NBA 2K23, the latest in Visual Concepts’ long-running, annual basketball series, introduces tons of new features and revamped game mechanics while taking us down memory lane. Although the 2K franchise has garnered a reputation for focusing more on microtransactions than actual gameplay innovation, this year’s game mode additions and fundamental improvements mostly overshadow the notorious pay-to-win schemes. The result is a package that feels more novel than other titles in the series’ recent history.
2K’s in-game mechanics have largely followed a stable and successful blueprint, but several updates have been introduced this year, most notably the reworked shot meter and stamina bar. The new shot meter leaves little room for error, making it more challenging than previous iterations. I was initially struggling to master this updated feature, thanks to these strict release-timing mechanics; Previously, you could make a shot even if your timing wasn’t perfect, but in NBA 2K23, success almost always requires a perfect release.
The stamina system in 2K23 has also been revised and now has three adrenaline bars to go with it. Sprinting and using explosive dribble moves now deplete stamina and adrenaline bars. This is especially helpful in online matches as it prevents individual players from over-dribbling and encourages team play. These changes, though challenging to master, make the game feel as close to the actual game as possible, which only helps the franchise in the long run.
These improvements to the core gameplay pervade the vast array of modes offered in NBA 2K23. This suite of offerings includes all series mainstays and some exciting new ones, such as the Jordan Challenge, which allows you to re-live iconic moments from Michael Jordan’s career and MyNBA Eras. The former features fun challenges like “The Shot” and “The Flu Game,” each with their own achievements to recreate.
Conversely, instead of re-living history, MyNBA Eras enables us to rewrite it by giving us four NBA periods to choose from, each with their own distinct rules and roster. As a fan of the Suns, I especially loved seeing iconic periods revisited, such as the “7 Seconds or Less” team of the 2000s, and playing through a season in that era. This type of experience is exactly the kind of innovation the series has been missing in recent years, and its inclusion in 2K23 does wonders to round out this entry’s offerings.
If you’re looking for a more traditional 2K mode, MyCareer is one of the essential features of any 2K release. This year’s story leaves a lot to be desired, and the lack of options makes it feel like I’m sculpting my player’s career and more like I’m moving through a predetermined narrative. .
However, most of the improvement in MyCareer went into the reorganization of The City, the hub where you find most of your activities. Here, Visual Concepts fully embraces its RPG aspects with the addition of the concept of its quest system and The Arena, where MyCareer events are now fully integrated. The inclusion of both features gives players a fully immersive experience, and GameDay events, such as press conferences and pre-game shootarounds, make the mode feel even more like an NBA player’s career.
Players can also access the Jordan Challenge throughout the region, not to mention the many online competitive matches found in and around it. The four city affiliations reappeared, but this time each of the faction’s neighborhoods has its own beautifully designed theme. The city size in 2K23 has also been reduced, and with the inclusion of faster travel using the metro system, it is easier to traverse than last year’s release.
As always, MyTeam includes a number of competitive competitions playable in both single and multiplayer versions. Instead of letting you choose your starter outright, this year’s edition enables you to try out starters first in a triple threat (3v3) match against an AI before you choose. There are also themed challenges and contests available where you can earn rewards to help promote your team. If you like the casual feel of 2K as I do, MyTeam has a lot to offer in terms of offline, single-player mode.
Ultimately though, microtransactions are as present in NBA 2K23 as ever. Grinding out MyTeam points and tokens is an option for those who aren’t willing to spend more than the game’s premium price tag, but unless you’re incredibly patient, spending real money buying packs is a must. The easiest way to get stacked squads. It’s tough this year because the currency earned through MyCareer and MyTeam matches is so low that it takes a ridiculous amount of work to get your team and player on par with the higher-rated groups.
Overall, NBA 2K23 is a fitting tribute to the historical legends and iconic moments that made the game what it is today. Although the game has its fair share of issues with its poor narrative choices and ubiquitous micro-transactions, it’s still a solid improvement over the previous game. This year’s release isn’t exactly the flashy free-throw line dunk that gets a perfect score, but it’s a worthy, all-round effort that will earn MJ’s shrug of approval.