The NBA 2K series has had its ups and downs, but this year’s entry will be remembered as one of the best, we think.
It’s mostly down to the on-court action, which has never been better. When putting together NBA 2K23, Visual Concepts has put more care than ever into animation, leading to gameplay that not only feels more fluid, but also more authentic. Sure, the crowds ruin its overall aesthetic a little, but anyone passing by as you play will think you’re actually watching basketball on the TV. It really does look that good. At least in the PS5 version we’ve tested, anyway.
Backing up those animations are a wealth of gameplay tweaks. Whether you’re on offence or defence, it simply feels good. Changes to the shooting system, as well as refinements in other areas such as defending, result in a game that feels more dynamic. New adrenaline boosts help with that, too, allowing you up to three bursts of speed while you have possession. After that, you’ll notice increased sluggishness. Along with other improvements to things such as AI, NBA 2K23 is always fun to play.
It’s not only the quality of the on-court action that makes NBA 2K23 a winner this year though: MyCareer is also a highlight. Things are a bit different this time around, with you immediately being drafted rather than having to make your way up. But there’s drama: you’ve been picked in the last spot for the team of your choice ahead of a fan-favourite. And so straight away, you have a rival.
Aside from the welcome new premise, you’ll find that tweaks have made to the badge system, giving you more control over how you build your character than ever before. Beyond that, MyCareer is largely the same as ever, but just that bit more polished and interesting. There’s a whole city to explore and things to get involved in, including Quests. Online play has been implemented with finesse, too, allowing you to jump into game of all types without much fuss.
The biggest new addition to NBA 2K23 this year in terms of content is a mode called Jordan Challenge. Long-time NBA 2K players might remember this from NBA 2K11. Now it’s back with a whole new selection of challenges, and it is brilliant. 15 challenges are on offer, and you might have to play each of them numerous times in order to plunder all of the stars they have available. Get the majority of the stars, and you’ll be rewarded with goodies for both MyCareer and MyTeam modes.
What really sells Jordan Challenge is its presentation. You’ve got videos that delve into the history of the iconic player, while the matches themselves have retro filters and old fashioned HUDs to make it look and feel like you’re delving into the past. You’ll obviously get the most out of it if you’re a Michael Jordan fan, but the challenges are also fun in their own right.
The only thing that drags NBA 2K23 down a little is its reliance on VC. In MyCareer you’ll find earning VC to improve your player’s stats a drag, and so you’ll always be tempted to buy a bunch with real money. Thankfully, your player feels much more capable as soon as you start this year though. In MyTeam, however, the reliance on VC is as prominent as ever.
Additions to MyTeam this year include new features such as Triple Threat Online Co-Op and the ability to lock control to a single position across all MyTeam modes. Contracts are a thing of the past now, too. They’re all good, but once again this mode steers you towards buying VC in a way that’s unnerving. You can earn it, sure, but if you want to make real progress, and quickly, it’s simply far easier to splash the cash.
Still, VC issues aside, which aren’t anything new, NBA 2K23 is undoubtedly the best entry in the series for some years. Jordan Challenge is a great addition that can eat up many hours of your time, while MyCareer is more engrossing than ever thanks to its entertaining story. But ultimately, it’s the gameplay changes that make NBA 2K23 worth picking up. Playing basketball from the comfort of your couch has never looked or felt so good.