Monday Tip-Off: NBA 2K23 MyCAREER Sucks

Monday Tip-Off: NBA 2K23 MyCAREER Sucks

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with a frank discussion of how MyCAREER absolutely sucks in NBA 2K23.

Whenever I talk about playing NBA 2K14 MyCAREER or upload videos, I anticipate a few different responses. There are lovely people who take an interest in that journey, and the updates that I share. It’s prompted a few people to reflect on the fun that they had with NBA 2K14, and either resolve to dust it off, or wistfully wish that they still could. And of course, there’s the occasional person scoffing at the idea of not playing the latest game. “There are people still playing NBA 2K14? Why?” Incidentally, I do actually play NBA 2K23, but not MyCAREER, because it sucks.

Part of me wishes that I could phrase that sentiment more eloquently, and less like a clickbait video. It’s always my aim to be constructive and analytical when I assess a basketball video game and its features, avoiding hyperbole and insulting phrasing as much as possible. In this case however, it’s a suitably succinct way of expressing the view that MyCAREER in NBA 2K23 has a strong case for being the absolute worst iteration of the mode to date. It’s not altogether surprising, as in many ways it’s a culmination of years of discouraging design choices. That doesn’t make it any less disappointing though, especially when earlier games provided superior experiences.

I’ve already gushed about NBA 2K14 MyCAREER in previous articles and on the NLSC Podcast, explaining why I’m hooked on it going on ten years since the game was released. As such, I’ll get straight into the issues with MyCAREER in NBA 2K23, and why I bluntly say that it sucks. Let’s begin with the story. MyCAREER stories have been hit and miss since the concept debuted. At their best, they’ve been fun flavour content that spices up the journey. At their worst, they’ve been utterly terrible tales that also negatively impact the gameplay experience. Many of the stories have fallen in between those extremes, but NBA 2K23 is the worst of both worlds.

Shep Owens is Drafted 19th Overall

The plot of NBA 2K23 MyCAREER is that your avatar – MP – was taken with the 18th pick by the team of your choice, while Shep Owens was selected 19th overall. This has enraged fans of the team that selected you, as they wanted Shep instead. As more than a couple of gamers and game reviewers alike have pointed out, the idea of a heated rivalry between the 18th and 19th picks in the Draft being a huge story is rather absurd. To that point though, it’s not the strangest concept we’ve seen for a MyCAREER story. I’d argue that quitting basketball to become a DJ, and getting a shot at the NBA after participating in a streetball tournament, is far more ridiculous.

Indeed, while it’s worth pointing out the absurdity of a beef between the 18th and 19th picks being a major story, it’s more the execution than the concept. Shep Owens is in no way a sympathetic character, a wannabe influencer who makes scathing videos about MP like a heel pro wrestler cutting a promo. Despite coming off as a complete brat, Shep remains beloved by fans because he’s from The City – whichever one is being represented by the hub world in your game – and when the team picked you, you inadvertently became an obstacle to him being a hometown hero in the NBA. There is logic to that plot, but the way that it plays out makes the mode unappealing.

That’s because it turns the NBA side of MyCAREER in NBA 2K23 into a miserable slog of a tale. The story is filled with obnoxious characters – Shep chief among them, obviously – that somehow succeed in making MP look like the bad guy. Even some of the people on your side are annoying and/or unpleasant, and MP just kind of weathers them in a milquetoast fashion. The dialogue makes bad fan fiction read like great literature, and the dismal tone of the story fails to add to the immersion. You can skip cutscenes of course, essentially ignoring the story. However, that brings us to the main reason that NBA 2K23 MyCAREER sucks more than any iteration before it.

Shep Owens & His Crew

Although the cutscenes can be skipped, the story as a whole and its associated quests cannot. As such, the NBA side of MyCAREER is completely bogged down not only by the amateur storytelling and an infuriating plot, but extracurricular activities that stand in your way if you just want to play basketball. Previous stories have impacted the on-court action, from scripting injuries to “Livin’ Da Dream” streamlining your rookie season into a handful of key games in NBA 2K16. That concept is nothing new. NBA 2K23 has taken it to a new level though, with its mandatory quests that will actually prevent you from playing your next game until they’ve been completed.

Some of these quests are admittedly basketball adjacent, such as partaking in post-game interviews and press conferences. In theory, such activities add immersion, further simulating the experience of being an NBA player. Once again, this isn’t a new idea, as press conferences were added to NBA 2K’s career modes quite early on. The difference is that those were unintrusive opportunities to earn fans and boost team chemistry. They didn’t force you to traverse an open world, nor did they branch off into activities such as fashion shows or dabbling with a music career. These are things that NBA players may do, but it’s not vital that they’re represented in MyCAREER.

It’s the downside of an open world and broadening appeal. As Brian Mazique once observed, with no serious competition in the basketball gaming space, NBA 2K is looking more towards competing with games like Fortnite, Call of Duty, and to name another example from under the Take-Two umbrella, Grand Theft Auto Online. It’s chasing trends beyond its genre, which is why we came to have The Neighborhood and later The City in MyCAREER. It’s why we have seasonal content drops in the mode, and missions/quests that involve the open world. It’s attempting to be more than a basketball game, and in turn, forgetting that it is still a basketball game.

A Mandatory Quest in NBA 2K23 MyCAREER

This is painfully apparent from the impact that quests have had on the traditional career mode gameplay. There are quests in NBA 2K23 MyCAREER that, if they’re failed, will force us to replay an entire game, which really sucks. Outside of the Game Over in NBA 2K15’s MyCAREER – which you basically needed to go out of your way to get, and thus was more of an Easter egg than anything else – that’s a first for the series. It’s an idea that’s worked in the 2K Showcase modes of WWE 2K titles, where the idea is to replicate a real event, and the matches are shorter to replay. It’s an incredibly bad idea for an NBA game where results are meant to stand, win or lose.

Not surprisingly, these fail/pass conditions are also affected by other questionable design choices. There are games in NBA 2K23 MyCAREER in which you need to achieve a particular Teammate Grade to progress in the story. On the surface, this is a reasonable challenge involving a familiar mechanic. Sadly, the Teammate Grade logic is another aspect of NBA 2K23 MyCAREER that sucks. The focus has always been on punishing mistakes rather than rewarding good play, but it’s even more unforgiving in NBA 2K23. Almost every missed shot is now classified as a bad attempt, as is any unsuccessful steal. That would be bad enough, but there’s another dirty trick this year.

Your Teammate Grade will now passively decrease, making it tougher to achieve a higher final mark. This ties into making it more of a challenge to hit the required grade in a quest, but also reduces VC earnings across MyCAREER and its connected modes. And yes, the cost of upgrading your MyPLAYER is yet another part of NBA 2K23 MyCAREER that sucks. It’s not a new problem, but it’s always worth noting because it remains a factor in how enjoyable or frustrating the journey is. It’s as big of a grind as it’s ever been. Throw in a horrible story full of obnoxious characters with quests that can’t be skipped, and you’ve got the worst MyCAREER mode to date.

Shep & MP in NBA 2K23 MyCAREER

Again, I’ll always strive for constructive criticism in my commentary, while avoiding any hyperbole and insults. Therefore, when I call NBA 2K23 MyCAREER the worst iteration of the mode – or bluntly declare that it sucks – I’m not using those words lightly or in exaggeration. It’s also not my intention to downplay valid criticisms of previous MyCAREER modes and their stories. However, I honestly do believe that MyCAREER has hit rock bottom in NBA 2K23, and that sucks. It sucks because I do know how fun the mode can be when it’s not padding out the experience with quests that get in the way of the on-court action, or weighed down by an abysmal story.

Obviously, 2K can correct course with MyCAREER in NBA 2K24 and beyond. They can pull back on the open world integration, making the story truly optional. Perhaps they could reintroduce an offline version of MyCAREER or Creating-a-Legend as an alternative, with the understanding that those offline MyPLAYERs can’t be taken into the online arena. It would be an acceptable solution that allows the game to cater to different preferences, which has been one of NBA 2K’s strengths in other areas. If I had to guess though, I’d suggest it’s unlikely. I don’t see 2K leaving recurrent revenue on the table, or wanting to appear as if they’re simplifying rather than innovating.

With that in mind, I’m not confident that anything will bring MyCAREER back from this point of no return. If that’s the case, then I can say without any hyperbole that the approach to MyCAREER in NBA 2K23 has ruined the mode, irreparably if they don’t change course. Hopefully, the negative responses to this year’s MyCAREER won’t fall on deaf ears. When MyGM in NBA 2K14 made franchise play too RPG-oriented, the developers listened to the complaints, and corrected course in NBA 2K15 by adding MyLEAGUE. That was years ago, though. Unfortunately, money – and pride – may speak louder than a frustrated fanbase declaring that NBA 2K23 MyCAREER sucks.

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