NBA 2K23’s gameplay overhaul reemphasizes attacking the basket

closeup of Zion Williamson attempting a hook shot close to the basket

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NBA 2K23’s designers are emphasizing drive-to-the-hoop gameplay with several features and changes, including more dynamic dunking with new right stick commands, an “Adrenaline Boost” to help them beat defenders off the dribble, and a long-overdue return of a one-button passing command to get AI teammates open and attacking the rim.

“Last year was very perimeter-oriented,” gameplay director Mike Wang said in a media presentation on Tuesday. “It felt like, if you got an open look, anybody can hit that shot. There’s a lot more skill that goes into shooting this year. As for the slashers, who maybe felt a little left out with the scoring last year, I think they’re going to feel more empowered.”

NBA 2K22 was a game in which bigger players, such as centers and forwards, often felt left out of playmaking, where AI teammates rarely took the initiative to get open outside of running a set play. Additionally, shot coverage — how much a defender denies their opponent an open look at the basket — had an outsize effect on shot success even if advanced players went into the menus and turned that option all the way down to zero.

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NBA 2K23 will supplement its changes to playmaking and shot creation with another set of changes to the badges system, which underpins the game’s engrossing career modes for created players. Wang and developers are implementing a new tiered approach to these badges, which are a loadout of perks that distinguish a player beyond their standard attributes.

“The tiered badge system, it makes you really think about how you want to equip your badges on your player, and in trying to figure out how to use some strategy in how you want to play a certain game,” Wang said. Basically, players can’t just load up on the best perks early in their star’s development; they must equip a certain number of badges in lower tiers before getting access to the higher-ranked ones.

A full, item-by-item accounting of NBA 2K23’s gameplay changes was published Wednesday morning on the game’s official blog. Among its highlights:

  • There are new options for the shot meter for those who use that shooting method (most do). There is also new visual feedback for players’ shot attempts. Wang said these were consistently requested by the community.
  • The Lead to Basket pass returns for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X versions of the game, functioning the same as it does in PS4 and Xbox One versions. Players can press and hold Triangle/Y to send a targeted receiver on a cut to the basket, and release it to make the pass.
  • There’s also a new Spot Up passing mechanism, which is somewhat the inverse of Lead to Basket in that it instructs an AI teammate to get open on the perimeter.

closeup of Zion Williamson attempting a hook shot close to the basket

Getting to the basket with stars like Zion Williamson should be more satisfying in NBA 2K23

Image: Visual Concepts/2K Sports

  • Adrenaline Boosts, which every player has available, three per possession, will give players an edge in sprinting past their defenders, more so than the right trigger turbo. On the flip side, players who expend all of their Adrenaline Boosts will see their speed and acceleration decrease sharply for the remainder of that possession.
  • On defense, shot blocking has been toned down considerably, “to a more realistic level,” 2K Sports said, “leading to more predictable outcomes, with the right players making appropriate stops when timing their block attempts well.”
  • A new “Semi-Pro” difficulty level, coming between Rookie and Pro, will smooth out a difficulty spike for some beginning players, improve accessibility, and their learning process.

NBA 2K23 launches Sept. 9 for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. The Jordan Challenge, a collection of great moments from Michael Jordan’s career, returns to the series after 11 years. The Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker stars on the cover of the main edition, while Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi star on the WNBA 2K23 Edition’s coveer.

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