Welcome to Grind City, population you! 2K’s official NBA experience is back for another go round in NBA 2K22 and, like last year, brings different packages for new-gen and previous generation consoles.
Whether it’s the charming “advice” shouted at you by the fans while you’re taking a free throw, or the fresh take on the MyCareer mode, there are plenty of strange new turns on the NBA 2K22 road which may surprise many.
Every year we wait anxiously to see how the changes 2K have made will play out once they’re packaged together. One thing that’s more noticeable than most is the game speed. Where once it was a high octane, end-to-end, basketball highlights reel, now we have a deliberately slowed down technical beast. There’s no more barging through every contest, or dominating the court with ankle breaking ease. AI and online opponents have a huge arsenal of tricks to bring you to a standstill faster than you can say, “Hey… is that a brick wa…”.
The movement controls, a new shot meter, and trick moves have become easier to access, which is great. NBA 2K22 also brings in more dynamic defending with chase-down blocks and shot contests being much more effective. This makes some teams, like the Philadelphia 76ers and their stellar defensive line-up, particularly hard to play against. Previously you had to worry most about superstar scorers dunking on you, now you also have to worry about not being able to respond once the shots start flying. It’s a fantastic change that means shot blockers and top tier defenders are much more valuable assets.
Allowing hot action on both ends of the court evens out the overall experience, which makes for less blowout score lines and more tight, competitive gameplay. Shooting the ball, with the new shot timer, is a challenging mini-game in its own right. Although once you’ve dialled in (and especially with the top tier players) points will start dropping. And boy, oh boy, do the slow-motion replays of dunks and slapped-out blocks look spectacular. Well worth the price of admission.
Then we get to the game modes, and in NBA 2K22 it’s become even clearer that MyCareer and MyTeam are the two modes that 2K want us to play. There’s an option to start your own MyLeague to play against friends, or to play as a GM in control of every facet of your chosen club. Sure, both of these game modes are chock-full of adjustable settings to run the game the way you want to play, however they’re missing an abundance of, well, sparkle which is present in the pay-to-win game modes.
MyTeam is exactly what you’d expect from a trading-card-constantly-upgrading-team-based basketball showcase. Not much has changed here, because it hasn’t had to. It’s a solid game mode that works well. It’s in MyCareer where some truly interesting choices have been made. NBA2K22 introduces a basketball RPG experience, over the cinematic performances from previous seasons. You take part in more off-court activities than you can poke a ridiculously overloaded NBA contract at, to carve out your little piece of the NBA empire. Unless you sidestep the grind by buying more VC (the in-game currency) with real dollarydoos, you’ll be busy on a number of activities designed to make your character more marketable. You can start your own (probably ill advised) rap career, or strut the runways showing off the latest fashions. Completing quests earns experience in your chosen field, so you can sign up new sponsorships to earn more VC when you play. It’s the 2K circle of life.
Speaking of grinding, one of the ways that you explore the in-game world of MyCity (on the new-gen consoles) is to whisk around on a skateboard, rollerblades or pushbike, in what has to be a masterclass in mind-numbingly boring movement. Objectives can take two to three minutes to travel between, which is painfully slow. MyNeighbourhood on the previous geenration is a little better organised. It’s set on a cruise ship where you take an elevator to get to different areas. However you choose to travel, this experience is a necessary evil.
“Make no mistake, NBA 2K22 is one of, if not the best, looking sports sims going around.”
There are a few minor issues in NBA 2K22, some animations overlap in weird and wonderful ways – menu music seems to cut out at strange times when you change views, new-gen load times can be excessive, watching disembodied skateboards zooming around the MyCity-scape, and heavily censored lyrics in some of the music tracks means that you only hear every second word. Note: if you’re going to include this type of music, either keep the swears or find songs without them. A lot of these are minor complaints which will likely be patched out, however they’re made more obvious because of the otherwise highly-polished nature of the game.
A small note of consumer advice, unlike last year, NBA 2K22 isn’t offering free upgrades between versions. If you’re waiting on the new-gen platform to arrive sometime in the next 12 months, you’ll want to invest in the NBA 75th Anniversary Edition, which will give you access to both generations as well as some other handy time saving bonuses. Likewise, you’ll only find the WNBA content on the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S.
Make no mistake, NBA 2K22 is one of, if not the best, looking sports sims going around. The visuals in the new-gen versions are stunning to say the least. However, the experience seems to be going backwards, funnelling people into specific pay-to-win areas of the game for the “full” package and not truly finding its feet in the single player modes. It’s strange that in a sports sim where on-court momentum means everything, the off-court experience chooses to slam on the brakes.
NBA 2K22 is available now on PS5, Xbox Series X|S, Switch, PS4 and Xbox One.