We attended a virtual presentation by Visual Concepts to discover all the new gameplay features coming soon in NBA 2K23, on offense and defense.
August is traditionally a calm month for videogame fans, ideal for getting to grips with all those titles that have been left pending during the previous seven months... except for basketball fans. Because for them, August is a special month, the month leading up to the release of NBA 2K23, and in which they remain watchful every day for possible new information on the next installment. Moreover, this one is really special, featuring none other than the greatest athlete of all time on the cover, Michael Jordan... but we'll tell you about that another day.
We were able to attend a virtual and QA presentation with Mike Wang, Gameplay Director, to discover all the new gameplay features coming to NBA 2K23, which promises to have more possibilities than ever, both on offense and defense. "You can score very simply. You can ask for a block and shoot, or go to the hoop and shoot a forced shot, but we want to encourage players to experiment, to recreate what they see in NBA games", Wang said, after Erik Boenisch , Producer, confirmed that there will be a new difficulty level, Semi-Pro, somewhere between Rookie and Pro, and that it will probably be the only nod to casual players.
An opportunity for great handlers
Wang emphasized throughout the presentation the possibilities of the Pro-Stick, something that we believe the general public is not aware of, and that year after year, he claims to be one of his favorite features. For this season they have gone so far in improving this feature that they have even referred to it as "a game within the game", being able to make combos with the analog stick so complex that "they can be compared to those of a fighting game", Wang said.
This way, they wanted to give more utility to the size up moves, a characteristic move of some great ball handlers like Irving or Harden, which they recognize was a very showy move, but not very useful. In NBA 2K23, thanks to the footwork, the attacker gains more space with each hand change, which causes a greater imbalance in the defender if he falls in any feint of direction.
I'm sure there are many NBA 2K players who like to dribble rubbing their hands together... but perhaps they should not be so optimistic. Wang is aware that this improvement in dribbling may incite some to abuse the dribble and emphasize the individual 1 vs 5 play that is sometimes seen especially in Rec or The City, where one player attacks while the rest stand in the corners trying to be as unobtrusive as possible. That's why they have implemented Adrenaline Boosts.
What does it consist of? Basically it's a meter under the player, divided into three parts, representing the amount of effort the player can make in each offensive possession: a quick first step, a shot, going for the offensive rebound... All of this depletes one of the three bars, and when these are depleted, the player will be noticeably slower, or doesn't jump as high. We asked Wang about how this new feature affects the game, and he acknowledged that we will see a "slower pace, but we will also see better basketball, with more team play".
The pinnacle of dribbling can be the pass, but also a layup, a dunk or a shot. In all of them, there are changes and novelties. Near the hoop the Pro-Stick becomes once again more important, giving more resources to small players but great finishers -the layup with a missed pass by Stephen Curry or Trae Young, for example-, or for the dunkers, since the skill dunks are back, even giving us the possibility to customize how we hang from the hoop thanks to the stick. But we will find a big change in mid and long-distance shooting.
The first change to point out is that no matter how well we make a shot, there will be no way of knowing if it will go in, since according to Wang, "the drama of a real game is lost, and the players relax instead of going for the rebound or making the defensive balance". But in addition to that, new parameters are introduced to determine whether a shot is successful or not: shooting speed and shooting altitude, already present in previous releases, are now joined by defensive immunity - resistance to scoring - and the impact of timing. Why these changes? Wang wanted to give as an example Luka Doncic, a player with slow execution and low height, but with a very high defensive immunity. In addition, we will have up to 15 different shooting parameters, since, according to Wang, there is a great diversity of tastes among NBA 2K players.
This will be the defensive response
Basketball is a game of action-reaction, and the defense can also act and take the initiative: this is how it should also be in NBA 2K23. Wang showed us a new ball defense as a response to all the improvements in the offense. In this defense, we will now see a bar with three zones under the player defending the handler: left shadow, right shadow and center. The mechanic is very simple and consists in the fact that if the player with the ball tries to dribble towards the shaded zone, he will be stopped by the defender immediately so that we can direct the attacker to a specific side of the field where we can prepare our defensive traps.
The shot defense has also undergone changes, with more aspects in play when it comes to shooting the ball. In previous editions, only the defender's proximity and the height at which he reached with his hand counted, but for this season a system has been created that evaluates the hand of the defensive player who covers the shot along a window of the shooting movement. Also, the screens will be more realistic, since as Wang said, when improving them in NBA 2K22, some of them looked too exaggerated. Ultimately, the goal is to "deny options and advantages, it will be difficult for an offensive player to play against a lock".
Finally, Wang wanted to highlight numerous improvements in artificial intelligence, both in offense, making good readings of individual and collective tactics, and looking for the player on a roll -which does not necessarily have to be the best-, and in defense, denying some of the strengths of the offense and giving more opportunities in those aspects where it is weaker.
In the coming weeks, we will continue to discover what's new in NBA 2K23 in all its other game modes: My Team, My Career, The City, Jordan Challenges... Stay tuned!