Visual Concepts reached deep into the nostalgia bag and did what the Chicago Bulls have done for years, rode Michael Jordan’s coattails for NBA 2K23, and it turns out that was a pretty good idea.
Annual sports video game releases are not easy to develop. Look no further than Madden NFL 23, which had a rough launch that even saw actual NFL players ripping the game on Twitter. Despite new updates and features, EA’s FIFA franchise has also hit a wall with its life-long fans. Thank goodness EA will no longer be making FIFA games, so maybe a new studio can bring a better soccer game.
Luckily 2K Sports and Visual Concepts have slowly got their groove back, mainly by listening to their passionate community and delivering a very good basketball video game with NBA 2K23, building off the positive momentum from NBA 2K22. However, some issues still keep this franchise from being perfect.
Like Mike, If We Could Be Like Mike
The Jordan Challenge is not new to the NBA 2K franchise, it was first introduced in 2011 in NBA 2K11, but in NBA 2K23, we get a much more refined experience, thanks to much better available hardware. One thing the folks at Visual Concepts always nail down in NBA 2K games is presentation, and for NBA 2K23’s Jordan Challenge Mode, they pull out all of the stops.
NBA 2K23’s Jordan Challenge mode consists of 15 MJ moments that 2K players can relive in all their glory. Each moment begins with insightful commentary from names like Kareem Adbul-Jabbar, Phil Jackson, Dennis Rodman, Chris Mullin, Ron Harper, and more. They were all present to witness Michael Jordan’s greatness on the court.
What makes this mode so special is how Visual Concepts was able to recreate minuscule details like how the games looked during television broadcasts at the time, the arenas, and even adjusting game sliders to reflect the NBA’s rules during the 80s and 90s.
The Jordan Challenge breathes new energy into NBA 2K23. We enjoyed doing things like dropping 55 points on the Knicks in MJ’s return game from his first retirement or recreating that final shot from The Last Dance season.
Eras, Give MyNBA A New Twist
The Jordan Challenge isn’t the only mode that will allow basketball lovers to get their fix of NBA nostalgia. In NBA 2K23, MyNBA has a new Eras feature that will enable you to take a franchise to NBA prominence during 4 Eras. You can either begin your road during The Magic vs. Bird Era, The Jordan Era, The Kobe Era, and The Modern Era.
As mentioned before, Visual Concepts went ham on the presentation front by recreating everything from each era, like jerseys, sneakers, broadcast television style, arenas, NBA rules, retro graphics, and contracts. If you don’t like the Era filters, Visual Concepts did throw in the ability to turn them off to bring the game back to 2023.
Eras is a significant injection of energy into a franchise mode that has mostly remained the same for many years.
MyCareer Story Mode Is Still Meh In NBA 2K23
Story mode is back, of course, letting you take MP on the road to NBA stardom and either becoming a fashion god, Hip-Hop superstar eat your heart out Kanye West. Unlike previous entries, your created player or build will skip the combine, and college goes straight to the league.
The premise of this year’s plot is proving whatever team that drafted you made the right decision by picking you over a fan favorite who will be your rival throughout the MyCareer experience.
The story isn’t going to win any rewards, and yes, the acting is still mediocre but has slightly improved. There are some head-scratching things like MP’s girlfriend. You would think 2K and Visual Concepts would allow us to choose who we wanted to be our girlfriend in the mode.
The City Is Back & Is Still A Grind In NBA 2K23
MP once again resides in The City, NBA 2K23’s next-gen online hub, where the community meets up to play online pickup games, buy gear, modes of transportation, Gatorade, and other things using VC, NBA 2K’s in-game virtual currency.
Sticking with VC, yes, it’s still a grind to earn the currency and gain experience to level up your build. While Visual Concepts did a pretty good job hiding microtransactions, you are pushed to use real money to purchase VC to help level up faster.
The City looks and feels grander, and the addition of a fast travel system helps you get around the massive online hub, but it still feels empty, and let’s not talk about the annoying skateboard controls.
Also, the fluff is heavy, and some of the side quests are unnecessary, like searching for Ronnie 2K so he can talk about his wedding while standing in front of a trash can or talking with Jake From State Farm.
Still, we expect The City to get better over time as the season’s drop throughout the year and the next-gen player base grows.
Is NBA 2K23 perfect? No. Is it a marginal improvement from NBA 2K22? Most definitely. Visual Concepts’ decision to celebrate the past as well as the present this year was a brilliant one. The Jordan Challenge is not the same rehash from NBA 2K11 and only builds off the momentum ESPN built with its Last Dance documentary.
Hopefully, 2K and Visual Concepts will give Kobe Bryant and other legendary NBA stars their flowers with their own challenge modes, just something to think about.
MyCareer, The City, and MyTeam still feel like a grind, but each remains an enjoyable experience even though there is plenty of room for improvement for each mode. The need to spend your money is still present, even though microtransactions are not blatantly thrown in your face.
The controls in the game are pretty tight and responsive, the adrenaline boost meter is a welcomed addition, and the pro-stick is nice but something we didn’t use all that much, but we can see it being popular with seasoned NBA 2K players.
There is a bit of a learning curve for casual players, which can make scoring on and defending particular NBA superstars difficult. Once you find a groove, NBA 2K23 will quickly become a fun experience for you.
Last year we said NBA 2K22 is far from championship form. With NBA 2K23, Visual Concepts has reached the NBA Finals. Did it win the chip this year? Let’s say we think NBA 2K23 has forced a Game 7. Maybe they can bring it home with NBA 2K24.
*Game key for NBA 2K23 provided for review by 2K*
Photo: Visual Concepts/ NBA 2K23