NBA 2K23 Preview: Polish is the priority

With every new iteration of the NBA 2K franchise comes a slew of obscure gameplay features that do more to shake the series than it does to fix core issues. After an early preview of NBA 2K23’s gameplay, I have a feeling things might be different this time around. Through a series of more focused changes, such as adding features such as release height, and AI changes focused on gameplan and decision-making, NBA 2K23 is more concerned about building on a foundation than tackling new, extraordinary features. .

There are a lot of exciting changes to NBA 2K23’s gameplay, but what really stands out to me is the new signature jump shot features. For years, scouts have focused on players who are able to get their shot in with as little interference as possible. As we’ve learned through players like Luka Doncic, this can take form in a few different ways. Shot speed, release height, defensive immunity and timing impact are all features added to the signature jump shots. This means that not every shooting animation has the same value, and some may be better than others for certain play styles. It should be a lot of fun tinkering with.

While there wasn’t much detail on MyPLAYER during the gameplay preview, the developers did note that purchased animations are now account-tied, rather than tied to specific save files. This means that it is now possible to move animations from player to player. A small change, but a welcome one for those of us who are regularly disappointed by NBA 2K’s focus on monetizing through micro-transactions.

NBA 2K23 – Four New Screenshots

Another change that Visual Concepts, the developers behind NBA 2K23, emphasized was the AI ​​overhaul. Although I didn’t get to test it for myself, Visual Concepts is adamant that the line between human and CPU players will become more blurred than ever. AI now has the ability to adjust its gameplay based on what is working and what is not. With a new “first attack” priority system, there is also an increased focus on taking advantage of player characteristics and skill sets. Compared to previous titles, AI will take advantage of opportunities when presented.

Many of these changes will be most apparent depending on the difficulty the players choose. Visual Concepts emphasized how accessible the reworked Rookie difficulty is, and how big a difference is between Rookie (the easiest difficulty setting) and Hall of Fame (the hardest setting). In general, the emphasis is on the skill gap between someone playing for the first time and someone who has mastered the controls and planning available in NBA 2K23.

With regards to the controls, perhaps the most important change coming to NBA 2K23 is the “Pro Stick”, which comes with brand new dunks and dribbling gestures. For example, you can now hold the sprint trigger and flick the right stick down twice to grab the rim and hang onto it. I didn’t like it too much to see how it worked, but the input seems simple and satisfying. These new controls also change the way lanes work, giving players like Giannis Antetokounmpo the ability to bully their way through traffic with an additional layup package. All of these moves are initiated through an “adrenaline boost”, of which each offensive player has three per capture.

Defense got a lot of attention last year, so it makes sense for NBA 2K23 to focus on offense.


The visual concept wasn’t entirely clear what it would look like in action. I worry about what every player feels like three boosts, especially when there are notable examples of players in the NBA who never run out of energy. Conversely, there are plenty of examples of players who can cobble together a powerful explosion, but are usually missing in action in a subsequent possession or two. Overall, it should be a positive change that players cannot dribble sporadically around the court until they have found an opening.

There were several changes to Shot Meter that I’m also excited about, the first being that you can now customize your Shot Meter. For years, I’ve complained about the constantly changing look of the shot meter—a change that always felt unnecessary and often a step back from the previous iteration. However, disappointingly, there will only be five available shot meters to choose from at launch and an additional 15 through the season, NBA 2K’s version of Battle Pass. One small tweak that I really appreciate is that after successful use of the shot meter the green animation no longer appears until the ball reaches the rim. This should only serve to increase the tension and drama that comes with every shot.

Defense got a lot of attention last year, so it makes sense for NBA 2K23 to focus on offense. One change I’m particularly impressed with is the new shading mechanic that breaks down every on-ball defender into three zones: left shed, right shed, and center shed. If a player attacks a shaded defensive position, they will be quickly stopped. It seems like a simple variation, but I think it adds a lot of strategy and complexity to every defensive position. If I see that my opponent is constantly moving to their left, I should be able to shade them in such a way as to either force them to run into my wall, or change tactics. It’s the kind of cat-and-mouse gameplay that’s always been so good in the NBA 2K franchise, and I’m really hoping it builds on just that.

Another concern that has been addressed is that the block system has been redesigned to behave more realistically, so chasing blocks from smaller players will be much less common. The development team also discussed how loose balls and 50/50 plays have been re-adjusted so that there is more urgency than offense and defense to keep the play alive. It’s something else I guess I’ll have to see before I believe it, but it’s been a decade-long issue that has plagued the franchise. So if it is indeed fixed, it is one more step towards cleaning up the systemic issues that have plagued the franchise for so long.

While I’m impressed with the attention to detail from the gameplay previews, I’m still largely left with many concerns about NBA 2K23. There’s no evidence that the intense focus on micro-transactions has gone anywhere, though it looks like the gameplay team is aware of how frustrating it can be to save progress when creating a new MyPLAYER. And while Visual Concepts promises significant changes in AI, I really think I’ll have to get my hands on it before I can properly praise it.

At least, this preview is off to a promising start. The focus is on detail, especially in areas the NBA 2K community is demanding year after year. All the changes seem to be in keeping with one singular idea: making NBA 2K23 a more polished experience than its predecessors. For now, I’m excited to try my hand at NBA 2K23 and feel the changes for myself.

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