NBA 2K23 Review: To Pay or To Play, That is the Question (2024)

NBA 2K23 continues the legacy of 2K's longstanding basketball sim franchise, but not everything in this year's game delivered.

From the shining stars like MyNBA Eras to less impressive deliveries like MyCAREER, our NBA 2K23 Review pinpoints the layups and air balls of this installment.

NBA 2K23 Review (Current Gen & Next Gen)

Following a worldwide release date on September 9, 2022, we've had two full weeks to get a feel for everything in NBA 2K23.

That includes the next gen version on Xbox Series X|S and the current gen counterpart on PS4, as the differences between the two are too drastic to ignore.

Before we get to the game modes themselves, it's key to highlight that the actual gameplay of NBA 2K23 may be its greatest asset.

The flow feels natural while being challenging, but even for less experienced players a lower difficulty setting can deliver a very enjoyable experience.

NBA 2K23 Review: To Pay or To Play, That is the Question (1)

NBA 2K23 Review: To Pay or To Play, That is the Question (2)

Graphics are very good on next gen when it comes to player models, presentation, and the experience within an actual basketball game.

While current gen loses a lot of the shine that the graphics have and the environments don't stand out quite as much, the actual basketball gameplay still delivers.

There was plenty of excitement going into launch with the greatest of all time taking center stage for its branding as Michael Jordan graced the cover and gets the spotlight with The Jordan Challenge.

Meanwhile, stalwart game modes like MyCAREER and MyTEAM tried to tweak things some while MyNBA Eras came in as this year's dark horse.

MyCAREER: The City vs. The GOAT Boat vs. your wallet

The generational divide in NBA 2K23's single player story mode MyCAREER continues to widen into a chasm this year as The City is even more impressive while The GOAT Boat feels even more inferior.

MyCAREER on next gen in The City is an experience that draws mixed reactions from players, as it's littered with cutscenes and feels more like an RPG with a side of basketball to many.

The quests themselves tend to shine, when they don't break, and appearances by J. Cole and others make for an entertaining (even if not always good) time.

The GOAT Boat on current gen has its own flaws like a lack of any directional quest arrows to point towards NPCs, and somehow navigating the smaller GOAT Boat feels even slower than navigating The City.

Regardless of which generation of console you're on, the biggest issue you'll come up against in NBA 2K23 MyCAREER is simply being able to afford it.

We took a deeper dive recently looking at the way costs have increased compared to last year, as NBA 2K23 nearly doubled the in-game VC cost to max out your MyPLAYER.

Microtransactions aren't technically required, but you'll never feel competitive in MyCAREER without spending extra money or investing an exorbitant amount of time grinding in the game.

The Jordan Challenge is The Last Dance of gaming

The Last Dance delivered the most spectacular recounting of Michael Jordan's legendary career imaginable, but imagine if you could've played those moments yourself.

Through a combination of interviews, broadcast footage, uniquely crafted commentary, era-accurate presentation, and even gameplay overlays, The Jordan Challenge is a truly magnificent achievement.

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NBA 2K23 Review: To Pay or To Play, That is the Question (6)

While the experience of The Jordan Challenge is probably one that varies greatly depending on whether you actually saw Jordan's career as it happened or are learning fresh, there's something to enjoy here for fans of any knowledge level.

Each challenge gives you a better understanding of his career while also challenging you to understand how the man himself played on the court, and it becomes clear just how special Jordan is to basketball history.

MyTEAM gets a little shinier, but the concept remains the same

Unfortunately, MyCAREER isn't the only game mode in NBA 2K23 that leans heavily on microtransactions and pressuring players to cave and pay extra.

While the mode did get some improvements and can feel more interactive this year, challenges and various ways to play in MyTEAM are even more difficulty this year than in the past.

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NBA 2K23 Review: To Pay or To Play, That is the Question (8)

For the most part, players who loved or hated MyTEAM in the past are probably still gonna love or hate this version based on that pre-existing opinion.

No Money Spent (NMS) pathways seem even more limited this year despite the fact that more and more packs continue to arrive, and that increases pressure on players to spend a few extra dollars to keep up with everyone else.

MyTEAM is a moneymaker for 2K, and it feels like that's ultimately what mattered the most when working on the game mode this year.

MyNBA Eras is the franchise mode time machine every sports game needs

The dark horse shining star of NBA 2K23 is, without a doubt, the arrival of MyNBA Eras in their version of franchise mode.

You can choose at the start of your MyNBA Eras save to start in one of four eras:

  • The Magic vs Bird Era (1983)
  • The Jordan Era (1991)
  • The Kobe Era (2002)
  • The Modern Era (2022)

This isn't just a simulator with extra rosters, as you'll find every single detail about the league transforms to match the era you're playing in.

Rule changes of the past go into effect to give you the actual gameplay feel of that time period, overlays (which can be turned off) give it the look of the time, and even the teams themselves are changed to match how the league looked in each era.

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NBA 2K23 Review: To Pay or To Play, That is the Question (10)

There's something almost endlessly enticing about the possibilities, whether you wanna create your own team in 1991 and do a fantasy draft to take Michael Jordan yourself or would prefer to take over the historic Celtics in 1983.

The only criticism we really have of MyNBA Eras is that the interface itself could be refined and the learning curve can be high going in, but the positives outshine those flaws.

On top of that, we have to note that MyNBA Eras is next gen exclusive, and the MyLEAGUE / MyGM experiences on current gen pale in comparison.

The W and MyWNBA are there also

2K loves to hype up their progress in having female cover stars on the WNBA Edition and having them in the game, but it all still feels like an afterthought in the end.

The W, an attempt at providing a MyCAREER counterpart, feels like a tiny fraction of what it could be and pales in comparison to The City experience.

Even the player builder is stripped down to a basic and simplified version, and the MyWNBA experience is again a shell of what MyNBA Eras provides.

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NBA 2K23 Review: To Pay or To Play, That is the Question (12)

Ultimately, all of the WNBA inclusion in NBA 2K23 ends up feeling like consolation prize diversity.

It's as if 2K was more interested in checking the WNBA box on a list than actually delivering a comparable WNBA experience for fans.

On top of all of this, The W and MyWNBA aren't even included in the current gen version of the game which only has a bare-bones streamlined single-season WNBA experience.

When other titles like NHL 23 are going as far as integrating male and female players in their Ultimate Team experience on the same lineups, 2K's attempt at inclusion feels like a massive miss.

The Verdict

One of the biggest assets that NBA 2K23 brings to the table is some of the most consistent and enjoyable gameplay across sports gaming.

If you're not interested in playing MyCAREER or MyTEAM at all, it's hard to argue against the experience you'll get in MyNBA Eras and The Jordan Challenge.

Unfortunately, the game itself does everything it can to push you towards those game modes, and those game modes do everything they can to push you to spend more money.

Fans understand that games need to make money and game developers need to keep revenue going, but there has to be a balance.

NBA 2K23 making MyPLAYERs much more expensive to max while simultaneously lengthening the grind with smaller VC returns for quests and actual gameplay has wrecked that balance.

For gamers who can only afford the base version of NBA 2K23 and can't spend extra on microtransactions, it may feel like only half of what the game has to offer was meant for you.

With the excellent execution of MyNBA Eras and The Jordan Challenge leading the charge alongside top-notch gameplay, NBA 2K23 on next gen is still a very good game.

RealSport Rating (PS5 & Xbox Series X|S): 4 out of 5

Due to stark differences between the next gen and current gen versions of NBA 2K23, we can't provide them the same rating.

Between the massive downgrade in MyCAREER and the absence of MyNBA Eras, NBA 2K23 is barely more than half as good on current gen.

RealSport Rating (PS4, Xbox One, and PC): 2.5 out of 5

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