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NBA 2K22 Review

Sophomore effort on next-gen is a mixed bag

NBA 2K22 is the same great basketball game it is year in and year out.  The problem is, I have to keep reassuring myself that this in fact is a great game.  It doesn’t work half of the time.  It feels disgustingly geared towards making you spend more than you want to via virtual currency.  To top it all off, it’s not like the year to year changes are earth-shattering.  But if you’re a fan of basketball, they sure have turned this franchise into something special.  While the NBA 2K team has been focused on making the game about microtransactions for the better part of decade, the game has made quantum leaps in terms of gameplay and presentation.  So the question that we really have to ask ourselves each year is are the yearly changes worth the headache.

For basketball fans it’s hard to say no.  The price of entry is a relatively small price to pay for a full year of basketball.  After all, noone’s got a gun to your head to purchase anything further than that. The problem is that 2K22 is such a phenomenal video game that they don’t need to force you, you kind of want to.  You kind of want to see what it would be like to play with a maxed out 99 player in the Rec, or have a lights-out squad in My Team.  The on-the-court action is so refined that you want to see it at it’s best. And speaking of best, let’s talk about competition.  2K has been sitting in a sweet spot with a video game hoops for over a decade with little competition for EA, who have long hung up their high-tops heads hung low.  So you’ve got a captive audience AND a great product.  It could be worse, it could be Madden.

At its very best, NBA 2K is a game that changes enough on the year to year release to warrant the purchase.  Some years are certainly better than others, but this year specifically feels like one where the gameplay has hit a high mark and it arrives at a time where everything else is riding high as well.  Well, almost everything.

Gameplay improved on both Offense and Defense

The gameplay of 2K22 has been improved on both sides of the ball.  Let’s first talk about defense.  Defense has been improved in ways that the community have been asking about.  Blocking shots feels more realistic than it ever has and that trickles into the around the rim physics where we’re talking about shot altering defensive plays as well.  Big men that like to patrol the lane can do so a little better than they have in previous years.  While previous years it felt like anyone with a good grasp on the offense controls could cook it up like James Harden, defense just feels better and more fun to play.  While the real NBA is moving away from being a defensive league, 2K22 is reviving the lost art.

On the offensive side of the ball, 2K has  journeyed into a place that closely mimics the rhythm and flow of real basketball.  Those with high basketball IQs are better at 2K than those without.  Players move realistically and the physics of momentum and body motion feel true to life in this game.

Another big gameplay complaint from previous iterations which feels a lot better this year is in the shooting.  While you’ll still need to take high quality shots at the right times, the shot meter just feels easier this year and more forgiving.  Not much has changed in the mechanics behind the meter.  You’re still looking to get it green for 100% chance of the shot going in and each player’s jump shot is completely different with animations and timing.  Dribble moves have expanded slightly as well.  There are tons of combinations to pull off and signature moves to experiment with.  Dribbling in NBA 2K22 is an art form, much like it is in the real game.

With these improvements I think it’s important to note that a lot of this stuff, especially the defensive improvements are things that the 2K community have been complaining about and have been addressed in the product.  If anything, it’s nice to know that the developers are listening to the fans who are plunking down the cash on this game year after year.

Visually NBA 2K22 might be the most realistic sports game on the market

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2K has long been a visual stunner, but it’s second year on the new consoles is proving to be the best we’ve ever seen from the franchise.  Incredibly realistic with an awesome attention to detail, NBA 2K22 looks amazing in just about every visual facet.  From the player models to the animations, the stadiums, the city, the menus, everything… has a beautiful coat of paint on it over last year.  There’s really not much to say on the visual front, if you squint your eyes in some of the camera angles for this game and you’ll think you’re watching the genuine article.

We’ve gotten to a point with this game that it doesn’t feel like there are huge improvements that can be made to the upside.  Just look at any screenshot for this game.  These are not “bull shots” they are the real deal.  Zoom in close enough with a camera angle, and they have nailed just about every single possible detail that you can on a player model from the shoes to the head everything is picture perfect.  Further more, everything surrounding the game is top notch as well.  The stadiums, crowds, and more fill out the experience.  This isn’t anything new when it comes to 2K these aren’t new additions rather continuations of the improvements from previous years. Hardly a sidenote, from a presentation standpoint, NBA 2K22 is also top of the class. The in-game announcers are great and the 2K Soundtrack is once again a banger that gets you ready to play.

There’s a lot that’s good about NBA 2K in terms of the visuals, presentation and gameplay.  You really can’t say enough about the experience as a whole… in these regards.

Still really focused on Microtransaction Modes

These on-the-court improvements are great and the game does feel amazing on the court this game is still very much focused around the all mighty virtual currency (VC).  The My Career and My Team modes are still very much front and center in the game.

The City, which is the new version of the Neighborhood is a brand-new experience that feels like it built from the ground up to make you want to spend.  Even with the 100k Virtual Currency that we got with our premium edition of the game it felt like we needed more.  From the very first day we were playing, we were facing players that were rated in the 90’s with their players.  The only way to do that on day one is to purchase this virtual currency and spend it on your character to improve their attributes.  That said, playing against those players on day one takes a little bit of air out of the ball.  However, as we moved away from the launch window we found that the player levels start to even out, as more players are able to grind to level players.

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The City’s My Career Mode is actually one of the best incarnations of this that we’ve seen.  It’s a full fledged quest-based basketball role playing game at this point where you’re not only focused on leveling your player but living the life of basketball star.  This includes the fashion, lifestyle, and on-the-court activities.  It’s a lot of fun, and there are so many different ways to have a career in this game.  You can take your talents to the NBA.  Or you can be a gambling street hooper.  It’s really up to you and that’s a really cool aspect of NBA 2K22.

The other major mode in the game is My Team.  This is the NBA 2K version of Ultimate Team and it’s card-based game that has you buying packs of cards to improve your team which you can play with in a variety of different modes.  My Team does feel pretty similar to previous years but it does have some additions worth mentioning.  Auction house has long been a part of the My Team experience but they’ve added a card grading system into the mix which will can take the collecting into a more granular area.  Cards can be graded much like you would real life trading cards and increase their values and add attributes to them.  It’s a cool feature though it doesn’t feel entirely necessary to expand on the experience.  However, the My Team Draft is a new mode that allows you to draft players and then put them up against other online players, like other My Team modes you can win prizes that can help you along in the mode.  You won’t get to keep all the player cards that you draft as it’s just for that mode within the My Team, but it’s a great way to get your hands on and practice with different players that you can’t get actual cards for.

Alongside these improvements to My Career and My Team 2K will now feature Seasons in these modes and the game is basically going to have a new season each month of the year.  From September 2021 through August 2022 there will be a new season.  Well actually they say it’s going to be about every six weeks that will allow you to earn new content.  There will be overall season awards to earn, you’ll be able to earn XP to level up and complete challenges.  These rewards will vary from things like new music and apparel items to card packs and players depending on the mode you’re leveling up in.

Hard Fouls – Connectivity Issues

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2K has always had launch issues and that’s why we tried to wait a little bit longer this time around to lay down our verdict for the game.  While it might be understandable when everyone crashes the servers at midnight on launch for connectivity problems to pop up, it’s been over a week and we’re still being hit with the message above.  It’s unfortunate because anything that is worth while in playing in 2K is tied to an online connection.  Regardless, it’s not just this error that you’ll encounter.  If you get into the online modes at all, you’re still likely to have connectivity issues and latency when playing the game, rendering it nearly unplayable. 22 years in, you’d think they’d have some of this stuff sorted out by now.  There’s not a worse feature to a game than not being able to play it because the game servers aren’t cooperating.

The legacy modes still aren’t getting much love

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What makes that matter even worse is what else there is to do if you are facing connection problems.  The legacy modes and offline offerings of the NBA 2K series are very much the benchwarmers in this product.  Not much seems to have been changed in these modes year over year(s).  It feels like most of the single player and simpler online offerings haven’t changed in quite some time.  This includes the Play Now and Play Now Online aspects of the game which allow you to simply play others online or off.  But this is where you’ll do things like play a single exhibition match without having the microtransactions involved in the equation or the need for an online connection.  The My NBA section is also still fairly robust with online or offline seasons which can be completely customized where you control all aspects of a team or team(s).  This includes having a multi-year dynasty with current, historic, or drafted teams.  Good on 2K as well for really rounding out their WNBA Offering in the Play Now section as well giving players the ability to build out a female baller… though you still can’t take them online.

Thank goodness some of this stuff hasn’t been culled completely.  Perhaps that’s a little harsh, but if feels more and more each year like this could be a possibility for the franchise in the future.  As every moment players aren’t spending time in the My Career or My Team modes that’s money that 2K is losing from potential customers.  The currency strings just aren’t attached in these modes so this goes both ways.  For those that spend a lot of time in My Team or My Career there is no reason to spend time in these other modes.  The time that you do spend is time that you’re wasting where you’re not bettering your My Team or player and on the treadmill of time-based currency earning schemes.

At the end of the day you have to take the good with the bad in 2K22, or any 2K game since 2011 for that matter.  The trend has been clear, the players have spoken.  They’re willing to pay for VC and because of that 2K is going to offer it and build their game around it.  But do you have to?  That’s a hard question and the answer is going to vary for each player.  No, you don’t HAVE to, but it sure makes the whole experience more tolerable.  2K walks the morality tightrope when it comes to microtransaction in 2K22.  They offer you a great product with some questionable tactics baked in.

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The Verdict

2K is about as bad as it gets when it comes to quality of life for players in its online modes that are clearly designed to syphon extra money beyond the price of admission.  However, they do make one hell of a basketball game that will allow you to tolerate these scheme-based game modes if you can actually get on to play them.

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NBA 2K22

  • Score: 4 / 5
  • Available On: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X
  • Published By: 2K Sports
  • Developed By: Visual Concepts
  • Genre: Sports
  • US Release Date: September 10th, 2021
  • Reviewed On: PlayStation 5
  • Quote: "2K Sports makes one hell of a basketball game and that'll let you tolerate these scheme-based game modes IF you can actually get on to play them."
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