Throughout college, one of my favorite escapes between and after classes was the NBA 2K franchise and, specifically, career mode. I poured hours into each iteration of the game for a number of years, whether it was as a point guard on the Heat or Lakers or somewhere else in the league.
As the years have gone by, my time playing 2K has greatly diminished, partly because I’ve enjoyed playing other games and more largely because of the repetitive nature of the 2K franchise. In reality, it has been something close to a half-dozen years since I last earnestly played an NBA 2K game.
Coming back to the latest edition of 2K23, then, brought with it some pleasant surprises and some frustrating finds as well. There were some changes made to enhance the game — like in MyTEAM — along with some aspects that seem to miss the point.
The first thing I did once I fired the game up was immediately head to the career mode and start creating my player. Aspects of that process have changed and for the better, like limiting the maximum potential of skill points and the comparison of what type of player you’ve created.
As opposed to the last time I played, you can select the team you go to. To force Anthony Davis to play center, I created an athletic power forward that could dunk everything, grab boards and defend the rim and joined the Lakers. Your first game comes in the finals of the Las Vegas Summer League and how well you perform there goes a way in determining your initial role in the regular season.
Kendrick Nunn played in the Summer League alongside me, which is unrealistic solely because he never actually plays for the Lakers and for no other reason. I won the game and earned a spot in the rotation moving forward.
However, it’s here where things start to get odd. There’s a cap of only being a sixth man exiting that game, meaning you could score 70 points in the game and you won’t be a starter. That game also serves as the starting point of your rivalry with “Shep,” a player taken one spot below you in the draft.
There storyline involved in career mode drives way too much of what you can and can’t do. You could continue averaging 70 points a game to start the season but Kendrick Perkins is going to call you hot trash, literally. And that’s what the problem is for career mode. I wanted to jump in and play games and I was forced to talk to JJ Redick and Perkins or learn how I’m going to win over the city regardless of what I’m doing on the court.
I was not, however, averaging 70 points and was pretty awful in my first game. Lakers Twitter would have absolutely eviscerated me. So, I did what Damian Lillard is too afraid to do, ran from the grind and used VC to improve my player. It became a lot more enjoyable to play the games....in-between meeting Ronnie 2K and rapping to randoms.
The integration of the city and career mode was a great move, simplifying multiple modes and creating a fun open world aspect to the game as well.
MyTEAM has some new changes, mainly in the new Clutch Time mode. It feels like a middle ground between the quickness of Triple Threat mode and a full Domination game, for example. It’s a single quarter in a game mode that also features a 4-point line. Have I nearly lost multiple games because I’m trying to shoot 4-pointers? No comment.
As someone who enjoys grinding through game modes, MyTEAM always has plenty of content in that regard. Two of their first special cards include a 91-rated Pau Gasol and a 93-rated Lamar Odom, which seems like decisions made to speficially entice Lakers fans to buy the game.
The Jordan Challenges are another aspect that has been in the 2K franchises at times in the past and are always fun to play. While I haven’t gotten through all of them yet, there is a screenshot of Kobe Bryant and Jordan from their match-up in the late 1990s, which is an intriguing enough teaser.
Ultimately, between the positive changes are nice steps in the right direction, but it still feels like they miss the point on the important stuff. While the storyline can have fun moments in the career mode, being forced into so many side quests that aren’t the game can be pointless and frustrating for many, myself included at times. There are still enjoyable aspects of the game, but they continue to do some silly things that don’t make sense that hold it back.