There is a general understanding that sports games do not change significantly from year to year as after 20+ years it becomes quite difficult to replicate a real sport. However, there is always room to improve and find ways to keep your players happy and NBA 2K23 is an example of this, even if it is not perfect. It packs a lot of baggage, but when it gets things right it helps solidify what is quite a valuable package.
for starters, NBA 2K23 is probably the most unforgiving 2K game in recent memory, and while some people may see that as a negative, it’s a valid attempt to change things up. In there way too often NBA 2K22 you could be extremely lucky and fire a shot when you shouldn’t have, or hit the ball in without being lawfully destroyed. While that hasn’t entirely disappeared from this year’s entry, the emphasis is on skill rather than luck. 2K23The shot meter has been refined so that you have to turn every shot green for it to come in. There are exceptions to this, but the overwhelming majority of shots the player makes must be absolutely perfect or it will bounce off the rim. This level of precision can be frustrating, but will help you hone your craft instead of taking every single shot. It wants you to be good and not just rely on luck. If you know you’re not turning green, the game wants you to match a teammate.
Anyone who has abused the game mechanics over the past few years will rightly fight NBA 2K23 and I speak from experience. However, this also highlights one of 2K’s longstanding and most egregious flaws: microtransactions. This is about as pay-to-win as it gets in a big AAA game that charges players a $69.99 entry fee. Day one saw players in online modes like Rec who had overall stats in the high 80s and low 90s. That’s because you can buy in-game currency to upgrade your character and make him faster, better at shooting or sinking, top-notch defenders, and so on. It’s like having a college basketball player on their first day in the league buy PEDs that make them worthy of being an NBA 2K cover athlete.
When you’re just starting out, your character will have an overall rating somewhere in the 60s, and this puts you at a massive disadvantage when playing against those who buy a lot of VC. Some versions of the game even give players a ton of VC, giving them a drastic boost just because they could afford to spend more. The version of the game I reviewed came in at over 100,000 VC and once I started pouring it into my character I could see a significant difference in performance. I split my time between the Xbox Series X and Xbox One versions of the game that share VC and I poured most of the VC into the Series X version. When I played with a more “average” character on Xbox One, it was devastating.
It creates a frustrating experience that makes you not want to play. Your choice to assert yourself is to grind the game or throw wads of cash into an already expensive game that only has a lifespan of around 12 months. It doesn’t really seem fair and it needs to change. Of course, if you don’t play MyCareer, it probably won’t affect you as much.
There are many other modes you can play without microtransactions. NBA 2K23 is one of the most comprehensive games in the series, with a big story mode, various online modes, a polished version of MyTeam worth exploring, and much more. One of the highlights of NBA 2K23 are the Jordan Challenges that allow you to revisit defining moments in Michael Jordan’s career. These challenges are complete with era-specific filters, broadcast graphics, animations reflecting iconic Michael Jordan gestures, and various athletes being interviewed about why this moment was important to Jordan’s career. From the gameplay level, it’s mostly a regular basketball game with some challenges (score X points, get X assists) that earn you stars for rewards. It’s a well-crafted mode with a high level of detail that serves as a fun distraction from the rest of the game.
When it comes to MyCareer’s story mode, it’s either the most annoying thing this game could have done, or just plain good, depending on the platform. For the most part on Xbox One/PS4 you can just spam the A/X button to skip the cutscenes and dialogue options and get into the game. Not much is lost by this, but if you want to see the story, it’s very streamlined and presented in a tolerable way. In the current-gen version, it’s the most awkward thing I’ve ever seen in a sports game. There is a huge open world called The City full of quests, shops and other things to discover. On paper it’s cool to have such an environment to walk around in. In execution it is terrible. Her character is slow despite being a basketball player who makes a living, and the skateboard he provides to speed up mobility is stiff and dull.
You can earn things like go-karts, which are faster, but the lack of such a vehicle can make things hell in the early hours. There is way too much RPG in this basketball game. You run around town talking to agents, press, managers, coaches, marketers and fans more than actually playing basketball. Much of it is also mandatory, meaning you can’t just skip it. It’s tiring and makes the aforementioned effort to make your character worthy of competing in the online game a nightmare. Since it’s either these or buying microtransactions, it can annoy many players.
NBA 2K23 is stuck in a lot of troubles thanks to predatory monetization and an overzealous RPG game that takes precedence over actual basketball, but it also has great qualities. There’s plenty of content to ensure there’s something for everyone, and the game leans into its simulation aspects in risky but effective ways. If the series can refine those good qualities and ditch its outdated monetization schemes, 2K could gain another level of respect and become something that rises above the other sports games.
Rating: 3 out of 5
A verification code for NBA 2K23 was deployed to Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One. This review was mainly done on Xbox Series X.