Ever since the series debuted on Dreamcast long ago (remember those days?!), NBA 2K has been doing a great job of defining the sport – even to the point that NBA Live pretty much got wiped off the board, despite EA’s best efforts. 2K and Visual Concepts have pretty much made basketball their own now – for better or worse.
Fortunately, it’s for the better. Despite a few caveats (which we’ll get to in this review), NBA 2K23 continues the status quo when it comes to capturing the majesticness and feel of the sport. It’s still the best basketball sim in town, provided you’re ready to accept those caveats.
Let’s just jump right into it.
A Stellar Looking Title, At a Cost
First off, the visuals in NBA 2K23 astound. We took a look at the Xbox Series S/X version primarily, and the player models are off the charts when it comes to realism. This is a stark difference compared to how it was years ago, so kudos to Visual Concepts for making them look great.
Some stiff-looking audience aside, the group also did a great job with each of the arenas, not to mention the fluid flow of the game that goes throughout. It just looks magnificent around every corner, and even the replays mimic what you’d normally see on TV. A few minor hiccups aside, this is as good as NBA 2K can possibly look.
Previous gen isn’t that bad either. It does sacrifice a few things in terms of visual fidelity, but it’s still a pretty sharp affair when it comes to appearance. But if you have to choose between the two, go with X. That said, be prepared to lose a huge chunk of your hard drive – this takes up a whopping 152GB in space, and that’s before new updates.
As for the audio, it’s good. Nothing revolutionary over previous versions, but it still has its own ebb and flow. The commentators do a great job keeping up with the on-court action; and the sound effects are as good as they get for a game like this. The music choices are a mixed bunch, but you’ll be skipping them most of the time to get on-court anyway.
Overall, it’s a great presentation, and a fine representation of what the sport has to offer. But, again, you want to make sure you have the proper space for it.
Lots To Do, Lots To Dunk
The gameplay in NBA 2K23 continues to be on point, whether you’re setting up fakes for a line to the basket or trying to find that groove in nailing a classic three pointer. You can adjust sliders however you see fit, in case you need to work on some part of your performance; and there’s hardly any disappointment, aside from some of those slight hiccups. But they’re few and far between.
As for content, there’s a bunch, so let’s get right into the big headliner – the Jordan Challenge. Here, you’ll relive Michael Jordan’s greatest games, each with certain challenges that have to be checked off. It’s a great way to relive his history (well, maybe not Space Jam), and some of these moments are too cool to pass up. That said, if you’re not a Jordan fan, you’ll likely skip this.
Then there’s MyCareer, which is cool in its own right. You’ll work your way up the ranks and eventually become an NBA star, but there’s an option to jump right into the draft, so you don’t have to worry about those lowly college years if you don’t want to. (That said, I still miss College Hoops 2K8 – just saying.)
MyTeam is great as well, with options galore when it comes to building a dream squad and maintaining them however you see fit. There’s a bunch you can do with customization, and all sorts of cool challenges to take on.
That said…microtransactions are back. Sigh. Of course they are. Chances are some of you out there will prefer to pay your way to greatness, rather than grinding. It’s a decent option to have, but the fact that having to pay extra to get the most out of the game just feels like a problematic thing. Alas, we just have to accept it as part of the package. It is what it is.
There’s also PlayNow, as well as NBA Today, where you can check out ongoing line-ups if you’re about all things in the NBA. These are really cool if you’re a fan, though newcomers may be a bit overwhelmed at first. But as you settle in, you’ll eventually get it.
It’s also nice to have MyNBA Eras on hand to allow you to play with classic line-ups, as well as the newbies; and even the WNBA is here, and given fine representation – along the same level as the male colleagues. They don’t have as big a fanbase, but it’s awesome to see them get attention.
Finally, there’s The City, a terrific online hub where you can meet up with friends and goof off.
It’s much easier to visit this time around than in previous years, and even though the microtransactions are still present, you can still have a good time with a quick game on the Blacktop. (That said, I do miss NBA Street, sigh.)
If You Can Overcome the Odds, NBA 2K23 Is Baller
Even with the microtransactions and the incredibly large size of the game, NBA 2K23 really delivers to its avid basketball fanbase. There’s a lot to do with gameplay and optional activities; and the Jordan Challenge is a great tribute to the star. Not to mention that it looks simply stunning in next-gen, and has solid audio to boot.
There are some things that fans won’t be able to get over, but in the end, you’ve got a champion worth dominating the court with. And that’s what counts, right?
The Bottom Line:
2K and Visual Concepts continue to deliver the best – albeit only – basketball sim in the house.
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