This year's big basketball game is here. but has 2K Sports succeeded in what is a tribute to number 23, Michael Jordan?
Why are you doing this 2K? Why do you give us a near perfect basketball game that many have wanted for years, then move to something with extreme pay-to-win methods? Well, let me start with the positive, which is that this is an incredibly good game. There is a ton of content with new additions to suit both offline and online players. We find basketball that is a lot of fun to play and is more polished than I can remember from the past (quite a few) years. And there is a presentation that is possibly the best in the world of sports betting. But then that was exactly the thing with the focus on microtransactions. So we might as well start there to get it out of the way, because I really want to mostly talk positively about the game.
Because unfortunately, that's what the NBA 2K series is mostly associated with for the masses: microtransactions. And it's not entirely undeserved, since this is the most greedy sports game on the market. Nothing else charges for so many different things and also at fairly outrageous prices. In MyTeam, the game's Ultimate Team, it's no secret that microtransactions rule the roost. Buy card packs, try to get the best cards, probably fail, spend some more, and again and again. What I really don't like this year is that they introduced pay-to-win from day one. In the first card packs, there was a Steph Curry with a 95 overall attribute rating. Usually, the game starts with a slightly lower rating in order to gradually introduce better players. But no, from day one it was possible to try to draw this incredible card that will give an extreme advantage over players who did not manage to spend enough money.
Otherwise, the game mode is structured in exactly the same way as last year and looks basically identical. All casino elements remain, such as roulette and pachinko. In the MyCareer career mode, which I'll go through more thoroughly a little later, you also need to shell out the big bucks to be able to compete against the best in The City online mode. Long gone are the days when we could develop our players just by playing matches and depending on how well we did, the attributes went up. Virtual currency is now required for every little point in the trait tree. And they are not particularly cheap. Sure, it's possible to get coins by playing matches in the career mode, which is basically your salary, but it doesn't go very far. And when I see players who are already 90+, I wonder how much they spent, but then realise that I probably don't want to know. At the same time, I am struggling with my player who has an ability of 63. Because everyone starts from 60, which could undoubtedly be increased.
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Luckily, there is a great new addition to The City, which is The Theater. There are four special match types that are changed every Friday and during the first week there was, among other things, an opportunity to only play with and against players who have a maximum of 75 in total characteristics. This means that it is at least possible to play online even if you don't want to spend a ton of money. Other match types present might be things like a twelve second shot clock and two-on-two where the winners stay. It's things like this that can keep the online mode fresh for anyone who isn't quite the hardcore gamer. The career mode is now structured as both a story and an online hub. Gone are the story modes with a multi-hour cinematic experience and you can now decide for yourself how you want to play. If you just want to bet on the story, you just go from point A to point B in the city and unlock the next cut-scene with different objectives to progress.
The story, about MP, is nothing revolutionary, but it is interesting enough to play. MP gets drafted one spot ahead of the player the vast majority of fans in town wanted to see, Shep Owens. This of course builds a rivalry with said Shep, who is a real jerk, but good basketball player. Meanwhile, MP must try to convince fans that the team did the right thing by drafting him despite two-thirds being either disappointed or pissed off. There is a greater focus on the arena experience itself before and after games, with photographers waiting in the hall when you come from the garage, cheerleaders running onto the pitch, and dressing rooms and press conferences to go into. It gives match days a special feel, which I appreciate.
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2023 is the year and of course Mr. 23, Michael Jordan, will be celebrated. One of the new game modes, guaranteed to be exclusive to this year, is the Jordan Challenge, where we can play through a bunch of moments from his career. It starts with a college game with Jordan's North Carolina against Georgetown with a certain Patrick Ewing. Then it goes all the way through his Bulls career. Each match has certain missions to complete, such as scoring a certain number of points or making X number of rebounds. In addition, there is a filter that makes it feel like watching a TV broadcast from that very moment. It's fun for a little while, but it gets really annoying quickly, so it's lucky that you can turn off the filter. This is a well-made game mode that fans of basketball history will enjoy.
Speaking of basketball history, MyNBA (Franchise Mode) has received one of the best additions in years. It is now called MyNBA Eras and you can play Franchise Mode in four different decades, from the 80s until today. These four decades, or eras, are all playable with all the teams of the time (like the Seattle Supersonics) and rules. A small introduction shows what applies, such as that during the 80s some new teams will be added and that tougher games are allowed. Although the content of the game mode itself is still the same, this is what makes MyNBA Eras the Franchise-like mode that most deserves to be played, regardless of the new sports game.
And NBA 2K23 does really deserve to be played, despite its greed. On the court, it's incredibly fun and flows really well. For the first time in a long time, it feels like you can have fun here, even without spending money. Especially when the game looks as good as it does, has the amount of content it does, and has the best presentation in the sports gaming world. Mix that with a thoughtful career mode, new animations and various tweaks and NBA 2K23 is quite a winner after all.
8 / 10
Very nice graphics. Brilliant simulation of basketball as a sport. Excellent game mode with tribute to Michael Jordan. Four decades of Franchise Mode. Packed with content. Great choices in career mode.