Each new iteration of the NBA 2K franchise includes a slew of expanded gameplay features that shake up the series more than fix major issues. After taking a first look at NBA 2K23 gameplay, we got the feeling that things could be different this time around. With a number of more targeted changes, such as the addition of attributes such as shot timing and AI changes focused on game plans and decision making, NBA 2K23 appears to be more focused on building on the foundation than addressing outlandish new features.
There are many exciting gameplay changes in NBA 2K23, but what really stands out for us is the new “signature jump” attributes that accurately reflect the habits and styles of NBA players. For years, NBA scouts have been looking for players who can shoot with as little interference as possible. As we have learned from players like Luka Doncic, this can manifest itself in many ways. Shot speed, release time, defense immunity, and instant impact are all attributes that have been added to the shooting mechanic. This means that all animations are different and some may be better suited to certain playstyles than others. This should be a lot of fun.
While there wasn’t much information about the MyPLAYER mode during the gameplay preview, the developers noted that purchased animations were now account-bound rather than specific save files. This means that it is now possible to pick up animations from player to player. A small change, but a welcome one for those of us who are regularly frustrated by NBA 2K’s emphasis on monetization via microtransactions.
Another change pointed out by Visual Concepts, the developers of NBA 2K23, was an overhaul of the AI. While we haven’t been able to test it for ourselves, Visual Concepts are adamant that the line between humans and computer gamers will become blurrier than ever. AI now has the ability to customize its gameplay based on what works and what doesn’t. There is also more focus on using the player’s attributes and skills, with a new “first attack” priority system. More than in previous games, the AI will take advantage of opportunities when they appear.
Many of these changes will be most obvious depending on the difficulty players choose. The visual concepts highlighted how accessible the redesigned Rookie difficulty was, and the notable contrast that exists between Rookie (the easiest difficulty setting) and Hall of Fame (the hardest setting). Overall, the focus is on the skill gap between first time players and those who have mastered the controls and systems available in NBA 2K23.
When it comes to controls, perhaps the biggest change coming to NBA 2K23 is a redesigned “Pro Stick” with new dunk and drib gestures. For example, you can now hold the sprint trigger and double-tap the right stick to grab and grab onto the hoop. I haven’t quite seen how this works in action, but it seems pretty simple and enjoyable to use. These new controls also change how lane contact works, with players like Giannis Antetokounmpo able to cut through traffic with additional idle packs. All of these moves are triggered by “adrenaline boosts”, of which each attacker has three per possession.
The defense had a lot of work to do last year, so the focus on offense made sense for NBA 2K23.
Visual Concepts was not entirely clear on what this would look like in action. We are concerned that each player has exactly three boosters, especially when the NBA has notable examples of players who seemingly never run out of energy. Conversely, there are many examples of players who can create a powerful wave but usually miss the action on their next possession or two. Overall, it should be a positive change that players can no longer dribble sporadically around the field until they find an opportunity.
There have been several changes made to the shot counter, which we were also very pleased with. First, you can now customize your shot counter. For years, I’ve been complaining about the ever-changing shot counter view – a change that always seemed unnecessary and often a step backwards from the previous iteration. Unfortunately, however, only five shot meters will be available at launch, and 15 more depending on the season, the NBA 2K Battle Pass version. The green animation that follows the successful use of the shot counter is no longer displayed until the bullet has hit the ring. This should only heighten the tension and drama that accompanies each frame.
There was a lot of focus on defense last year, so the focus on offense in NBA 2K23 makes sense. One change that I’m particularly impressed with is the new shadow mechanic, which divides each defender on the ball into three zones: left shadow, right shadow, and center shadow. If a player attacks a shaded defensive position, they will be quickly blocked. This seems like a simple change, but I think it adds a lot of strategy and complexity to every defensive situation. If I notice that my opponent is constantly moving to the left, I should be able to hide him in such a way that he either crashes into my wall or changes tactics. It’s the kind of cat and mouse gameplay that has always been so good in the NBA 2K franchise, and we really hope it builds on that.
Another issue that appears to have been addressed is the blocking system, which has been redesigned to behave more realistically, so 2016 LeBron-style chasing blocks by smaller players will be much less common. The development team also discussed how random balls and contested ball possession, known as 50/50 balls, were adjusted to maximize player participation during these phases of the game. hit the franchise. So, if it’s indeed resolved, it’s another step towards fixing the systemic issues that have plagued the franchise for so long.
While we were impressed with the attention to detail in the gameplay preview, we do have a number of issues with NBA 2K23 in general. There is little to no evidence that the focus on microtransactions has gone anywhere, although the game development team seems to recognize the frustration caused by the lack of saving progress when creating a new one. And while Visual Concepts has promised significant changes to AI, we won’t be able to really comment on those changes until we get a final proposal.
Besides, this preview is a promising start. The focus is on details, especially in areas that the NBA 2K community has been asking for year after year. All of the changes seem to exist with one single idea in mind: to make NBA 2K23 more complete than its predecessors. At this point, we’re really looking forward to getting the final version of the game and making our own decisions.