NBA 2K23 Review

A Slam Dunk in almost every regard.

by Shaun Cichacki

The clock is ticking down, and the crowd’s roar begins to swell as the ball is passed to you. You rush down the court, ball in hand, dribbling and evading your opponents as the shot clock winds down. Only seconds remain as you take a shot from outside the three-point line, hitting the perfect green for an excellent shot rating. The buzzer rings, but the ball makes its way into the hoop, and the crowd erupts into joy as you have brought this game to a close with a 1-point difference.

No matter where you are, be it on the court, in The City, or even just navigating the menus, you’ll feel the excitement of the game buzzing in the back of your mind. From the absolutely stellar visuals to the unbridled controls and customization, you’ve never been so close to the court before. While there are a few things that still deserve to be benched until they’re properly ready, this is the best the franchise has had to offer in quite some time. Here are our thoughts on NBA 2K23.

Going Hard In The Paint

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As games creep ever closer to photorealism, 2K sports titles have always been a forerunner in graphical quality. NBA 2K23 is undoubtedly one of the best-looking games on next-generation consoles, and it’s an absolute treat to the eyes with a proper 4K display. Individual pores, dripping sweat from the characters as they process a major play, and even small details that most people wouldn’t care about, are rendered with care and attention, which helps this title truly pop off of the screen, and inch closer to realism. You’ve never felt so close to the action, and with the impressive quality of the player models, courts, and even the general art direction in the scaled-down City, this game is a looker.

Something that plenty of games struggle with is hair, but not NBA 2K23. When you’re looking to create your own character, you will want to make them look as close to you as possible, or an absolute abomination. No matter what you choose, you’ll want to ensure that you can either find the perfect hair to match yourself or go the latter route with a goofy design. It sounds like such a silly thing to gush over, but the hair that has been crafted for this game — especially for a sports title — looks stellar, bringing your favorite players closer than ever to their real-world counterparts.

However, as beautiful as the visuals are, one of the biggest annoyances is frame rate drops. While the action that takes part on the court is a steady and constant 60 FPS on these next-generation consoles, there are still some times where slowdown can become a major deterrent. If you’re about to make a major play in the game or attempt to sink a 3-Pointer, there are times that it will switch to an action camera of sorts, dropping the framerate to 30 FPS.

There are times when these frame drops can be extremely jarring, and rather than switching to these 30 FPS shots, it would have been nice to see developer Visual Concepts either eliminate these or figure out how to make the in-game replays flow at a constant 60 FPS. Understandably, the Instant Replays will broadcast at this lower framerate, so you can zoom in and see all of the graphical prowess on display, but for a shot of a ball going into a hoop, the 60/30/60 FPS cycle can throw you out of the game.

Another place where slowdown and frame drops happen quite often is when you’re exploring The City. With it being a massive, sprawling metropolis overflowing with other created characters that you can interact with, even the power of these next-gen consoles may not be enough to provide a silky smooth experience. While the majority of these drops happen when you’re exiting a building, or emerging from the Subway stations scattered around the map, they can be extremely distracting especially if you’re on a mission toward your next location.

Smooth Like Butter

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As you begin to learn the subtle nuances of the controls, you’ll find that this is one of the finest playing sports games on the market. The sheer amount of control you have over your player is almost overwhelming at first, but as you learn by playing, or partaking in the excellent 2KU at the start of the game, you’ll start becoming more comfortable with the power that lies in your hands. Starting off, you may feel like you aren’t able to cover well enough on defense or keep missing what feels like easy buckets, but with practice comes perfection.

You’ll have a myriad of different control options to choose from, from the Shot Stick mapped to the Right Stick of your controller, to the Face Buttons that can be used as a simplified version. No matter where you’re going, what you’re doing, or how you’re doing it, you’ll be able to go from zero to hero in no time. Players move with an excellent amount of momentum, and you’ll be able to feel the difference that their height, weight, and stamina have to offer.

You’re not going to be able to sprint down the court with Magic Johnson, and you’re not going to be able to pull off massive dunks with Isaiah Thomas, so getting to know your team is much more important than ever. Even if you’re just a casual fan, you’ll be able to learn the ins and outs of your team, thanks to the amount of detail put into almost all aspects. Finding out all of the different statistics about your favorite team, while also sizing up your opponents to learn who the biggest and best are is easier than ever, thanks to the information available . It’s more than enough for the casual fan, or the die-hard basketball lover to enjoy.

No matter if you’re a stats person, or someone ready to get onto the court, there’s going to be more than enough content here to keep you happy for quite some time. As you sink your teeth into the more complicated moves, like Fancy Dunks, you’re going to have a way to stunt on anyone and show off that you’re bound to become the greatest player of all time. If you’re buying this game just to play in the Franchise Mode, or want to get more involved in the story of your up-and-coming baller, you’ll never run out of things to do, at least until the next entry comes out.

Sound is another area in which this game shines, and outclasses the competition. While other games in the sports genre have started to improve, the 2K series has always been top of the class when it comes to this. Be it the soundtrack, which features some absolute bangers with only one or two misses, to the way that the crowds and commentators will change and react during a game helps keep the excitement at an all-time high. The rotating crew of commentators will also help keep things from feeling stale and helps keep the excitement high. Ambient noises, like the swish of the net, to the sound of squeaking shoes on the freshly polished floor, also help bring realism to your ears, so you’ll have an all-around feast to gorge yourself with.

One Large Order Of MyCareer, With Extra Cheese

MyCareer

Let’s just start this with a forewarning. The story mode in this game will not win any sort of award. While Spike Jonez was brought in to direct the absolutely stunning and off-the-wall “Livin’ Da Dream,” this feels like many a corporate suit sat in an office with a comically oversized pen and notepad after asking some of their interns “how do you do, fellow kids?” However, it’s also strangely endearing in a sense, even if it’s the cringe that seals the deal on it.

The majority of the dialog in the game equates to Casey Frey and Nick Colletti versing back and forth about how they want to ball with their bros, but if you embrace the cringe, live for the cringe, and are ready to die by the cringe, you’ll actually have a fairly entertaining time with what’s on show here. With one specific dialog sticking out in my mind, about how you aren’t allowed to get a Gatorade at the corner store, because you don’t have enough of a backbone to clap back at a critic on social media, ending with “one day, you’re gonna give me that Gatorade, bro,” you’ll know exactly what you’re in for.

You’ll spend the majority of your time trying to dig your team of choice out of a hole for selecting you over fan favorite Shep Owens, who just so happens to be one of the most easily hateable characters in a video game, ever. Arrogant, cocky, and all-around insufferable, it’s your job to make the world see that your favorite team made the right choice in choosing you, and you won’t need to depend only on your on-field actions to make this happen. You and your team of ultra-savvy wordsmiths will do anything to drag him as much as possible and make him regret ever smack-talking you.

However, after starting the story up, creating your custom player, and making your way into The City for the first time, your whole worldview will change. Seeing created players running around, partaking in quests, doing skateboard tricks, visiting gyms, and more, you’ve realized, that ball really may be life. This city is built for those that view Ball as Life, and it shows but is open and creative enough for all players to enjoy. However, the controls for some of the vehicles, particularly the skateboard, can be frustrating and many players may never touch it again after a few tries. Hopefully next year, they refine that portion a bit more.

If you share a screenshot of this game with a friend while exploring, they may not even know that you’re playing a basketball game. There’s a quest log, multiple vehicle types, factions, subway fast travel systems, and an absolute abundance of Corporately Branded spots that you’ll be able to visit. You could train at the Gatorade Gym, while riding your Mountain Dew Trike, after stopping by Jake From State Farm to pick up some new gear, it feels like an absolute fever dream, as long as you’re looking at this game with a post-irony sense of humor.

Beyond the sheer amount of corporate sponsors surrounding you, The City is genuinely entertaining to explore. The fact that this hub world has more interactivity than some major open-world titles is astounding, like the ability to go into just about any building at any time. And, if you’re looking to just hang out with your friends, there are plenty of options available, from strength training to a pick-up game on any of the courts that you’ll be able to find. The sheer amount of creativity on show here could allow those that normally would never touch a basketball game to enjoy.

For All The Franchise Fans

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If you’re one to get into all of the details about your favorite team and are willing to dish out all of your statistics knowledge, you’ll once again be impressed by the Franchise mode. Jump into the managerial side of things, and you’ll find that 2K has once again proved itself to be the king of the castle, allowing the unrivaled depth that other games could only wish to achieve.

However, the MyTeam mode, where you’re able to pull for new players and create the ultimate team around, is something that almost everyone can enjoy. While this could be one of the most expensive parts of the game, the digital trading card aspect of this can’t be understated. Much like real life, pulling your favorite player out of a pack of cards remains one of the coolest feelings in the world, but this time, you’ll be able to utilize them on the court rather than slipping them into a dust cover.

You’ll find that there are different variants, different forms, and so much more hiding behind the surface, and getting involved in this mode could be a serious hit to your finances and time. However, for those that are willing to dive deep into it, it’s a very rewarding experience, even if it’s not something for everyone. However, the sheer amount of content that part of the game possesses, rivals titles that only deal with Franchising, so not only getting a stellar basketball title, but an in-depth franchise mode is quite the deal for those that love the sport.

For those that are purchasing the game just for the franchise and MyTeam mode, you won’t be disappointed, because compared to previous entries in the franchise, they’re somehow even more in-depth than ever before, and other sports games really need to start paying attention the way that they handle these aspects. No matter the type of player, you’ll find something to do, be it managing on the backend, or reliving the magic of pulling your favorite players.

The Verdict

No matter if you’re looking to find something to keep you occupied, or want to try something out that you normally would never experience, NBA 2K23 does a killer job of opening the floor to those that are new to the franchise, or those returning for their umpteenth time. With gorgeous visuals that help solidify this as one of the best-looking games of the generation so far, to controls that let you feel like a pro, there’s very little to complain about here.

The City offers one of the most surreal experiences for gamers out there, and with the “Ball is Life” mentality of everything going on in the MyCareer mode, you’ll either have the greatest time of your life or cringe your way through it as you work to make the best player that the NBA has ever seen. A yearly sports title can rarely make this kind of an impact, but if the team behind NBA 2K23 can keep putting on the polish, we may see the absolute pinnacle coming in the next few years.

It’s incredible to see the amount of work that has gone into this game, and while the normal stigma of “roster updates” should be long gone, let 2K23 show you that it can be more than that, as you’ll find plenty of welcome changes that can make your basketball dreams come true. A few small portions of this game hold it from reaching full G.O.A.T. status, it’s easily the best sports game to come out this year, and can only get better from this point forward.

This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.

"loved"
loved

  • Score: 4.5 / 5
  • Available On: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Published By: 2K Games
  • Developed By: Visual Concepts
  • Genre: Sports, Basketball Simulation
  • US Release Date: September 9, 2022
  • Reviewed On: PS5
  • Quote: "NBA 2K23 does a killer job of opening the floor to those that are new to the franchise, or those returning for their umpteenth time. With gorgeous visuals that help solidify this as one of the best-looking games of the generation so far, to controls that let you feel like a pro, there's very little to complain about here."
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