NBA 2K is always one of the best selling video games every year and last year saw the release of the game earlier in the fall for the PS4/Xbox One generation before later releasing as NBA 2K21 Next Generation on PS5 and Xbox Series X. The last-gen version wasn’t all that well received, but the next-gen version was a much improved version. With most console generation transitions, sports games on the last-gen consoles are just lesser versions of the next-gen experience, but developer Visual Concepts has decided to do something very uncommon by making both the next-gen and last-gen versions of NBA 2K22 two separate experiences.
During a recent preview event, Erick Boenisch, Executive Producer at Visual Concepts, explained that the development team made a point to give 110% to both next-gen and last-gen versions. While obviously there are features that are exclusive to next-gen that wouldn’t be possible on last-gen, they really worked to make NBA 2K22 on last-gen a worthwhile experience for those that have not been able to get a PS5 or Xbox Series X/S yet. They managed to do this by making both feel like their own standalone games, while still sharing some features.
Obviously the core gameplay and many of the modes will be the same between the two games, as it is still an NBA 2K game. This also includes brand new gameplay improvements related to control of the ball and how to counter moves on the defensive end. However, next-gen will have many more features available to it than the last-gen version. While next-gen will have more features though, last-gen is still going to be a full fledged game that doesn’t feel like a limited experience and that starts with the Neighborhood.
A big part of this is with this year’s iteration of the Neighborhood, which is different than it has ever been before. While the next-gen versions get a new version of The City, the last-gen version doesn’t just get a pared down version of that, but rather something completely different. The Neighborhood now takes to the high seas by being located on a large cruise ship where you can hoop in “nautical luxury,” which also ties into the new implementation of Seasons. As the Seasons change, there will be occasions where you can take place in events off of the board in exotic locales, which is going to be interesting to check out. They specifically listed locations like Egypt and Iceland, but they will be dependent on the various Seasons. Having the events like this will help to keep the experience fresh compared to the larger City found on next-gen.
The City on next-gen platforms is going to be an entirely different experience from the Neighborhood, giving some players a reason to check out both if they are really interested. They aren’t just taking the City from last year and calling it a day either, as it has received some major upgrades. Boenisch mentioned how the City in NBA 2K22 has buildings that felt bare and the people just felt basic, but this year has taken a big step forward in visualizing the concept they had originally. This has led to a complete re-envisioning of the City as we know it, including allowing you to do plenty of non-basketball stuff, such as become a fashion designer or music mogul. There are also some quality of life improvements found in the City as well in NBA 2K22 on next-gen platforms, including the inclusion of matchmaking. Now you can do three players vs. three players online and match-up with them quickly. The goal here was to solve the problem of those that just wanted to game now rather than wait for matches.
Another major aspect of NBA 2K22 between last-gen and next-gen is the integration or lack of integration between MyCAREER and the City or Neighborhood. As you can read more in detail about in our other preview, MyCAREER and the City will be brought together for the first time in NBA 2K22 on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S. For the last-gen version though, MyCAREER and the Neighborhood will remain completely separate. Depending on how well the integration works on next-gen will sort of decide whether this is a good or bad thing in the end, so it’s hard to say at this point.
While there is no integration between these modes, both versions of the game will feature the more involved than ever Seasons. Seasons were implemented in NBA 2K21 as sort of a live service strategy for the game, but was limited in the modes it was available in. This time around though, Seasons will be available in MyTEAM, MyCAREER, The W on next-gen, and either the City or the Neighborhood depending on which version you have. This is a case where they could have easily dropped Seasons in last-gen in lieu of the next-gen version, but they decided to truly give the 110% that Boenisch stated before.
Beyond some of the aforementioned, there are other features that are next-gen exclusives like The W and other game mechanics that won’t be found in last-gen. Even so, the focus on the Neighborhood for last-gen console owners is a good sign for those that haven’t been able to upgrade to the new consoles yet, when it could have just been treated as an afterthought like we often see with sports games.
NBA 2K22 will release for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC on September 10.