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Game review: NBA 2K23 (PlayStation 5)

Fri, 30th Sep 2022
FYI, this story is more than a year old

This year NBA 2K23 goes bigger and bolder promising fans even more next-gen basketball on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S. 

The game’s slick presentation starts on the menu page. A new season of NBA 2KTV is playing the moment you load the game. The game’s real-life episodic TV show offers fans tips and tricks and showcases new features. There are also guest superstars from the world of NBA making an appearance. It’s a good intro to the new game that’s worth checking out before you dive deeper. 

As you’d expect, NBA 2K23 is packed with an almost overwhelming number of game modes and features. From the campaign of MyCareer to the customisable franchise mode, MyNBA Eras, or even a quick match via PlayNow, you can play the game just how you wish.

Before navigating my way through the menus, I hit PlayNow, the most accessible of all the modes, which allowed me to take to the court without messing about. I just chose my team and my opponent and played ball. But as well as a quick offline game, PlayNow also offers online matchmaking for a single game against an online opponent. From here you can also play real NBA fixtures, or the NBA Street-inspired, fast-paced basketball game, Blacktop, in 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, 4v4, and 5v5. This is also the place to go for the 2KU which is packed with tutorials and drills that are essential to get the most out of what is a pretty complex game. 

The meat of NBA 2K23 is the MyCareer mode. This tells the now familiar story of a rookie player starting from the bottom and working his way up to NBA greatness. This time, you jump in at NBA draft level, with the story flashing back to college basketball.

The game keeps the narrative elements to a minimum but does heavily incorporate the game’s very detailed online city environment. This mode edges things towards that of a role-playing game with quests across the huge city that can be completed to enhance your player and propel your NBA career. The City also acts as a social hub where you can meet and interact with other players. It’s really the central part of NBA 2K23. You can dribble a ball around or even skate as you explore the locations hidden away between the streets.

Women’s NBA returns as almost an entire game in its own right. You can play with a custom player via TheW, as a team boss with MyWNBA, and jump straight in via quickplay.

NBA 2K’s fantasy NBA/collectible trading card game, MyTeam, offers a fun extension to the action on the court. Here fans can create their top team from the legendary roster of NBA players. As is the way with these modes across many sports titles, it’s overshadowed by microtransactions, and arguably play to win, but playing MyTeam earns you the funds to buy card packs without necessarily having to part with real-world cash. Whilst the menu is a bit of a mess, I found MyTeam easier to navigate than similar modes in other sports titles.

MyNBA Eras allows you to select your favourite teams and play the NBA league, but with a difference. As well as the modern era fans can also relive the Magic vs Bird era from the 1980s, the 90s Jordan era, and the Kobe era of the early 2000s. As a bonus, each historic era has a visual filter reflecting the look of the dodgy NTSC TV broadcast quality of the time. I found this lower-res look, complete with scanlines to be very cool, it is optional and can be switched off if it’s not for you.

Finally, Jordan Challenge takes players through the career highlights of one of the greatest basketballers of all time. From his college days at North Carolina to NBA stardom, you can relive fifteen games that defined the legendary player’s career. And, just as with MyNBA Eras, the historic games have the same look as the TV broadcasts of the time.

NBA 2K23’s presentation is breathtaking. Mimicking a TV broadcast, the on-court gameplay is complemented by detailed commentary, information graphics, replays, and halftime shows. The game is polished to a gleaming shine. 

On the court, player likenesses seem better than ever. The detail of the court environments is also pretty amazing. I do feel that the lighting can sometimes make the visuals look a little flat, though. This is probably due to the NBA players overwise looking and moving so realistically otherwise in such a lifelike way. 

The “next-gen” consoles have allowed the developers to pack in even more animations that are seamlessly stitched together. This allows fans even more control of the players. 2K’s NBA games are easy to get into but difficult to master. 

The basics of marking, blocking, and shooting are fairly easy to get to grips with, though. You get to feel the pressure of blocks, especially with PlayStation 5 and the DualSense’s dynamic adaptive triggers and haptic feedback. 

2K’s NBA games are one of the few franchises that I always feel the need to revisit the tutorials if I’ve been away for a while. The 2KU does have a comprehensive tutorial system covering both the simple and more complex elements of the game.

NBA 2K23 is another entry in the series that pushes the technology forward to give us a superb basketball sports sim. Looking and playing better than ever, it’s a hard taskmaster for the uninitiated, but very rewarding when you crack it. MyCareer’s massive city environment adds a great social component to the game, but MyNBA still offers the traditional league mode for those that just what to get in there and play as their favourite NBA team. This is a deep, refined basketball game for everyone to enjoy.

Verdict: 8/10

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