NBA 2K22 Review
It’s that time of the year once again where hoop junkies near and far gather for another installment in the long-running NBA 2K franchise. Over the years, the game has been highly criticized for its marginal updates that didn’t offer much apart from the usual roster changes, a new MyCAREER story, and better-looking sweat.
While NBA 2K21 was the first to take advantage of the current-gen hardware from Sony and Microsoft, we felt that it was more of an incremental update that didn’t quite hit the mark.
Considering that it has been almost a year since the current-gen consoles have been released, 2K had a full year to improve on its previous outing and it seems that the features they implemented last year laid the groundwork for a more ambitious outing in NBA 2K22 that cements it once again as the best hoops game around.
Welcome to The City
One of the bigger updates in NBA 2K22 happens in MyCAREER, where The City is much bigger, packed with more activities, and now features an RPG-like quest system that lets players do more than just hoop. While the previous generation (PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC) will enjoy a new “neighborhood” in the Cancha del Mar Cruise Ship, PS5 and Xbox Series players get to live it up in The City.
MyCAREER puts players in the shoes of MP (literally My Player), an internet streetball sensation who takes his game to the next level by either going to college, joining the G-League, or straight to the NBA. Players looking for a more contained and dramatic storyline like in previous years may be disappointed, but MP’s journey is serviceable, offering players a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes in the life of a superstar.
I chose the more traditional college route and over the course of my games, the one thing that stood out the most to me was that the AI was MUCH better defensively, punishing careless possessions even at the easiest setting. As a power forward who thrives as a post-up threat, I’ve been blocked and stolen from more times than I can count.
I tried playing at the most difficult setting as a point of comparison and well, I guess you know how that turned out (not good).
This improvement in defense leaves players thinking of ways to get more creative with playmaking and shot selection, but there are some games that feel too unfair, making it seem like you’re always cheated out of a win. In particular, this guy named Tayshaun (?) Knox feels like Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and Lebron James all rolled into one. He guy can literally do everything.
The structure of MyCAREER in NBA 2K22 is basically the same as before – Play games, upgrade your player, get drafted. The difference in NBA 2K22 is that you’re left to control MP in between official games and get to roam around The City and take part in various activities that will earn you a variety of rewards that make it feel like some MMORPG.
The City is full of blatant advertisement pieces from Adidas, Mountain Dew, and even State Farm but that does little to take away from the sense of how much there is to do. The City in NBA 2K22 is huge, sprawling even, and between the 4 areas that offer ballers a place to hang out with their crew, there’s a very healthy offering of Daily, Weekly, and Seasonal quests that makes it feel like a step in the right direction.
One could argue that it is all bloat, and while it is true in some sense, NBA 2K22 makes it so that you’re not forced to do any of these side activities at all, but taking on them can serve up some nice rewards should you choose to participate.
Faster, Smarter, Tougher
Apart from the bump in defense which permeates through all modes, fatigue also plays a huge role in NBA 2K22, affecting the shot meter when your player gets too tired, taking a more realistic approach. Strategy now plays a role during games, forcing you to rethink using the R2 button too much to sprint or even playing more disruptive defense with L2. There’s always an option to turn it off, but leaving it on definitely makes the W feel more satisfying.
NBA 2K22 also feels more skill-based, rewarding players who are patient and can execute plays instead of cheap tricks. The game is played for the full duration of the quarter and the shot clock, where losing focus for a moment can easily result in an open 3 or a lob from the opponent. Timings are tighter and passing lanes feel more narrow, especially down in the paint where an awkward line can lead to a turnover. Posting down a defender requires some level of thought as well, requiring players to spin towards a more uncontested space unless you want to get stripped repeatedly as you rise up for your shot.
It may not look like much, but the overall appearance of the players in NBA 2K22 has also marginally improved, adding more animations that just improves on the already realistic movements of your favorite superstars. The same cannot be said during timeouts and in-between quarters where the players suddenly turn into lifeless robots, but the on-the-court gameplay difference between the two is certainly day and night.
Adding to the authenticity in NBA 2K22 is the addition of the PA announcers for every team, so you can hear Lawrence Tanter, Matt Pitman, and even the legendary Tommy Edwards during your games. The next logical step here would be the addition of the team commentators next, so that would definitely be something to look forward to.
Other than that, the same modes you’ve come to expect from an NBA 2K release are still present. MyTEAM, MyLEAGUE, the WNBA… You name it, they’re back and ready to be enjoyed, even if the microtransactions are still as in-your-face as ever.
2K has delivered tweaks to NBA 2K22 where it counts, ensuring that gameplay is still king. Performance on the PS5 is rock solid but there are concerning load times especially when loading in and out of The City during MyCAREER. They aren’t bad per se, but considering we’ve seen insanely impressive load times from other current-gen optimized titles, this feels like something that can still be improved.
What we liked:
- Emphasis on defense turned up a notch.
- The City’s RPG mechanics is a great evolution of MyCAREER.
- Pace is faster but forces the players to be more creative and smart with every possession.
- Small but relevant tweaks to further improve gameplay.
What we didn’t like:
- MyCAREER AI is way too unfair/random that it almost feels like you’re being cheated out of a win.
- Loading times are lengthy despite being optimized for next-gen.
- The City might be too big, taking time to get from one place to the other.
Verdict: Buy it.
NBA 2K22 is not just a roster upgrade. Overall gameplay upgrades make it a blast to play, offering some of the best action compared to recent years. 2K has certainly listened to the community, making meaningful changes that try to accurately reflect the state of the game as we can see it.
Everything you’ve come to expect from an annual 2K release is here – MyCAREER, MyTEAM, and much more. There’s only so much you can do to tweak these modes but the general gameplay changes like improved defense and a new fatigue system really make an immediate impact.
Some players try to put an unfair burden on the series, expecting a huge overhaul year in and year out, but the old saying of “why fix what isn’t broken” rings true with NBA 2K22. Despite some marginal improvements here and there, what matters is gameplay and 2K have done a great job at it this year.
*NBA 2K22 was reviewed on a PlayStation 5 via a review code provided by the publishers.