Regarding the gameplay controls, the redesigned “Pro Stick” that will be included in NBA 2K23 is likely to be the most significant change. It will feature brand new dunk and dribbling gestures. To grab the rim and hang on it, for example, you now have the ability to hold down the sprint trigger and flick the right stick down twice. Although I wasn’t able to get a good look at how this operates in practice, the input seems to be straightforward and satisfying enough. Because of these new controls, the way that contact is handled in the lane has also been altered. Players like Giannis Antetokounmpo now have the ability to force their way through traffic by adding additional layup packages to their arsenal. All of these moves are started by using something called an “adrenaline boost,” of which each offensive player has three at their disposal during each possession.
The exact appearance that this will have in practice was not entirely clear to Visual Concepts. My concern stems from the fact that each player appears to have exactly three boosts, particularly in light of the fact that the NBA is filled with notable examples of players who never appear to deplete their energy reserves. On the other hand, there are numerous examples of players who are capable of stringing together one or more powerful bursts, but who then typically disappear from the action during the subsequent possession or two. The fact that players are no longer permitted to dribble aimlessly around the court in search of a scoring opportunity is generally considered to be a change for the better.
The shot meter has undergone a number of revisions recently, each of which has introduced something that excites me. The first of these is the fact that you can now personalize your shot meter. For years, I’ve been complaining about how the appearance of the shot meter is always shifting, despite the fact that these shifts have always seemed superfluous and frequently represent a regression from earlier versions. On the other hand, at launch, there will only be five shot meters available for players to select from. Players will be able to unlock an additional 15 shot meters by progressing through NBA MT, NBA 2K’s version of a battle pass. The green animation that appears after successfully using the shot meter now does not appear until after the ball has already made it to the rim. This is a relatively minor change, but it is one that I find to be very satisfying. The tension and drama that accompanies each shot should only be amplified as a result of this development.
The defense received a lot of attention last year, so the focus that NBA 2K23 is putting on the offense makes perfect sense. The new shading mechanic, which divides each on-ball defender into three zones—left shade, right shade, and center shade—is one of the updates that has particularly impressed me. If a player attacks the covered defensive position, they will be unable to advance their position very quickly. Even though this seems like a straightforward adjustment, I believe that it brings a great deal of additional complexity and strategy to every defensive scenario. If I observe that my adversary is consistently going to their left, I should be able to shade them in a way that either compels them to run into my wall or compels them to change their strategy. It is precisely this kind of cat-and-mouse gameplay that has always been so good in the NBA 2K franchise, and I’m really hoping that this will just build upon that in some way.
Another issue that appears to have been resolved is that the block system has been reworked to behave in a more realistic manner. As a result, instances in which larger players have to chase down blocks held by smaller players will occur much less frequently. The development team also discussed how adjustments have been made to loose balls and 50/50 plays so that there is a greater sense of urgency from both the offense and the defense to keep the play alive. This is yet another thing that I don’t think I’ll be able to believe until I see it for myself, but this problem has been plaguing the franchise for the better part of a decade. Therefore, if it really is fixed, that is another step toward cleaning up the systemic issues that have plagued the franchise for such a long time, and it is important to note that this is an important step.
Despite the fact that the gameplay preview has left me incredibly impressed with the level of attention to detail that was put into it, I still have a number of concerns regarding NBA 2K23 in general. Although there is little to no evidence to suggest that the intense focus on microtransactions has shifted in any way, it does appear that the gameplay team is aware of how frustrating it can be to start a new NBA 2K23 Build Guide without having any of your previous progress saved. And despite the fact that Visual Concepts has promised significant alterations to the AI, I honestly believe that is something I would need to get my hands on before I can praise it in an appropriate manner.
This sneak peek is, at the very least, an encouraging way to begin. There is an emphasis placed on detail, particularly in areas that members of the NBA 2K community have repeatedly requested year after year. The modifications all appear to have been made with the same goal in mind, which is to make the experience of playing NBA 2K23 superior to that of its predecessors. For the time being, I can’t wait to get my hands on NBA 2K23 and experience the adjustments for myself.