Last year Visual Concepts and 2K took a euro-step in the right direction with NBA 2K’s first entry in the world of next-gen gaming. Can they keep the momentum going with NBA 2K22?
The answer to that question is yes and no. Allow us to explain.
It’s a new year, and before the real NBA returns, we get to hoop virtually via NBA 2K22. Our review of NBA 2K21 said the game LOOKED and FELT terrific to play, but it still wasn’t a slam dunk, yet still an enjoyable experience despite its flaws. NBA 2K22 takes what was good with the previous iteration of the annual sports video game franchise and improves on that slightly.
Quickly, players will notice that the presentation (always on point) is still second to none, and the gameplay has improved significantly. Visual Concepts improved the on-court play, and it feels more smooth and dynamic than ever before. Last year we complained about how easy it was to abuse the AI with the pick and roll. This year thanks to a vast improvement in defensive play, that is no longer an issue.
In NBA 2K22, defending is tighter. If a player you are using is a lockdown defender, you will feel that this improvement rewards them by giving them an edge. So close-outs are more precise, and big men who are outright rim protectors will be swatting your shots left and right. There is still that slight issue of a chance of overplaying on defense if you press slightly too hard on the left thumbstick, allowing your defender a lane to the basket, which frustratingly, your teammates sometimes don’t pick up. Dribbling has also been vastly improved and feels even better than before. Transitioning between dribbling moves is seamless and feels very realistic.
Once again, Visual Concepts felt the need to change the shot meter, but thankfully this time, it’s an improvement and not a gross overstep on the developer’s end. The shot meter now adjusts depending on how good the player’s shooting skills are and their situation when taking the shot. The small yellow area in the meter will either increase or decrease when certain factors are introduced, like stamina, skill, and coverage while shooting. For example, Steph Curry, who has a limitless range in this game and has the highest rating for his jump shot, doesn’t change much when shot from a different area code.
Wide-open shots are also highly rewarded, and you will see a lot of green, especially if your player is a sniper from behind the three-point line. The game allows you to rub it in your opponent’s face with new cut scenes and animations like your player turning to face the opponent’s bench right after he or she lets a corner three fly.
A head-scratching addition was an aggressive dunk meter for dunks and alley-oops. We have no idea why Visual Concepts thought this was a good idea. Basically, if you want to make life harder on yourself while playing NBA 2K22, use the dunk meter instead of just pressing the square button. It functions just like the shot meter. You’re given more leeway depending on who’s dunking the ball. For example, an exceptional dunker like Zion Williamson has a larger area where you need to stop the meter to perform a successful dunk. Again, we opted to use the square button because no one wants to blow a wide-open dunk on a fast break because the timing was off on the meter. But, we can see how some might find using the dunk meter rewarding.
Another win is the overall presentation. It’s an area where 2K always shines when it comes to its basketball video game franchise. With this being 2K’s first general launch on next-gen consoles, Visual Concepts ensured no letdown in the graphics and NBA experience department. Player animations look better than ever. Fine details like sweat, tattoos, and the actions players do are even more accurate. The play-by-play commentary is still superb, and now each stadium has its PA announcer making each game feel like you’re playing in that team’s arena.
Unfortunately, we can’t say the same with the ladies of the WNBA in this game 100% of the time. While some superstars like Candace Parker, one of the game’s featured cover athletes, in-game designs look on point.
Other players look like Visual Concepts put no effort into making them look like their real-life counterparts at all. Case in point Indiana Fever rookie PG Kysre Gondrezick and Las Vegas Aces all-star Liz Cambage in-game look nothing like their real-life counterparts on the court.
This is an issue that Visual Concepts could correct with an update, but it is disappointing to see, and we hope they put more effort into getting the ladies in the game looking like themselves. Gondrezick’s look in NBA 2K22 was highlighted on Twitter by @NBAMemes. The meme featured a photo of Gondrezick in a full beat for her team photo, but still, in-game, she is barely recognizable.
But, sticking with the WNBA, we are glad to see the WNBA is still an essential factor of the game and the player creation tool allowing the ladies to create themselves in the game, first introduced in NBA 2K21 next-gen is back and has seen some improvements as well.
Now, let’s focus on the game modes.
While the NBA and WNBA players are the most crucial factor in the game, NBA 2K has become a juggernaut in the video game world thanks mainly to MyPLAYER. In NBA 2K21, MyPLAYER took the NBA 2K community from The Neighborhood to The City. The introduction was a bit rough, mainly because your created player has to grind in Rookieville first to gain access to The City. In NBA 2K22, Visual Concepts heard our cries about that painful experience and got rid of that (thankfully).
The City, of course, features a story-driven narrative that will see your created player trying to find his way into The Association. You can choose to become a pro by either taking the collegiate route or going pro by going to the NBA G-League. This year we see Visual Concepts improved on the story, with some much better voice acting. Some of the choices they give you to make are a bit strange, and at times it feels like none of them make any sense, especially being you’re a rookie trying to make a name for yourself in the league. So, for example, one scenario allows you to take your playing time grievances to the front office, but what rookie fresh out of college or the G-League would do that?
Also, we see our MyPLAYER won’t just be a pro-hooper. You can either become a successful rapper or fashion icon, an interesting dynamic, but we didn’t feel it was necessary.
While The City and MyPLAYER have improved slightly, there are still some glaring issues. Outside of playing pickup games, The City gets boring quickly, and the side missions are not captivating. One task will have you taking a selfie with Jake From State Farm. No, we are not kidding.
The City is still essentially an experiment, and we expect it to get better with time. We won’t hold its emptiness on Visual Concepts because we are sure it will be much livelier as time rolls along. The W, the MyPLAYER career mode focused on the WNBA, is back with some new improvements, but it still feels like Visual Concepts didn’t give it much attention.
MyTeam got a bit of an upgrade thanks to the addition of online draft capability but still feels no different than any other previous versions of the game mode. Yes, microtransactions are back, so this mode does feel like a cash grab at times.
Like the other annual sports video game titles, NBA 2K22 continues to be plagued by a lack of improvements. However, unlike Madden NFL 22, the Visual Concepts team still manages to do enough to deliver a fresh product that will keep players engaged throughout the season because they are constantly updating the game.
Like last year, to get the best NBA 2K22 experience, you should be playing the game on either a PS5 or Xbox Series X because that’s where all the best features are. Sadly, many people have not been able to get a next-gen console due to scarce availability, so they are still playing last-generation versions of the game that are just not as good as next-gen versions. So if you’re reading this and have yet to purchase NBA 2K22 on PS4 or Xbox One, we highly suggest you hold off until your secure a PS5 or Xbox Series X unless you copped the Cross-Gen Digital Bundle or the 75th Anniversary Edition.
NBA 2K22 is another solid entry into the franchise that shows it promises to be what it once was, and with next-gen technology, that is possible. But, for this game, the NBA 2K franchise is still not at the championship form it used to be, but more like a first-round exit, at best.
*Our review was conducted on the PS5 version of NBA 2K22*
Photos: Visual Concepts / NBA 2K22