September is here and that means summer is winding down. Time for the weather to change, football to be on the (second) tv and for yet another edition of NBA 2K to be on the big screen!
Before we jump into the details of this years game, let’s reflect on the current state of the next-gen versions that have been released since their debut. 2K21 was, to be nice, not excellent. A game that was next-gen in name only as most users had opted to play the previous gen version of the game. Some may say that that’s because of the lack of availability of the PS5, and to that I say: Touché. Nonetheless, many who DID have the new consoles were still opting to play the older version of the game.
With 2K22 there were still those who opted to do the same, but at a much less frequent rate. The game was slightly improved in the most frequently played modes such as Park and MyTeam, but MyNBA was essentially untouched and offline gameplay was ruined after a week to cater to the online players.
So as a potentially skeptical buyer (and what else would you be if you’re reading this?) what should you expect from NBA 2K23?
Thankfully, for the first time in a while the answer is a huge step up! But how so? What modes are good? What modes are maybe not quite what we had hoped? What modes left us flat?
We here at Sim Sports Gaming are big on simulation style gameplay, and 2K23 is nothing if not catered to simulation gameplay. A game that’s recent history neglected the simulation aspect of gameplay in favor of skill-based mechanics to cater to the, admittedly large, player base of online users has pivoted and has decided for the first time since possibly NBA 2K13 on the PS3/Xbox 360 to deliver us with a true basketball simulation gameplay option. Instead of attacking this from an overall gameplay standpoint, I’ll approach it in a more refined way. Offline vs Online gameplay.
Offline gameplay is in arguably the best state it’s been in in nearly a decade. The fact that I can truly go into a game with the Bucks vs the Warriors and the players noticeably feel different than their teammates is wonderful. Strength matters. We didn’t see Giannis bulldoze his way to an NBA Finals win just for 2K to have him feel the same as Khris Middleton. Likewise, we didn’t see Curry shoot his team into their 4th title in 8 years just for him to only shoot when he’s wide open on 2K. If you give him an ounce of space this year, he has the green light and even more importantly, he’s going to hit it even if you feel like your contest on the shot was fairly good. Now, is Middleton going to bulldoze guys the same way Giannis does? Is Draymond going to shoot any time he has a chance to get a shot up? Of course not. But that’s what makes the game special right now! Players truly feel different.
Now for Online gameplay. I hate to say this because I know that this community takes up a large part of the player base, but I would say that this is not 2K’s best year for online gameplay. There is a noticeable lack of skill gap. The lack of shifty dribbling ability combined with the amount of body-up animations that you find yourself in just don’t allow the game to stack up favorably when compared to some of the best online experiences in the franchises history.
As someone who plays plenty of both offline and online NBA 2K I acknowledge that the experience is best when the two things play different. I prefer offline gameplay to be as close to a real-life simulation as it can be, yet I want my online play to be determined by my skills on the sticks. When the two intermingle then I can lose interest.
Overall I’d say gameplay is very enjoyable this year, but even more so for those who play the game offline.
For better or worse, MyCareer has grown from a game-to-game experience way back in the debut of the mode all the way to an entirely story-driven mode complete with quests and side missions that also features basketball games in the background.
This year is really no different. MyCareer this year allows you the choice of which team you begin your NBA journey with and the fan base of that team chooses to greet you with overwhelming boos, social media jeers and wishes that the team had drafted your apparent rival Shep Owens. Much like years prior, the fictional antagonist is there along your journey and continues to try to discredit you as you progress through the league. I won’t spoil any of the details for you, however. You’ll have to figure the story out for yourself.
What most people would be looking for here would be the online play, badges, builds and all else that comes with the MyCareer experience.
Badges this year have been entirely re-worked and that’s a great thing. Previously you were able to equip your earned badge points on whichever badges you chose at any time. Now, with a new tiered badge system, you must have prerequisites before equipping those truly great badges.
You may be asking, “tiered badge system?” Yes, this year there are badge tiers. Each category (Finishing, Shooting, Playmaking, Defense) has three tiers of badges. Tier one badges are likely going to be badges you don’t find to be the most useful. These are cheap badges, costing just one point per badge level. Bronze is one point, Silver two points, and so on. Tier two badges are more useful badges, but not quite elite. Their prices start at three for Bronze and go up to six for the Hall of Fame level. Lastly is tier three, and these are your elite-level badges. In order to be able to access these badges you must first equip 10 badge points on tiers one and two combined. This does not mean you must have 10 badges combined, but 10 points spent. So you could spend six in tier two and four in tier one if you chose to do so and you could then access the tier three badges.
There are also core badges. Core badges allow you to get a free badge, essentially. If one of those tier three badges costs eight points for a Hall of Fame level, you can use it as a “core badge” and it will magically cost zero. You’ll still have those eight points to spend.
As it has always been, your height weight and wingspan are all tied to your attribute maximums and your attributes are tied to your badges. Nothing new there.
What is new, however, is that certain attributes are now tied to one another. For example, last year if I wanted to have 99 perimeter defense, I could do that without any other attributes raising solely because I raised my perimeter defense.
This year if I raise that same perimeter defense to 99 it will also raise the following: interior defense, steal, defensive rebound, speed, acceleration, strength, vertical and stamina. Eight different ratings are impacted by you just raising one other. This greatly limits the amount of attribute points you have to work with and forces you to weigh the pros and cons of going in heavy on certain abilities, and that leads to a great variety in viable builds. Gone are the days of 5’8 Playmaking Shot Creators running the park or the rec.
There aren’t any true do-it-all builds now, and there are no builds that can do any one thing well enough that they can carry everyone else by themselves offensively, so you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see a good variety walking around the city this year.
Overall, the MyCareer experience this year is more enjoyable than recent years, but it is not in the conversation for the best in the franchises history.
Despite years of the mode being a mostly ignored part of the 2K community, I’ll always be a franchise guy first, and for the first time in a long time I am genuinely excited for MyNBA.
The introduction of Eras–complete with rosters, coaches, courts, jerseys, rules and even grainy presentation–is an immersive experience sure to capture the imagination of those who lived those days as well as those who weren’t around to experience it first-hand. You have the option of starting with the Bird vs Magic era in 1983 just before the arrival of Michael Jordan, or you could fast forward to The Jordan Era starting in 1992 just as the Bulls are about to rip off 6 titles in 8 years. You could also get started in the Kobe era in 2002, just before the arrival of LeBron James.
I personally am not someone who longs for the days of Bird and Magic, nor Jordan and Hakeem, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t already have a MyNBA save file for each and have been having a blast immersing myself into the mode. As you progress through the years the real life events such as the expansion for the Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets in 1988, the handchecking rules in 2003 or even branding changes such as jersey and court changes all happen in real time, but you are not beholden to any of these changes. You have the option for every change to take place or not. The world is yours!
Now, is the mode perfect? No, it’s not perfect. The modern Era (new saves start in 2022) was mostly untouched. The Eras rosters are not entirely accurate due to player licensing. The contracts are not entirely accurate. There are some nitpicks you can make, but thankfully 2K is supported by an outstanding creation community who will assuredly provide more accurate versions of these missing elements and allow you to truly go over the top with your enjoyment.
The mode, despite not getting the love it deserves recently, has gotten a ton of attention this year with Eras, and I can see myself playing this mode until summer of 2023–I haven’t been able to say that in a very long time.
I’ll preface this section by admitting on the front end that I am not, by any means, a MyTeam guy. As someone who is an NBA junkie, the separation from reality that the mode grows into just takes me out of it. I did take the time to at least check things out this year in order to give an honest review, but my opinion may be slanted.
For the first month or two of the mode, I do genuinely believe that it has playability for me before things get too wacky. Domination is always a grind, but always has some excitement while collecting cards if your ultimate goal is to collect everything. Triple Threat was a good fast-paced addition years ago as both an offline and online option. MyTeam Limited allows for those who don’t have 24/7 grind time to still play the mode without being trounced by a team of Galaxy Opal’s against their team of Budget Beasts.
The return of MyTeam’s Unlimited mode will be the most noteworthy change to speak on as far as new additions go. Unlimited was my go-to mode back in the day when I still played MyTeam, and I’m glad to see it back. I’m a grinder, so for those who enjoy the grind, Unlimited is a welcome return.
For those who enjoy this mode, I can’t imagine there will be anything to deter you from that opinion this year. 2K will always continue to invest resources into this mode and provide endless content for the fan base.
For me, I have to say that this is a mode that I may dabble in offline exclusively. With the amount of other good modes in the game, I just can’t see myself investing time here. Again, this may be a biased opinion from someone who doesn’t enjoy this experience from my 2K time, but MyTeam will remain a no-go for me in 2K23.
The return of the Jordan Challenge from 2K11 is here for a new generation of players, and unbelievably it’s even better than before.
Start at UNC in the National Championship against Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas. Head to the Olympics. Now you’re in the NBA playoffs. Work your way through not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5 but 6(!) NBA Finals victories, culminating with “The Shot” over Byron Russell and the Utah Jazz.
15 unique games across 16 years with Jordan is undoubtedly cool by itself, but we got that 12 years ago. What we didn’t get 12 years ago was the presentation. Different commentary by era that is designed specifically for this mode. Different graphics depending on how far you’ve progressed through Jordan’s career and the evolution of Jordan’s physical appearance.
If you played the mode on 2K11, welcome back. You know how great it once was, and now it’s even better.
If you missed out the first time, you’re in for a treat. Be prepared to witness the most enjoyable and nostalgic modes that sports gaming offers.
As was his career, the Jordan Challenges are a perfect 10/10.
2K has struggled to find its footing for a while in my opinion. The PS3/360 era was the peak of 2K for me. The PS4 versions (aside from 2k16) were revolutionary in the sense of their online gaming expansion, but just didn’t do it for me most of the time. However, now that 2K has settled into the next-gen consoles, 2K has found themselves again as a legitimate simulation option.
There will be detractors who exclusively play online and are all about skill gap, but for those looking for a basketball game and not just a stick-skill game that features basketball, this is for you.
NBA 2K is back!