NBA 2K23 is without a doubt the most inspiring game in the series, or any other sports video game. The real question is how much depth it will take to get the best results.
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All I did was get into MyNBA Eras, a new historical mode/franchise simulator hybrid that allows players to rewrite history in ways I didnt anticipate. They left for Sacramento in 1985, obviously, but 2K Sports made sure to mention this popular fact earlier this summer.
Most of the things I didnt anticipate were the offseason league meetings because I havent played MyNBA that much since the mode was revamped two years ago. I overrode ownership vetoes of a 45-second shot clock and a seven-team tournament to determine draft order (nither of these were actually proposed in real life) and saw them every year from then on. Rewriting history could go as far as giving the 1984 MVP to Moses Malone.
This is in addition to all of the standard tasks I could have done as the Kings' general manager, but chose to just automate for the pleasure of seeing how the not-Sacramento Kings looked in 1986. Thats what a draft tournament can do for you! face Ralph Sampson and Michael Jordan of the Houston Rockets on opening day.
Even Jordan's boyhood idol, Golden State's 83-rated coach was still in the game. MyNBA Eras allows you to start a franchise from the present day (the 2022-23 season) or three historical points (2002-03, 1991-92, or 1983-84). Thompson missed most of the 1983-84 season because he was in addiction recovery, and he died at the age of 29.
It's a degree of historical change that I'd expect to find in a PC management simulation, not a console game, and certainly not one that includes the Jordan Challenge's museum appearance as well as a full WNBA career mode, which is now in its third year, for both individual players and clubs. NBA 2K23 is a mission-to-Mars game.
The huge following for MyCareer and MyTeam makes the game seem like a bargain hunt for me. But I have also spent a lot of money on my created characters' development and costuming. Both MyCareer and MyTeam both have fast wins, compared to the old-school slow burn of the career modes.
The City, which is where your MyCareer player lives and plays street hoops, seems to indicate that Visual Concepts is aware that a significant portion of the population may not see the rest of the game without some hand-holding, for example, and there are in-world rewards for accomplishing 40 of the 45 modes.
The Jordan Challenge is a great fit for those who want a sneak peek at Jordans greatest moments while playing. CRT and scan-line filters complete the presentation, plus commentary from one of the original announcers who followed him throughout his career, NBCs Mike Fratello.
In the final stages of Visual Concepts' four Eras, you will get a feel for how I performed it in my sleep versus my defender, let alone someone like His Airness. But 6-10 Rick Mahorn stepped over and completely clotheslined me with a tangle of arms and legs that I had never seen before.
Although there are some improvements to shooting, defense, and off-the-ball player behavior in the main (and present-day) game, I can see the developers grow closer in a never-ending quest for authenticity. However, I haven't really gotten them yet, so judging their effectiveness is difficult. From what I've heard on social media, and read from others, there's widespread agreement that shooting will be more difficult this year.
In previous versions, shooting with the shot meter was either insurmountable or excessive (particularly in the hands of experienced users online). 2K Sports seems to want people to concentrate more on watching their players' animation, rather than a meter, and release either the shot stick or the X/Square button when they see him at the top of their jumper. There are four new options, from Very Early to Very Late release.
I'm still figuring out which ones are really for me, though. Some days I think Im an early guy, then Im reverting to late territory, so I switch over to that. Then the shot feedback readout tells me I have an early or somewhat early release on a midrange jumper I should nail easily (my MyCareer player, where Im having the most trouble, is a 76 overall), or if Im not focusing properly on my technique.
On the other hand, there's off-the-ball player behavior that had my created center dishing out three assists in his first game for the Charlotte Hornets for reference; I went half a season before I got that many in a game in NBA 2K22. It was a breath of fresh air to be standing 15 feet away near the baseline, with my back to the basket, and see an AI teammate flash behind me for an easy behind-the-back pass and two points.
I will need to spend some time practicing on the basketball throwover move before I use it. The AI is great but player get open requires holding down B/Circle, waiting for the AI player to recognize the call (signified by a basketball icon under him) and then hitting A/X at the appropriate moment.
A new on-ball defense technique can significantly improve defense, although it may be difficult to grasp at the start. For example, if an opponent is attempting a steal or tries a straight steal, NBA 2K23 emphasizes fundamental on-the-ball defense rather than dramatic measures to stop a run.
NBA 2K23's appeal and value, for the first time in a very long time, far outweighs its raw and constant calls to spend money, and the guilt and icky feelings that accompany it. So if you don't want to go to MyNBA Eras and rebuild 40 years of history at no extra cost, you can always return.
NBA 2K23 was released on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X on September 9; versions without many of the features reviewed in this review were also released on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships, which do not affect editorial content.
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