NBA 2K23 Accessibility
NBA 2K23 is the most well-rounded step forward that the series has had in several years. A few questionable decisions for navigation and glitches in settings saving incorrectly honestly hold it back from being in the neighborhood of perfection.
- Customization available for gameplay
- Good audio and visual presentation for gameplay
- Alternative camera angles
- Controller customization bug prevents preferences from saving
- No subtitles for commentators
- Open-world mode feels sluggish and rough
NBA 2K has become the unrivaled king of the court when it comes to basketball simulation in gaming and 2K23 definitely builds on that legacy. It encompasses all that there is to the game, from ultra-realistic gameplay to its rich history and culture. The easiest way to describe this year’s entry from 2K Games is a love letter to basketball. This accessibility review of NBA 2K23 looks at the PS5 version of the game.
Initial Boot and UI
When you first load up the game, you can immediately select the overall game difficulty. There are six options ranging from Rookie through to Hall of Fame with a description of the target audience for each. As soon as this selection is made, you are brought to the main menu.
There are two things that jump out immediately. There is a pop-up every time detailing various rewards for the current season of challenges that you must exit out of. Immediately following this, 2K TV starts playing automatically, which consists of constantly updated videos about the game. There are no subtitles for this and it can be shut off or adjusted in settings.
Overall, the interface itself is easy to navigate and follow. It consists of boxes in a grid with colorful highlights and white writing. As compared to other simulation sports games, there is a heavier necessity to use bumpers and triggers for navigation which is especially annoying because they are required for team selection in Play Now modes. I will have more detail on this in the Gameplay and Modes section.
The modes on the main menu are very broad, such as My Career, My Team, and Play Now, with several modes within them. Every now and then, you will come across a blinking red indicator throughout the UI, which is showing you that something needs your attention, such as having card packs to open in My Team.
Features and Options
Perhaps the broadest of the main menu categories is the “Features” section. This is where you will find a variety of customizations to make the game your own, ranging from a shoe creator, roster customization, and the game’s extremely wide array of settings. There are several sub-menus within the overall section that provides all the options available, including settings, sliders, coach settings, and controller settings. Even though some of the features that can be tweaked are a bit misleading, there is a convenient description of each one at the bottom of the screen when you highlight it.
Along with the difficulty options mentioned earlier, you can adjust the length of each quarter from 1–12 minutes and customize the game speed. For players with mobility disabilities, there are a couple of welcome changes this year to shooting options. As in years past, you can have all the shooting set to real player percentages, which turns off the timing mechanic of button presses needed to shoot.
The shot meter can also be adjusted to different areas of the shooter, which has been a strangely absent feature for the past few years. Personally, I find a happy medium to be turning the shot meter off entirely, as this gives a larger window for a green release perfect shot, while still allowing you to influence outcomes.
Perhaps the biggest change to shooting this year is that the green release icon does not show up on the screen until the ball hits the rim, negating the ability to automatically start your transition with a guarantee that the shot was made.
Making use of shot feedback and a new feature that allows you to adjust for tendencies when shooting with either the right stick or the face button is also extremely helpful. For example, if you find yourself constantly getting late feedback when shooting, you can set a tendency to help you compensate. There is a full suite of sliders available for user and CPU attributes. They can be adjusted to the different difficulty presets or customized exactly to your liking.
Another major aspect that is very customizable is Coach Settings. This allows you to determine precisely how much control you want to have over a coach’s duties during gameplay. This includes things such as automatic play calling and how you want substitutions handled, among others. If you were calling your own play, there are visual overlays and you can decide how much detail you want to see on the court. It is worth noting however that this requires use of the trigger buttons.
In my experience, having the AI coach call plays for me works just fine and I still feel that I am able to put my own spin on what I do with each possession. There is a unique team communication feature and the ability to pass to a teammate with a face button icon, but for those with visual disabilities, these may be difficult to differentiate from all the other movements happening on screen. While they help with some deeper control of player movement, I do not feel they are completely necessary to enjoy the very fluid gameplay.
Controller Customization is a Mixed Bag
While the controls themselves are not remappable, there is an entire menu dedicated to other controller options. It includes a number of things that are very helpful in determining how you interact with gameplay, ranging from shot meter adjustments, vibration, and a customizable right stick.
There are a few major things that stand out with this. First, if you struggle with the finer movements of joysticks, I highly recommend turning the pro stick function to dribble moves only. This will stop you from accidentally shooting the ball if you pull down on the stick and allow shooting to be triggered with a face button. There is an extremely unique option for a pass target profile. It gives you three sliders that you can independently adjust to prioritize distance, openness, and direction.
While you can use a preset if you want, making this your own really makes passing much easier with just using the general face button, instead of having to deal with the other mechanics that require bumpers and triggers to get the ball where you want it to go.
The single biggest issue in NBA 2K23 that significantly impacts accessibility is that the controller customization menu resets to default every time the game is restarted.
It has been happening for a couple of years now, and to be honest, this bug can sometimes keep me from wanting to go back to the game. I use a lot of individualized settings within this menu specifically and having to redo them every single time is tedious and repetitive. This only seems to happen with the controller settings while the rest of the customization remains intact.
Interestingly, there is one particular setting for the on-court shot clock display that defaults to showing the last 10 seconds, regardless of what you have selected from the main Features menu. It can be readjusted in the gameplay pause menu and can be very helpful, as it is much larger than the shot clock in the score bug in the corner of the screen.
Visual and Audio Presentation
The NBA 2K series has always gone to great lengths to make its presentation as true to life as possible. The developers also clearly understand that people may have different ideas of what true to life means for them. The perfect example of this is that both the cameras and audio presentation allow for various perspectives, such as broadcast, on the court, and even in the stands.
Presets for audio and camera preferences can be customized on a more granular level to make the game look and sound however you want. For me, a side view of the court is easiest, which means that movement up and down the floor is correlated with left and right on the left stick. Conversely, if you are using a camera with a more vertical view of the floor, up will act as forward, and left and right will act as lateral movement.
Camera preferences can only be adjusted in the pause menu of a game and each game mode is adjusted separately. This may have been for the sake of immersion for certain modes, but I found it perplexing that not every camera angle is available in every game mode.
During gameplay itself, I found the commentary team to be more helpful than in other sports games, although there are no subtitles for this aspect. For instance, they will tell you the difference between the shot clock and the game clock. This information is also shown in other ways with visual overlays. Generally speaking, the game does a great job of communicating everything in multiple ways and a great example of this is that there is a beep and the numbers turn red when the shot clock is winding down.
Personally, I do not use many of the visual overlays, but one of them that is definitely useful is the “who to guard” indicator, which points an arrow toward your assignment on defense. Subtitles are available for cut scenes in My Career and the Jordan Challenge mode. However, NBA 2K23 doesn’t allow these be customized in any way and as such are white against a changing background, which is not brilliant for accessibility.
New for this year, a defensive shading indicator has been added to show you what lanes are open when you are on offense. It is shown with red and green sections under the player’s feet. Another new and welcome edition is the ability to turn strobe flashes off in the arena presentation.
The Jordan Challenge mode and the My NBA Eras mode include what the developer calls “era filters” that make a game visually look like it is being played in the correct time period. For example, if you are playing a game in the 80s, there will be a fuzzy visual filter over the game. This might be an accessibility concern for those playing NBA 2K23 in this mode. Thankfully, if this makes it harder to see, or if you just want to appreciate the older players with modern graphics, it can be turned off.
Gameplay and Modes
There is a huge spectrum of ways that you can interact with this game, from simulating games themselves and controlling backend decisions, to taking control of every movement on and off the floor. If you are a newcomer to the series or want to familiarize yourself with all the changes to mechanics, I suggest checking out 2K U.
2K U encompasses several mini modes, such as scrimmages and individual practice that are accompanied by tutorials. The tutorials include short videos to demonstrate inputs, along with text, but there is no audio. From a mobility limitation perspective, keep in mind that the triggers are required to dunk and sprint. I have been playing this series for years though and I am able to do fine without them with the use of good spacing and shooting.
If you are looking for a pick-up and play experience, you can jump into play now or NBA Today. In Play Now, you mix and match teams from any era with your chosen favorite team as the default. One of the more intriguing parts of this series as a whole is the ability to create matchups that span generations and play out their outcomes. An odd design choice was made here though, in that the bumpers and triggers are both required for team selection, since there are sections for current, classic, and all-time teams.
The popular Jordan Challenge mode from 2K11 is back and includes 15 iconic games from Michael Jordan’s career. The mode includes everything from his UNC championship game to the culmination of the “Last Dance” NBA title. There is a star system associated with each challenge, but completing them is not necessary to progress.
Every detail is handled appropriately, from interviews to gameplay that reflects the time that each milestone took place. For those looking for longer form modes, this is where the current generation (PS5 and Xbox Series consoles) version of the game differentiates itself. The My NBA Eras feature is exclusive to these systems and allows you to essentially play an extended franchise mode starting from one of four major points in NBA history.
There are presets in NBA 2K3 that can be useful for accessibility, such as a simplified experience, or one that focuses on role-playing for front office-type decisions. Aside from the presets, you can also customize exactly how much you want to control, ranging from off-season decisions to the ability to simulate games. There is an awesome feature that lets you jump into a game in the middle of a simulation whenever you want.
My Team and My Career return with seasons that bring in new challenges every six weeks. My Career sees you make your own player with custom attributes and releases you into “The City,” which is a vast open world. The type of world you are in depends on what generation of console you have, but general gameplay is the same.
You can progress your player on and off the court with everything from Summer League games, to playing online with friends, to pursuing a career in music. There are many different types of objectives and branching pathways. In my experience, the presentation of them was a little confusing and even though a waypoint was highlighted well, there were invisible walls and sluggish movement keeping me from getting around how I felt I needed to in such a large area.
NBA 2K23 is the most well-rounded step forward that the series has had in several years. A few questionable decisions for navigation and glitches in settings saving incorrectly honestly hold it back from being in the neighborhood of perfection. As a game, it truly shows the power of current-generation consoles and has something for all basketball fans.
A review copy of NBA 2K23 was provided by the developer / publisher.