With the NBA season set to tip-off in a little under a month fans of basketball have been eager to see what the latest entry in the long running NBA 2K series has to offer. Coming off of a release that saw a number of changes to a few aspects of the game, NBA 2K22 has refined many of these aspects even further while also implementing a number of new on the court mechanics to bring a certain authenticity to the game. That being said, with these on the court changes and a number of other additions off the court, are these modifications for better or worse?
Over the past few games the NBA 2K games have tried to tell a more structured storyline and this time around Visual Concepts have decided to go the opposite route. This time around players will take their own character, named however they want, and call them “MP” (likely short for MyPlayer) who is a popular YouTube star known for their basketball skills. The only problem is, MP may be making a name for himself against randoms online, he hasn’t attempted trying out for the NBA draft, going to college, or even playing in the NBA’s minor league, the G League.
With your roommate as an initial manager players will step foot into The City as their own character and find countless NPCs to talk to, some of which have quests or challenges to take on, and start building their path to being a superstar, be it by building their brand off the court or taking to the court and proving their skills for real. This change to storytelling actually works rather well as player choices do feel rather interesting as they build their character’s career as they wish and the storyline itself actually is rather lengthy in nature, going far beyond that of previous entries.
In many ways, NBA 2K22‘s on the court gameplay has remained perhaps the best that a basketball fan could ask for and things have gotten even better this time around. Last year Visual Concepts introduced a shot meter that was a bit rough around the edges and this time the company has taken the time to polish things up. Now not only does the shot meter take into account a player’s various stats but it will also factor in how open or well-defended a shot may be as well as the tiredness of the player. This means that players can easily sink a three pointer in the open and then struggle with a contested jump shot depending on what is happening around them. This aspect not only feels more authentic but also rewards players for playing as part of a team rather than trying to rush the basket, especially since a more fatigued player can have a smaller shot meter as well. That being said, the title does reward the player with a nice highlight whenever they manage to sink a perfect shot which is a great touch.
This level of player control is extended to almost every aspect of the game as player’s offensive dribbling options are fluider with the option to string together offensive moves being far easier than before though be careful, as the stamina meter will play a role. Along those same lines defensive options have also been expanded upon with players having more control of perimeter defense and being able to properly shut down an offensive play along with a number of new types of shot blocks and other aspects, including enhanced stealing mechanics. This level of control also appears to have made a major improvement regarding the game’s AI as team AI on both offense and defense can now be properly trusted at times. By coupling the aforementioned stamina system with the fact that teammates now can properly move and defend as a unit as well as try and become open more on offense makes this team game all the more natural and perhaps the most enjoyable the franchise has been in some time, and considering the general quality of the on the court mechanics, that is quite a compliment.
One of the biggest aspects of NBA 2K22 is “The City” that serves as both sandbox and hub of most of the game’s online interactions. The city allows players to take their very own character and grow them from the ground up in an effort to become an NBA legend with MyCareer. Here players will talk to various NPCs that will progress their story with certain tasks, access various shops that they can further customize their characters at, ranging from barbershops to brand name clothing stores. It is also worth noting that while a certain level of in-game advertisement makes sense for a sports game such as this, there comes a point where it crosses the line and NBA 2K22 has left that line in the dust. There are various courts to take on other players in online competition through either pick-up games in the Park, which have been dialed back a bit, or even strange races. Navigating through the city is unfortunately a bit of a chore despite the fact that players are given a skateboard to move around a bit faster and can eventually unlock additional modes of transport but none of which help alleviate the navigation issues.
Monetization in 2K22 is worse than ever and nowhere does this rear its head than in online matches. While it is entirely possible to grind out VC (Virtual Currency) and upgrade your player over time, it is disheartening to immediately run into nearly maxed out players who have paid to win while the player’s character is low rated because after a certain point, no matter how good you are, these points matter. With everything in the game costing VC in some regard and the title often prompting players with various deals, it quickly becomes far more annoying than last year’s entry, even with the MyTeam mode being given a slightly easier monetization touch this time around.
As usual MyTeam will still consist of players being able to create their very own team using various card packs containing players and more. While players can open up their wallets to buy card packs NBA 2K22 rewards players with a large amount of free packs as well as opportunities to unlock additional packs without too much extra hassle, though be wary of trying to take your team online as the aforementioned lack of balance will still play a role here with.
Then of course players will still have the robust MyNBA franchise mode offering a massive amount of content for players to dig into as they take over a team or set of teams and manage them however they wish. This mode is largely the same as before, featuring such a breadth of single player content that it is easy to lose yourself in the mode. It is also worth noting that there is also now a WNBA counterpart as well as a number of women’s basketball teams to play as, though these aspects of the game are still kept rather simple compared to their fully fleshed out counterparts which is rather disappointing considering how far the WNBA has come as a league.
Now, it is worth noting that throughout my time playing NBA 2K22 the title has suffered from many bugs that have ranged from halting progress in the MyCareer mode to crashing the entire Xbox Series X in the middle of gameplay. While the title is being patched and recently was, bugs do continue to persist including the title crashing to the Home screen during online play as well. While this should be taken with a grain of salt as patches are being worked on and applied readily, players should be wary of a buggy/game crashing experience.
Visuals & Audio
Once more NBA 2K22 continues to impress by presenting both gorgeous play animations as well as excellent recreations of player likenesses. There are a number of new animations in the game on both the offensive and defensive side of things and almost every aspect of the court is designed to look as authentic as possible, and even The City is designed well enough despite the advertisement overload. That being said, there is one design aspect that is a bit of a problem in 2K22 and that happens to be the streamlined menus that may look better initially but now require digging through to access most options.
Players will also find that the company has managed to secure a very solid soundtdrack to accompany NBA 2K22 and have even given players an option to listen to music while traveling through The City, making the inclusion all the better. As for the voice acting, most of the performances are handled well enough though players shouldn’t expect anything too exceptional when it comes to the in-game commentary.
NBA 2K22 continues the series’ ever growing improvements to the on-court gameplay with new tweaks making the shot meter better than ever and a number of other additions that create a far more fluid and team-based game than we have seen in years. Unfortunately both technical problems and the absolute mess of microtransactions that players will find around every corner continue to drag down a game that offers so much great basketball beneath these annoyances.
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