Some things never change… and some things do. NBA 2K23 encapsulates this topsy-turvy sentiment. New features and improvements include a cool new Michael Jordan mode and some gameplay balancing. However, the MyGM mode, reskinned Neighborhood map, and parasitic microtransactions somewhat let it down.
Haters gonna hate
In MyCareer mode from the previous game, there was a rise-to-fame story. It consisted of getting your player through college basketball and eventually drafted into real league teams. Naturally, your player character — MP — is already established in the sport. After you pick your team, you are immediately drafted in. Fans of your team reject this decision, as they wanted another player to join the team — Shep Owens. As a result, your reputation is somewhat ruined, and you’ll have to gain the approval of the basketball-loving public. I like the idea of everyone hating you, and there are some amusing cutscenes of your rival and fans talking smack about your protagonist. But you’ll be able to prove them wrong by winning matches, picking the right press conference dialogue choices, and gaining fans along the way.
GOAT BOAT is the new Neighborhood map, a place to pick up quests and play on-the-fly court matches with other players. Quests are unremarkable, usually consisting of “talking” to other NPCs and simply winning games on the different court-filled decks that make up the cruise. But how is this different from 2K Cruise AKA Cancha Del Mar? Well, it is pretty much the same. Sure, it’s a bit bigger, but it just feels like NBA 2k22’s map but reskinned. It still controls clunkily and the novelty of an open map has already worn off. Besides, next-gen’s The City is a lot more impressive for its fully-fledged quests and livelier atmosphere.
VC 3: The Return
Virtual Currency is back and with a vengeance. Because you can’t play certain modes without establishing an Internet connection, like MyCareer, you will be facing players paying to win. MyTeam doesn’t fare much better — be prepared to be destroyed by other formations unless you are extensively grinding. Regardless, I still liked leveling up my character attributes and building my team, despite the insurmountable odds of defeat. And I’ve always enjoyed roaming around and buying clothes in MyCareer and unpacking the occasional card pack in MyTeam.
All the modes you expect are here. To name a few major ones: blacktop is still unadulterated fun, WNBA still feels fresh, and MyGM is what exactly it was last year. There is a new mode and it’s called Jordan Challenge — a fantastic new addition that takes you on a journey through Michael Jordan’s career, allowing you to play his most historic matches. It’s awesome to see how much care went into this mode — from the fun 3-star scoring system to the wonderful retro filters used to emulate the aesthetic of watching a match from earlier decades.
Unfortunately, last-gen is playing catch-up with other features and modes. For one, NBA 2K23 finally has the player build system absent from the last one, replacing the pie chart format. However, it does not have the Core Badge system in last-gen. While this isn’t too bad, the exclusion of MyNBA and its new Eras mode kinda sucks. But I believe the Jordan Challenge mode will scratch your itch for vintage greatness.
The gameplay evolution is the opposite of what WWE did with their most recent entry. NBA 2k23 is more realistic than its predecessor, not more “arcade-y.” Doing out-of-court shots is a lot harder to pull off now, which I think is a good thing. I hated how many three-pointers were scored in matches, but now that is fixed. There is also the new feature Adrenaline boosts which will preclude cheap overdribbling and slow down the possessing player. There are also new Pro Stick motions to pull off cool new moves, and newly refined shooting and dunking meters so it is easier to hit the green to perform a successful shot. I somewhat miss the faster pace of the previous NBA, but ultimately, NBA 2k23 offers a more accurate basketball experience.
We’re all Ballers
NBA 2k23 is more of the same thing, but refines the formula for fans of more realistic sports gaming. While its microtransactions are obstructive as ever, Jordan’s Challenge is a labor of love for basketball fans. You’ll get to play moments of history with an authentic flair to it thanks to some beautiful old-school filters. And while the graphics are slightly inferior and it lacks The City, last-gen is still a viable option to experience this brushed-up basketball simulation.
You can buy NBA 2K23 on PSN here.