We are in year three of NBA 2K on next-gen consoles. NBA 2K21 was a decent jump from the previous generation. NBA 2K22 made some good strides with its MyPlayer Builder and gameplay, even if the game was filled with enough microtransactions and advertisements to make EA jealous. So, how does NBA 2K23 measure up with our review? As a MyCareer player, the answer to that is pretty disappointing.
MyCareer: A NBA Career Mode Without Much Basketball
In last year’s review of NBA 2K22, I applauded Visual Concepts for allowing players the choice to be the kind of NBA player they wanted to be via optional quests throughout The City. Sadly, those aren’t really optional quests anymore.
At the start of NBA 2K23’s MyCareer, your MyPlayer (once again called MP) gets drafted 18th overall to the team of your choosing.
Unfortunately for MP (and you as the person who has to endure this nonsensical story), another player named Shep Owens gets drafted as the 19th pick. Why is this a problem? Turns out that fans of the team who drafted you really wanted Shep Owens instead of you.
From there, you are on a mission to win over the fanbase and prove that you were the better player. Along the way, you’ll do things like earning your way to the starting lineup, taking part in another one of those hot-take factory sports talk shows, obtaining a Gatorade from a local shop owner, and helping out a vegan hot dog vendor.
If you think that sounds like a lot of not playing basketball in this basketball game, you’re 100% right.
To keep it short, the narrative in MyCareer this year is frustrating in the worst of ways. It’s absurdly long (thanks in part to traveling around The City for quests), your choices feel meaningless, and it just doesn’t make any sense. My experience in this NBA 2K23 review is very similar to previous versions of the game.
Don’t get me wrong, a sports story doesn’t have to be realistic to be enjoyable. For example, look at Draft Day, starring Kevin Costner. There’s no way that would happen in real life. But the movie was a good time, and I still remember Kevin Costner’s character calling the Seahawks GM a pancake-eating (insert expletive here).
NBA 2K23’s MyCareer story doesn’t have any of that ridiculous fun. The characters are annoying, and nearly every scene ends with an awkward moment, as if you were watching robots desperately trying to act like humans.
As for the story itself, the game attempts to tell you that your play on the court matters. And, to a minimal degree, it does. There are times when you have to hit certain objectives, or you will fail the mission and have to repeat the game.
Nonetheless, even if you are undefeated and are putting up phenomenal numbers in each game, almost everyone will act as if your team had just drafted the second coming of Anthony Bennett ahead of the next Michael Jordan. It’s a weird disconnect present throughout the entire narrative, and it throws any sense of immersion or control of your MyPlayer out the window.
To make matters worse, you can’t skip the story entirely. Even if you played through it on one build and were hoping to make a different one. As of this writing, you’ll have to play through the entire story again.
MyCareer (Continued): Welcome To The City, An Advertiser’s Dream
Moving onto The City, I want to share a quote from my review of NBA 2K22:
“Surprisingly, it’s fun to explore The City and see what it has to offer. However, over time, it does get a bit tedious due to limited fast travel options and some shameless advertisements.”
Good news, everyone! The added dedicated fast travel options with various subway tunnels throughout The City. Bad news, the shameless advertisements got even worse.
To be clear, I have zero issues with a sprawling city for players to explore. In fact, I actually think it’s a fantastic idea. However, when you force the player to consistently engage with The City to further their NBA schedule progress, it becomes less of an optional fun feature and more of a chore. The plethora of bugs in NBA 2K23 and the unrefined skateboarding mechanic in The City doesn’t help matters, either in my review.
Look, I know what you’re going to say. I shouldn’t expect this game to be Tony Hawk Pro Skater or anything close to that. It’s a basketball game. But it’s obvious that NBA 2K23 wants to be much more than a simple basketball game, and they really want the player to know that. At its core, that’s NBA 2K23’s problem. It’s trying too hard to be more than a basketball game.
Well, there is also the VC problem, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Basically, NBA 2K23’s MyCareer is unfocused. Sure, you can have a lot of fun in the Rec Center this year, and I love the more precise MyPlayer Builder we first saw in NBA 2K22 (with several welcomed badge changes and additions in this year’s game).
It’s just that the unskippable story, the frustrating quests in The City, and the hilariously large amount of blatant advertisements make the MyCareer grind hell to get through. Speaking of hell…
MyCareer (One Last Time): Microtransactions And VC
I’ll talk about the other modes and more positive things in a second. But it would be remiss if I didn’t talk about microtransactions and VC.
Microtransactions in NBA 2K aren’t a new concept. However, when the VC grind is so overbearing, it’s hard not to think the franchise has hit a new low.
For the most part, you get very little VC from completed games and quests. Moreover, the VC cost for attributes seems to have skyrocketed from previous years. Meanwhile, there is that ever-present devil on your shoulder saying, “Do you know that you could make the grind easier by purchasing 100,000 VC? It’s just $20”. And that won’t even be enough to get your player to a satisfying overall.
NBA 2K23 on next-gen systems is at least $70 already (depending on the version you buy). Then, remember the aforementioned tedious grind, little VC payouts, lingering microtransactions, and no shortage of ads throughout The City. To put it bluntly, it’s absolutely ridiculous.
Gameplay, Visuals, And Presentation: One Of The Best Sports Gameplay Experiences Out There Today
NBA 2K23 builds off of the great gameplay of its predecessor. It’s smooth, the animations are more realistic than ever before, and there are benefits to almost every type of player you’d want to play as.
My only complaint with the gameplay is the shot meter. I’m just not a fan of the shot meters available to use, and all of them are way too quick. Most of my shots are Late or Early. So, I haven’t been able to hit jump shots consistently yet. Free Throws are a big problem for me as well. But I think that may be more of a personal problem than the game itself.
Moving past me being a terrible NBA 2K player, NBA 2K23’s review presentation and graphics are the bows that tie the whole gameplay experience together. To be fair, this is something the NBA 2K franchise always excels at, so it’s not necessarily a new revelation. There’s just a level of immersion you have when you boot up a game. You see the stunning visuals, a pre-game intro, a half-time show, and a crowd that actually seems to get hyped in appropriate situations, such as a close game with a minute left on the clock.
As I said, the gameplay is incredibly fun in NBA 2K23. But it’s the game’s amazing visuals and immersive presentation that elevate it to being one of the best sports simulation gameplay experiences out there today.
Other Modes: MyNBA And The Jordan Challenge Are Highlights That Shouldn’t Be Overlooked
A lot of people who play NBA 2K, especially these days, seem to play the game for Online Play Now games, MyTeam, or MyCareer. So, modes like MyNBA have kinda got lost in the shuffle.
Regardless of the type of player you are, I strongly recommend that you check out the Jordan Challenge and MyNBA in NBA 2K23, as our review showcases what it has to offer.
Starting with the Jordan Challenge, you’re playing through several of Michael Jordan’s greatest moments throughout his career. This isn’t the first time the NBA 2K franchise made Michael Jordan a focal point of one of their games. They’ve even done this Jordan Challenge mode in a previous title (NBA 2K11). Still, it was really fun to go through these challenges and try to recreate some iconic moments.
MyNBA might have one-upped the Jordan Challenge, though. If you don’t know, MyNBA is the franchise mode where you can customize the league with expansion teams, detailed rule changes, GM skill trees, RPG elements, and all sorts of other options.
Anyway, in my NBA 2K23 review this year, they added a very interesting new wrinkle into the already-proven MyNBA formula. Now, players can pick a specific era to launch their league in. You can start in the Magic vs. Bird Era, the Jordan Era, the Kobe Era, and the Modern Era.
I picked the Kobe Era (starting in the 2002-03 season). What shocked me is just how much was recreated here. The teams, rosters, rules, logos, and so much more were brought back in time. I was given the option to load in the actual 2003 NBA Draft Class, which featured the likes of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Carmelo Anthony.
So, I was determined to land one of those players in the upcoming draft. I spent the entire season preparing to rebuild with one (or two) top picks.
To my surprise, though, these MyNBA Era franchises aren’t just about rewriting history via Dwayne Wade going to the Denver Nuggets instead of the Miami Heat. You are also given the option to overrule several historic rule/team changes that happened in the upcoming offseason.
For instance, you can keep the Seattle SuperSonics from ever becoming the Oklahoma City Thunder, or you can keep the early 2000s logos/jerseys for teams like the Pistons and the Cavs.
These MyNBA Era franchises are easily the highlight of NBA 2K23 for me. It’s so much fun to try and change a franchise through the benefit of hindsight. Then there’s the added layer of team-related decisions that you can approve or veto. It’s a mode you can spend hours messing around in without realizing it.
Verdict: NBA 2K23 on next-gen is a mixed bag. The gameplay is immersive and continues to improve each year with changes to animations and a focus on presentation. And from a visual standpoint, NBA 2K23 is absolutely crushing it each year, and my experience in this review shows that.
MyNBA continues to be the in-depth franchise mode that I want Madden NFL’s franchise mode to become. The MyNBA Era mode only adds to this enriching franchise experience. Even though it’s technically a remake from NBA 2K11, I really liked the Jordan Challenges too. It’s not as in-depth as MyNBA, but it’s a fantastic starting point when you first launch the game.
I can’t say the same for MyCareer. The unskippable story drags on, and the VC payout to attribute cost ratio is insanely too high. The same could be said for the VC cost of nearly everything you can purchase in stores throughout The City.
Don’t get me wrong. It should take time to get your MyPlayer leveled up to a high overall. Your game shouldn’t feel like a chore while I’m playing it, though. I shouldn’t feel like I have to put in $20 via microtransactions to get my player up to a semi-respectable overall, either.
So if you are a Play Now or MyNBA player, definitely take a closer look at NBA 2K23 on next-gen. If you are someone who primarily plays MyCareer, there is no way I could recommend NBA 2K23 at its current $70 price point (unless 2K makes a miraculous update to VC output, VC cost and adds the ability to skip the story on new builds). My overall impressions of NBA 2K23 and my review shows that efforts are being made and, hopefully, a bright turn for the future.