In NBA 2K23, the court is bigger than just the three-point arc. That should be obvious, but with last year’s game, Visual Concepts admitted shooters had too much of an advantage. Talented shooters made shots consistently and with less-than-lifelike effort, while even lesser-skilled players could drain long jumpers and three-pointers if they only got an open look. Among a host of other gameplay changes in NBA 2K23, the focus in this fall’s game is about bringing balance back to the offensive game, and empowering players to work in the paint and attack the rim.
“We looked at how virtual games were playing out compared to the real-life NBA,” said NBA 2K gameplay director Mike Wang. “And it was clear that we needed to give more love to slashers who love to finish at the rim. This meant expanding the tools for attacking the basket.” With that in mind, NBA 2K23 starts with an improved Pro Stick, meant to give players more maneuverability in the paint.
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New gesture combos, such as double throws and switchbacks, are meant to provide shooting windows in tight quarters, when the defense is bearing down on you. Double-throw gestures are used for hop-step layups, while switchback gestures are used for Euro-step and cradle layups.
The 2K team is also very excited about a new physics-driven rim-hanging mechanic, allowing you to get ultra-flashy at the end of a dunk. You might think this is more like celebrating than actually playing, and you’d be right, but it further suggests the game’s guiding light is to inspire paint beasts to reclaim their territory.
When you’re hanging on the rim, the left and right controller sticks correspond to a hand, giving you a way of freestyling after a score. The 2K team said it’s been working on this tech for a few years now, and everyone is elated to get it out there with 2K23.
The team mentioned Giannis Antetokounmpo several times in the hour-long gameplay presentation, noting that it is his aggressive, slashing style of play that has greatly inspired this year’s offensive changes. More player-on-player contact is meant to further that feeling of owning the paint as the more-dominant player prevails.
The game’s ball handling combos are also getting expanded on, with the full list of Moving Crossovers nearly doubling from last year’s game, from 15 to 28 options. The new Pro Stick gestures diversify each players’ “handles” and are meant to put more ball control in the hands of players, which should help separate the decent players from the great ones.
Not only does the game buff players driving to the basket, it also arguably nerfs shooting overall by giving it several realistic nuances. This starts with new shooting stats being applied to each signature jump shot, including shot speed, release height, defensive immunity–how effective the shot is when contested, and timing impact. “Since the inception of signature jump shots in 2K basketball, animations have been more or less aesthetic but functionally the same,” Wang said. “This year, each signature jump shot has unique shooting stats that help determine its effectiveness.”
20 more shot meters are coming to the game, including five at launch and 15 that will roll out as unlockables later this season. This comes in response to different pockets of the 2K community vocally wishing for one shot meter or another from NBA 2K’s past iterations. Like MLB The Show, it seems NBA 2K will give players several methods to choose from and let them pick which one they like the best.
It’s not all about the offense, though. On defense, shot-blocking has been tuned to better reflect reality. “No more small guards pulling off LeBron James-level chase-down blocks like last year,” the team said. Steals and ball-strips have also been given a boost, so smaller defenders don’t have to get trampled by bigs they can’t block. They can now reach into the cookie jar more reliably.
The badge system has also been heavily revised. Wang said the team used telemetry data to spot the badges that were least-used and either removed them or rolled their features into other pre-existing badges. On top of that, several new badges have come to the game, including the Antetokounmpo-inspired Bully badge, which allows you to bulldoze through traffic and finish the play with your dominant strength. We’ll have separate, fuller coverage of the new NBA 2K23 badges soon, and we’ll include a link to that coverage here, so stay tuned.
We’ll be sharing a lot more about NBA 2K23 all month long, including coverage of the returning Jordan Challenge, new additions to The City, and deep dives into MyTeam and MyPlayer. Look out for those as we approach the launch of NBA 2K23 on September 8.