LifeisXbox’s NBA 2K23 review | Important to mention, my last played basketball game was NBA 2K20. I write this as I’m perfectly aware that yearly returning sport-games don’t always feature many differences. Three years have passed and a more powerful console generation so it was pretty noticeable how things changed. You can’t go around the fact that NBA 2K23 tries to be the perfect basketball simulation and it definitely succeeds in that. There is one gross flaw in the game that I find particularly unfortunate and therefore put in the intro right away. The strength of sports games for me is the online aspect, fighting one-on-one who is the best. Because throwing to the ring works differently now, with a timing mechanic and the latency of online games is so lousy it is a particularly frustrating experience. The gameplay is exceptionally realistic and the graphics are stunning but then you sit behind your controller with a prehistoric online operation. Anyway, more on that is here in our full review for NBA 2K23, created by developer Visual Concepts.
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series X | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion of the writer.
What we Liked!
- Damn, NBA 2K23 looks incredible! | NBA 2K23 is the best-looking sports game on Xbox, animations are so fluent and the textures are so realistic that it is exactly like watching a real basketball game. Everything and I mean everything is beautifully crafted, especially the crowd and players. The crowd acts accordingly to what happens on the court, miss a shot and you see the disappointment, score a fantastic dunk and they go wild. Visually it made my mouth drop to the floor, it is exciting to see that a game can reach this level of detail and realism.
- Damn, NBA 2K23’s audio is incredible! | The audio is on par with the insane graphics. Close your eyes and you are on a basketball court, from shouts from the sidelines. The typical scratching sounds that a ball makes by bouncing or shoes that glide on the surface. Wow! It comes with a great soundtrack too, featuring some popular names like H.E.R., Polo G, Drake, and Doja Cat. As with all NBA 2K games, you’ll get more songs with updates too. The voicing is a bit of a mixed bag, most of the stuff sounds good but you do have some eye-rolling voice-acting by famous players or stars.
- Gameplay takes a while to learn but is very fun (Single-player) | This is a fun game even for Xbox gamers that don’t actually like to watch basketball. I think that is an important note, I don’t like to watch NBA matches but I do love to play the games. So don’t let it scare you away if you don’t watch basketball or know the rules. Visual concepts have a perfect balance between realism and arcade, which really comes to life with the best animations I saw in a game. Offensive and defensive play is easy enough to understand with the tutorial that explains everything very well. Learning all the dribbling moves might take some time to master but the road towards that is a fun one. The shooting model is based on timing, height, and a defensive player which works splendidly in a single-player match (see online impressions in the bad section) Practising to time your shots right is important to start winning matches, so that’s a little skill-based but nothing wrong with that.
- Michael Jordan | Gamemode-wise my favorite was the Jordan challenges. In this mode, you take control of Michael Jordan and 15 different iconic career matches. A very cool touch is how the broadcasting style changes according to the time period, for example as if you are watching it on an old television. Commentary changes too, making it even more immersive. Real basketball fans will love seeing the documentary twist in this mode, you actually learn a lot about Michael Jordan. You earn stars based on how well you do with the challenges, giving it lots of replay value too. And before I forget, something I really liked was the ‘what if this happened’ part. Michael Jordan’s road is set in stone and it was a blast to experience his career but the few made-up parts if something went a little different are nice to discover too.
- The City’s map in MyCareer | You make a character and start a professional career in basketball. We buy this game to play the game right? Apparently, the developer sees fit to provide this mode with a city hub, where several real players run around. And why not, we’ll do that Tony Hawk wise with a skateboard. The players flicker back and forth, you’re forced to run from A to B, only to often have a full game crash. With completely unnecessary quests like making a Tiktok video, making personalized shoes, and addressing person X and person Y five thousand times. I WANT TO PLAY BASKETBALL, that’s why I’m buying an NBA game, right?! Incomprehensible why I then have to walk around a horrible-looking city where I don’t know how many ugly homemade characters stand and disappear. A storyline that makes no sense at all, a predictable feud between two teenagers, and cringe cutscenes with some famous people. I admire that they wanted to create a sense of being a real person but the drastic change between realism on the court and the clown show in the city is hilariously bad. I’m placing it in the Mixed feelings so positive things can be said too, character creation. You can make yourself with the scan-your-face feature and by placing attribute points into several categories you can make your dream player. You can’t decide to go into a Godmode, you have to balance your points, so you’ll always have some weaknesses. Finding what player you would like to be takes some time though, so be sure to carefully think about your playing style. I, personally was a 3-point shooting master with zero speed. In the end, that didn’t turn out to be a good choice.
What we Disliked
- Online performance | Latency issues are a dealbreaker that covers NBA 2K23 with a dark cloud. My motivation literally died more and more with each match that played out horribly as my shooting timing was all over the place. And before you start to wonder, maybe it is your connection Jim? Every other game worked perfectly, so that was not it. Another issue, facing 99-rating players as a newcomer. As I started playing NBA 2K23 right when it was released it was obvious that these players used microtransactions to speed-up leveling, pay-to-win bullshit. That actually brings out another troublesome issue, why is there no matchmaking based on ratings? You don’t see Real Madrid against Beerschot (Belgian 1B team) in a Fifa game…
- Virtual paywall and in-game ads | Everything is liked with a virtual currency (VC) that you can earn by playing the game – it just takes hours and hours to earn enough to buy something. Improving your character costs VC, new shoes cost VC, new player cards cost VC. I’m telling you, it is impossible to reach the high levels with your character without spending extra money. You constantly get messages to spend extra money, NBA 2K23 is a tourist trap and it is a few steps away from actually asking VC to play an actual game. Each and every mode or customization option pressures you to purchase stuff with real money. I don’t mind a few microtransaction options but this is really taking it too far.
How long to beat the story | 60 hours
How long to achieve 1000G | 70 hours
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