at other years (with historically accurate rosters) within each of those eras. At launch, that option doesn’t seem to be available or is hidden quite well if it is. 
For example, one might desire to take control of the Penny and Shaq led Orlando Magic to see if they could topple MJ and the Bulls. Unfortunately, one would have to start in 1992, force the Magic to have the #1 pick, play a season, force the Magic to have another lottery pick in 93, and then draft Penny before they could attempt to run the table with Penny and Shaq. By then, the simulations may have screwed up some of the other key historical draft selections so that the league’s balance would be completely different. That’s fine if I wanted to let that happen but I’m sure some would want the opportunity to keep some things the same.
Other than that, the franchise mode remains the same.
For those casual fans who ‘just want to play basketball’, this is the mode (along with the Play Now online mode). You can just pick a team or multiple teams to play as against the AI (along with your difficulty level) and just play. The GM features can be turned off and automated if necessary and the game plays just fine.

The W

This year, the W is a next gen exclusive WNBA franchise mode. The game is fleshed out with community challenges, rewards that can be used in MyTeam and MyCareer, as well as league expansion customization once certain goals are completed. There is also an All-Star game as well. 
It will be interesting to see how this mode evolves as the year goes along as it seems there are plans to improve it. Personally, I think the ultimate change would be the ability to have WNBA players in the MyTeam mode to shed light on historical WNBA legends as well as current stars. 

The Jordan Challenge

This mode essentially brings back the iconic game challenges that NBA 2K11 had. These challenges were fun due to the attention to presentation, rule differences, and historic player AI/movesets. This ‘remastered’ version recreates that mode with more attention to how the teams used to play on offense and defense with the different rulesets (less 3 point shooting, harder fouling in the lane). Also, 2K plans on releasing 5 new challenges as well.
The intent with this mode is to continue to give the GOAT his flowers by including interviews with former players and announcers to give insight into the moment you’re expected to play. Also, if all of the goals are met for each challenge, there are MyCareer and MyTeam bonuses that are given as well. 
While this is a nice touch, nostalgic fans probably wish that additional players would get one or two iconic game challenges presented in this way. That way instead of just making this a one time thing, it could be a season by season addition that would continue the tradition of introducing younger fans to historic legends beyond MJ.


The other money making portion of NBA 2K23 is the fantasy team or ultimate team mode. Here you get a skeleton crew of players headlined by one of 3 stars of your choosing, Joel Embiid, Ja Morant, or Jimmy Butler. Then, you play different challenges and modes with the historic and current players you’ve collected.
As other years, there are themed card packs that you can buy with real money or ingame MyTeam points. This gives you a slim chance of landing rare player cards that can help you dominate. 
While this is basically the same as every other previous year, NBA 2K23 has finally decided to get rid of the contract system. In the past, you would only have a limited number of games that your player card would allow you to use the player in. Once those games or contracts were exhausted, you would have to use a contract card ( that can be won by playing the game as well) to replenish a certain number of games to your player card. Eventually, you could find or purchase the hard to find ‘infinite contract’ card that could be applied to only one player. As expected these cards were hard to come by.
With contracts gone, 2K23 instead concentrates on trying to force the player to play all of the different modes (offline and online) to acquire the rarest of players offered each week. As usual, this means casual players will be left in the dust in mere weeks. Acquiring the rarest of cards for casual players either means paying a lot of real world money or getting VERY lucky in the reward structure.
Another interesting addition is the ability to play one mode called Triple Threat (basically just 3 on 3) using coop. This allows for certain challenges and rewards to be won by playing along side a friend or stranger rather than against them. This new mode can be played against AI or even against online players if desired. 
While MyTeam as a mode is basically EVERYTHING that is wrong with sports games today, personally, I find that I spend my most time playing it year after year. I mostly don’t pay for any of the packs with real world money, but occasionally get suckered in when I see a high rarity Ray Allen, or Shawn Kemp that I tell myself I MUST have. 
Just as with the MyCareer mode, MyTeam is structured to make you play all of its various game types both offline and online an insane amount of times in order to earn decent reward cards. Then the gambling comes into play as new card packs mock your measly little team week after week. 

In Conclusion

NBA 2K23 is once again a complex example of what is good and bad about modern day sports games. Players repeatedly call for a free to play structure to offset the amount of money spent on ingame currency and player packs. While that is probably not in the cards, it may be in the public’s best interest given how most free to play games are typically not competitive at a certain point due to high spender bonuses. 
On the positive side of things, 2K typically manages to pack in a bunch of relevant (and predatory) modes that are usually filled with features. As long as AI balancing and tweaks are made during each update, NBA 2K23 looks to maintain community player interest well into the announcement of 2K24.


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