NBA 2K23 is here and who else could be the main focus other than His Royal Airness? Michael Jordan is a legend of the game, one that transcended the sport, becoming a household name in the ’90s, even over this side of the pond. It’s there where my love for basketball began.
Growing up in the UK (Scotland), our main sporting interests focused on football, football and occasionally rugby. Yes we have cricket and snooker but the predominant sport in this little island nation is football. And I never ever got the passion for it I saw in my friends and family when their team won or lost.
Enter Channel 4 – and kids, you’ll want to gather around the campfire, as old grampy is gonna tell you a tale. In the 1980s/90s we only had four television channels (later we received a fifth but that roll out was a shambles). It was Channel 4 which had a show covering the NBA, called Raw. I tuned into this as a child and was instantly captivated by the Chicago Bulls and one Mr Michael Jordan.
Flash forward to 2022 and you have a basketball fan for life, supporting my beloved Toronto Raptors. I finally felt what my friends, co-workers and family had with other sports, when in 2019 we won the championship. It is indeed a feeling like no other, one I don’t expect us to replicate anytime soon as the key players that got us to the finals are no longer with the organisation.
So that’s a little about me and my love for the sport. But now to 2K and basketball. I have played this series since the SEGA Dreamcast, watching it go from strength to strength. Beating out rivals like EA’s own NBA Live series, NBA 2K is the most complete experience of the sport a basketball fan could hope for. Yes, in recent years it has gone about leaning a little too heavily on the in-game currency side of things, but we will get to that later.
So, NBA 2K23, and on Xbox Series X|S you’ll find a whopping 152GB install is needed; make sure you have the storage available before you download. The Xbox One version comes a little lighter at a 95.86GB download and whilst that is not as bad, it is still a hefty chunk of storage. I’ll be taking a look at the current gen version on Series X for this review.
Before we dig into the content it goes without saying that 2K are right at the top of the game in regards player and team likeness. Each year they edge towards complete accuracy in graphics and presentation. Players look uncannily like their real life counterparts, especially during replays, and the flow of a game has never felt so realistic. With each iteration, 2K outdo themselves with realism and accuracy.
With that said, let us take a look at what’s on the smorgasbord of content available in this year’s 2K games NBA title.
This year’s jewel in the crown is the Jordan Challenge. NBA 2K23 brings fifteen of Michael Jordan’s most famous games, ripping them from his legendary career and dropping them onto the table. Each game has its own set of challenges to complete, letting you earn stars, and is a fantastic look at the man who flew and his career. The presentation of this section is phenomenal, from the era filters creating accurate looking games, to the coaches and teammates throughout Jordan’s career. Each moment is truly special.
I would like to start the rumour mill by speculating that next season we may see a continuation of this mode, focusing on the sadly no longer with us Kobe Bryant. Being that 2K23 got MJ, it would make sense to follow Kobe’s career for 2K24 – especially since 24 was one of Kobe’s most famous jersey numbers.
Talking of careers, MyCareer mode returns with a bang. It’s here where players can create their own player and join a team of their choosing to try and make it as an NBA star. This time 2K have streamlined the experience. Instead of grinding through what previously has been an extended tutorial in the college prologues, 2K23 drops you and your player right into the draft for your NBA franchise of choice, directly into a professional career.
There is also that of MyTeam – 2K’s answer to EA and their Ultimate Team modes. In MyTeam you are tasked in building a dream team to face various challenges and opponents online. This mode is highly dangerous, speaking from experience, as while card packs are able to be obtained by performing in-game feats and challenges, it is far too tempting to sink real life money into this gacha-like mode, all in the pursuit of that perfect line up. Deeply addictive and customisable, every year without fail my squad get kitted out with user created Space Jam Uniforms for the season. It’s a fun mode with many different gameplay options (the 3-on-3 triple threat a personal preference) but it is sadly darkened with the presence of pay to win.
PlayNow is where you will want to head to if you are looking for a quick game between two teams. In the NBA Today section you can play with today’s NBA teams with accurate lineups including injuries and gameplans. PlayNow Online takes the game into the big leagues and allows team or single player control options.
That online side of 2K23 is one element I definitely want to touch on. 2K have created a connected online experience that is truly unmatched. Hit up The City (which is thankfully way smaller and easier to navigate than previous years) with friends and just hang out, shoot some hoops or join in competitive games to challenge one another. Honestly if 2K can make crossplay between platforms happen, there won’t be a sports game that can touch NBA.
2KU is the starting point for newcomers – here you can learn the ins and outs of NBA 2K, or for the more experienced. brush up on advanced skills. The Blacktop mode is the well loved street mode which lets you choose game types from 1 v 1 all the way through to 5 v 5’ it’s a great mode for those that prefer the concrete courts over the shiny hardwood floored arenas.
MyNBA Eras will let you create the perfect set up for your play style. You can create a single season with up to thirty-five teams, playing online or offline with current and historic lineups. In this mode you can download user created scenarios and share your own, extending the potential modes in the game beyond what 2K has already with the share setups and scenarios options. Further, you can also set up a custom playoffs bracket to try and take your team to the championship. This is maybe the only way I’ll be seeing Toronto in the finals this season.
It’s also great to see the WNBA get some proper attention, after finally being added back in 2020. The same attention to the men’s teams in terms of uniforms and player appearances is seen throughout; a wonderful thing to see. I’d go as far to say that support for the WNBA could see more additions throughout 2K games in the future, and potentially even run as a spin-off title if done correctly.
Playing NBA 2K23 feels excellent. Every few years the shake up to the shot meter can throw even seasoned professionals off their game, but in 2K23 they have succeeded in ensuring the controls are welcome for all. Even the most unfamiliar player can learn to use the left stick to move, X to shoot and be able to start piecing things together.
And finally the soundtrack. Every year without fail this will be a highlight, adding the music from the game to my playlists. With additions throughout the year keeping it fresh, 2K games always ensure there is a select lineup of artists to complement the basketball lifestyle. That is true again this year.
You may think that it seems like there is a lot going on in NBA 2K23, and I’d agree that it has a staggering amount of content. At first it can all feel a bit overwhelming, but if you can resist the in-app purchases of MyTeam, that is as good a place as any to start. MyCareer – either the NBA or WNBA – is also a good way to get to grips with NBA 2K23, yet whatever mode you choose you can be sure that 2K have put their full attention and time into honing the features and gameplay.
Highly recommended to both basketball beginners and those returning from previous years like NBA 2K22, NBA 2K23 is even stronger than before, mostly thanks to the addition of the Jordan Challenge, refined controls and the stellar artists found on the playlist.
In a nutshell, this is one of the most complete sports games on the market and you will not be disappointed with NBA 2K23. Simply put, it’s the best basketball videogame of all time.
As the cool kids say, this one gets nothing but net. I’ll see you on the blacktop folks.
NBA 2K23 is available from the Xbox Store