If there’s one thing you can set your watch to, it’s sports games. Every year, you can bet your ass there’s going to be a new edition that boasts features that weren’t present in past editions. It’s been that way since the dawn of gaming, and it’s probably going to be that way till the end of time. Last year we had NBA 2K21, well…this year we have NBA 2K22.
So what’s changed for the game?
Honestly? Quite a bit in the career mode.
Are all those changes good though? That, you’ll have to continue reading to find out!
What is NBA 2K20?
NBA 2K22 is the latest in 2K Games’ NBA series. While the NBA 2K21 took advantage of next generation hardware to a degree, NBA 2K22 has been built from the ground up to take advantage of the powerful hardware found in the new consoles, the Xbox Series S and X.
I’m playing NBA 2K22 on the Xbox Series X, with a review copy graciously provided by Take-Two Asia.
One of the first things that has changed with NBA 2K22 is that it’s no longer a pure basketball game…at least in the game’s career mode (also known as MyPlayer).
Here it’s more of an RPG, with a shared online world. Think Destiny or The Division for a good idea of how it looks like. You can roam the open world and you can see other players running around, doing quests or just shooting some hoops.
It’s like Second Life meets the NBA, it’s called The City…and it’s kind of weird.
In theory, the idea is sound.
It’d be just like real life, just online. You can hang with friends, shoot hoops or just chill.
In practice though it’s a tad different.
The on-foot portions feel extremely sluggish. My player avatar (referred to in-game by the generic callsign of MP) never felt as responsive as I’d like, which makes exploring the wide open city a bit of a chore.
Thankfully, this isn’t an action game and the movement bits are easily be skipped 90% of the time via Fast Travel.
Like other MMOs, the MyPlayer part of NBA 2K22 is all about the grinding. Pretty much everything needs you sinking time in to get an incremental increase. There are a ton of quests you can do (including daily and weekly ones), side quests you can attempt and even choices on what you want to do in the story.
Those are actually pretty cool. Early on in the mode, you’ll be given a choice on how to want to progress. You can go play college ball or a couple of other options. There’s a cool flexibility built into this years MyPlayer experience that I wish other sports games offered.
Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of these choices and things soon start to go the linear route.
The inclusion of the open world exploration aspects is damn cool but I can’t help but think at times that it gets in the way of things. Sometimes I just want to login and play some ball but there are a ton of hoops (pardon the pun) to shoot through before you can even get on the court if you’re playing MyPlayer.
In fact, with all the cutscenes (of which there are a ton, especially in the beginning), it feels like the other parts of the NBA 2K22 are the main game, while basketball is just a mini-game! For a basketball game that feels…you guessed it, weird.
Don’t get me wrong! I love the risk NBA 2K22 has taken in making something new and potentially damn cool. Unfortunately, the open world portion feels a bit aimless and unnecessary (perhaps a smaller world would be better to condense everything), especially when Quick Travel is much more easier to get around with.
Once you’re on the court though, things get better.
The core gameplay in NBA 2K22 is unchanged, which is a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. I’m still having the same issues I had in previous games…most of them regarding how hard it is to shoot. Be it 3-pointers, dunks or inside shots, I have a tough time sinking ANY of them. Even with NBA pros, I rarely make the shot! The shot meter is just too damn fast and it doesn’t matter if you’re using a button or the Right analog stick to shoot.
I might be bad at sports…but I sure as hell know I’m not that bad.
If you persevere through that and git gud, NBA 2K22 has a ton to offer. You have all the NBA teams to mess around with, as well as the new WNBA teams too.
There’s a lot of content to consume and most of it is fun if you’re into the series’ brand of b-ball.
One of the most outlandish (and yet somehow fits in perfectly), is the create a sneaker mode.
If I was Nike, or any of the brands representing, I’d be knocking on 2K’s doors right now and demanding they integrate a way to manufacture the custom shoes you make. I mean how cool would it be?
You create some kickass kicks in-game and then you get asked if you want them for real at the end. Fill in your billing details and Nike (or whoever you picked) makes those shoes and sends them to you! If that’s not something that’s coming in next year’s game, I’d be very surprised.
Presentation is top notch, with the gameplay easily mistakable for real video. Bodies sheen as they sweat and the smooth framerate makes everything flow seamlessly together. Animation is equally fluid, though transitions (as you move from one animation to another) can be a bit awkward. It’s especially bad when the character models are being substituted and taking their seats. Thankfully that doesn’t happen too often.
However, if you’re looking for a huge leap in visuals from the past generation, it’s not here. There’s an increase in vibrancy and sharpness, and the frame rate seems to be more stable, but the jump to newer consoles isn’t as dramatic as you’d expect.
It’s not coming for a few years yet, I’d bet.
Until the developers have more experience under their belt, expect small increases in visual fidelity (I’m betting next year’s edition will hype ray tracing as the biggest new improvement) as the years go on.
Loading too (while noticeably faster) isn’t as lightning quick as you’d expect, despite the move to SSD. Again, we’ll probably see more improvements down the road but for now, the improvement isn’t as massive as you’d expect.
Another thing I’d like to point out is the soundtrack. I have no idea who the hell all these bands are. The music’s mainly hip hop but all of the bands picked to populate the track are unknown to me. Some of the music is pretty good, so if you can stomach unknown bands, you’ll enjoy it. Just don’t expect Eminem or Dr Dre or Snoop Dogg.
Also on the subject of sound, the play-by-play announcers are waaaaaaaay too soft, especially on default setting. You’ll want to tone down the arena sounds by A LOT to even hear them adequately. It’s definitely not my sound setup (I’m playing via Dolby Atmos using the Samsung HW-Q950A) as I have zero issues hearing anything in this or any other game.
The Bottom Line.
If you all you wanted is a next-gen update to a tried and tested formula, then NBA 2K22 is exactly what you’re looking for. It’s a safe entry to 2K Games’ pet franchise that’s easy to enjoy, good to look at and comes packed with a ton of content.
While there are definite issues I want to see fixed (namely the shooting), at its core NBA 2K22 is a decent, if unremarkable representation of pro basketball.
Too similar to last year, not really next-gen enough. Still great though.
- Lots of content to explore.
- MyPlayer mode is ambitious and has a ton of potential.
- Presentation is top notch.
- Decent animation.
- Soundtrack is lacking punch.
- Announcers too soft.
- Not much new.
- Shooting is much too hard.