NBA 2K22 Review

Richard Walker

If Netflix's The Last Dance documentary, charting the Chicago Bulls' glory days during the mid '90s to early 2000s was a welcome reminder of one thing, it's that basketball can be a sport of dizzying highs. At that time, I can vividly recall following every game, and it's that very era in NBA history that's kept me engaged with both the sport itself and the NBA 2K series, which continues to provide a reliably robust game of basketball, year in, year out. This time around, the MyCareer mode is the most expansive and all-encompassing to date, the PlayStation 5 version introducing a large urban environment, known as 'The City', to explore.


Take it to the hoop!

With each annual instalment of NBA 2K, developer Visual Concepts takes a stab at delivering a comprehensive MyCareer, and this year the remit is no different – the crux of the game is built around the career mode experience, and the latest foray into pursuing a path to the NBA as your created MyPlayer is the most involving career mode the developer has conjured in some time. It's not necessarily the best, however, a drive to add more of everything resulting in an experience that's far less focused, frequently frustrating, and unsurprisingly centred upon extracting cash from you in exchange for the ever-present Virtual Currency (VC). Another year, and the same old fundamental problems persist.

In MyCareer, you're cast in the role of 'MP', a YouTube sensation with grand ambitions to play in the NBA. His unconventional route to the big leagues is not without its obstacles, of course, but, with your manager and closest friend Ricky helping MP to get drafted, a career in the NBA is all but assured. You just have several hoops to jump through first; choosing between playing college ball or paying your dues in the G-League, your performance determines your stock value for the NBA Draft. Completing quests will earn you MVP Points and VC, as well as helping raise your stock ahead of the draft, and there are a plethora of quests to be found across The City, which you can traverse by skateboard, bike, inline skates, or go-kart.

No amount of questing, spread across NBA 2K22's sprawling city, can compensate for a boring, predictable story, and it seems that neither 2K nor Visual Concepts has any intention of ever doing away with VC, which, once again, ruins almost every facet of the game's MyCareer and MyTeam modes. The basketball fundamentals remain exemplary, which hasn't really been in question since NBA 2K20, but the way in which its core MyCareer and trading card-based MyTeam modes are presented remains a sticking point. Servers are still janky, running around The City comes with a side order of frame rate choppiness, and moving between interior and exterior areas is occasionally punctuated by a long loading screen – it's not the smoothest experience.


On the hardwood itself, however, NBA 2K22 is firing on all cylinders, as it reliably does each year. Defensive play has been given some due attention, making for a slower and more physical game that, in turn, feels more rewarding. Spamming the steal button (as I am prone to do) results in punishing reach-in calls, while positioning is vital in preventing the opposition driving into the paint or sinking baskets from the arc. The game’s stamina system has also undergone an overhaul, putting the kibosh on keeping R2 held down to sprint, or using the shot stick to constantly execute dribbling manoeuvres - both result in heavy stamina loss, opening the door to the opposition, who can slow down and control the game.

Conversely, playing on offence demands slow, tactical build-up, testing weak spots by passing the ball proving more rewarding. Penetrating an opponent’s defence is still challenging, but a smart pick-and-roll can reveal an opening. NBA 2K22’s shooting mechanics are largely the same as previous recent iterations, the shot-stick complemented by the shot meter, which, as ever, we’d recommend turning off so you can get a feel for shooting, rather than watching a gauge the entire time. Alley oops, meanwhile, now come with a new QTE, which isn’t particularly welcome, despite its intended use being to rule out speculative alley oop attempts. Not only do you now have to spot a teammate making a run for the hoop, but an alley oop brings with it yet more visual clutter and an annoying timed button press. It doesn’t quite work.

Dribble moves have been altered, too. Slower than before, they feel a lot less like a cheap way of scoring easy buckets, which is a good thing. Indeed, the majority of tweaks and changes Visual Concepts has brought to the table for NBA 2K22 are for the better, but there’s still more than ample room for improvement. Graphically, this year’s game also seems iterative, improving little upon NBA 2K21’s next-gen debut, players still cursed with somewhat ‘haunted’ eyes. Overall, the presentation remains utterly exemplary, however, the series still among the most authentic in terms of its detailed TV broadcast style and commentary.


There are plenty of place to ball in The City.

As far as teams go, every NBA squad and WNBA team is accounted for, but no new classic teams have been added. A couple of quiet additions have been made to existing classic rosters, like Tremaine Fowlkes joining the notorious 2003-04 Detroit Pistons, albeit still without Tayshaun Prince among the line-up. Suffice it to say that Prince doesn’t show up for the 2012-13 Memphis Grizzles either. It’s always great to have a range of classic teams in NBA 2K, but when they’re missing major players like Prince, it simply feels incomplete. We live in hope that NBA 2K23 will see more classic teams making the cut; better still, with no key players absent from the roster.

Another strong showing on the court, then, NBA 2K22 is nonetheless hampered by the same old issues with its MyCareer and MyTeam modes, which continue to rely on horribly obtrusive microtransactions. Few games push in-game currency quite so egregiously, and, worst of all, we don’t see it changing anytime soon. Whether to recommend NBA 2K22 is difficult - NBA 2K21 provided a predictably brilliant game of basketball, and this year’s title is largely iterative. There are few sweeping changes, and despite MyCareer being expanded considerably, your enjoyment wrought from it will likely hinge upon how deep your pockets are. And that’s not cool.

[Version tested: Xbox Series X]

NBA 2K22

As solid as it’s ever been on the court, NBA 2K22 is still an astonishingly good sports game, but its continued reliance on cynical microtransactions in MyCareer and MyTeam leave a sour taste.

Form widget
70%
Audio
80%

Hip-hop tunes that fit the bill, and commentary that still ranks as the best in the business. Great stuff.

Visuals
85%

Excellent, as always, but really only the most subtle of iterations over last year’s game. Sweaty player models look realistic, but again, there’s something about their eyes.

Playability
80%

Some meaningful tweaks to dribbling and the stamina system make for a more considered, tactical game of basketball.

Delivery
60%

A fully-featured and comprehensive package, MyCareer's massive 'The City' is ripe with quests and other opportunities. Sadly, the presence of Virtual Currency to improve your player mars the experience.

Trophies
70%

The majority of the list is devoted to MyCareer and MyTeam milestones, while the remainder revolvers around 'The W' WNBA games and performing well on the hardwood. A perfectly decent trophy list.

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