With the real-life NBA season just around the corner, 2K sports has delivered the latest installation of its basketball simulation franchise with NBA 2K22. In addition to standard basketball gameplay, NBA 2K22 sees the return of franchise staples such as MyCareer, MyTeam, and MyNBA. It’s more or less what fans have come to expect from the series, with some interesting ideas that are pretty hit or miss.
The next generation of ballers
NBA 2K22 is the second title in the series to launch for the Xbox Series X and PS5 consoles. The game on the current-generation consoles is quite different from what’s on the PS4 and Xbox One. Features like The City, as well as a slew of different player animations and AI behaviors are only available on the newer systems. Unfortunately, the PC version of the game is once again the last-gen version, meaning computer players will yet again miss out on all of the new bells and whistles, despite having capable hardware.
I played the game on an Xbox Series X and found it to perform very well. The 120 FPS is buttery smooth, and load times are still impressively brief in most instances. There’s a lot of quality-of-life perks that come with experiencing the current-gen version of the game.
As a simulator, the NBA 2K games have long been the best basketball gameplay you’re going to get. That remains true in NBA 2K22, and the developers have made more changes in order to improve the experience. Enhanced defensive AI means that players are better with their defensive positioning, and are harder to blow by. If you’re using a ball-handler like Stephen Curry or Chris Paul, it’s easy to create shots or get past a defensive matchup. That said, trying to play from outside the paint with a player that doesn’t have elite dribbling skills felt like going against a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
Pulling off dribble moves and chaining together animations still feels satisfying, and there’s still an array of different shot types, layups, and dunks. NBA 2K22 once again changes the shot meter, and I can’t say I was a fan of its new curved vertical design. It’s starting to feel like something that changes every year just for the sake of being new, rather than an actual improvement to the shooting process.
MyCareer is one of the marquee game modes in the NBA 2K series, and makes its return in the new installment. Players once again create their own NBA star, and are given the option to fully customize their appearance, attributes, and play style.
When creating your character, the game allots you a limited number of points to distribute among your stats, such as 3-point shooting, ball handling, rebounding, etc. The points allotted will determine the maximum attribute that a player can achieve in that category. For example, I made a point guard, and spent a large chunk of points setting my max pass accuracy stat to 92. My pass accuracy rating started in the 60s, but had a high ceiling.
The distribution of these stats will also determine what badges players can unlock. Badges are separate abilities that give players boosts in certain aspects of gameplay. The Ankle Breaker badge makes it easier to break down defenders, while the Lob City Finisher badge increases a player’s ability to catch and finish alley-oops. There are a ton of badges in NBA 2K22, and a lot of strategy goes into deciding which ones you want to prioritize and pursue. There’s also some new badges, such as Limitless Takeoff, which extends the range in which a player can begin their jump for a layup or dunk, as well as Chef, which gives a boost to 3-point shots taken off the dribble. The new badges in 2K22 are a welcome addition to what is a very thorough character customization process.
NBA 2K22 adds Badge Loadouts, where players can create presets of badges and swap between them as they please. It’s a feature that saves an endless amount of time and one that I was relieved to see when upgrading my player. With Pro-Am, The Rec, and Park games all playing quite differently from the NBA, most players will want to approach each one with different sets of badges. Badge Loadouts made it easy to do that on the fly.
After you finish creating your player and jump into the basketball action, it’s a grind to earn VC (virtual currency) and raise your attributes. Once again, VC is hard to come by, and you need to be ready to put in some serious hours if you want your player to have a rating like Kevin Durant or Luka Doncic. Or, you could just crack open your wallet and plunk down cash for what is still one of the worst implementations of microtransactions in AAA gaming. The version of the game I received for review was the 75th Anniversary Edition, which granted me 100,000 VC to start. Putting all of that currency towards my MyPlayer attributes put me at a modest 78 overall. Keep in mind that VC is also used to purchase clothing, animations, as well as content in MyTeam mode.
An open world NBARPG
NBA 2K22 leans heavily into the direction the series was already headed and makes MyCareer a full-on RPG. There are now quests, which will reward players with VC, as well as cosmetic items and other boosts. Quests can be earning your spot in the starting lineup, or easing tensions with a reporter that’s not happy with you. It’s a lot to keep track of, and I found the presentation to be unnecessarily complicated.
Most quests require players to do something in The City, which is the massive online space first introduced in 2K21, building off of The Neighborhood from older titles. In addition to park courts, The City features shops, offices, minigames, and several other attention-grabbers. The City is massive, and it can often take several minutes to get from one location to the other. This made advancing quests a major chore, especially after sinking a considerable amount of time into the game. I often put off quests for several games, because I just didn’t feel like hopping on a skateboard and riding for five minutes across The City to my agent’s office at half the frames-per-second as standard gameplay.
It also doesn’t help that The City is incredibly laggy, thanks to another year of rough servers. There were plenty of skips and drops when making my way around town, making an already boring experience even worse. When trying to load into a Rec game with some friends, we spent around 15-20 minutes trying to get everybody in the same park, in the same squad, as it often wouldn't work. We audibly cheered after successfully getting all five of us into a match together.
The RPG elements, the continued emphasis on The City, it all just feels like 2K trying to do way too much. Making me physically run around a laggy virtual hub to do the same things that used to just be menus in older 2K titles doesn’t feel like immersion, just chores and extra fluff. Even if some of the gimmicks are neat on day one, they grow tired incredibly fast.
Representing the modern era
NBA 2K22 tries to capture the essence of what a basketball star is like in the year 2021. With players like Damian Lillard doubling as a rapper, or LeBron James owning a film production studio, the star-power of the NBA’s biggest names extends far beyond their work on the court. In 2K22, players can make music, create fashion brands, and more. This is done through increasing your “Personal Brand.”
The Personal Brand chart features every aspect of the player’s career, including music, fashion, corporate, fundamentals, and a few others. These attributes go up and down depending on player behavior, such as responses given in interviews, and quests completed. Endorsements and other aspects of the career are locked off until players meet certain personal brand prerequisites. For example, in order to get an Adidas sponsorship, I needed to reach Flashy level 4, Fashion level 6, and have 2,300,000 fans. While it’s a cool idea to put players in the shoes of a modern NBA star, it falls flat for a couple of reasons.
One, you’re forced to do it if you want to unlock some of the cool content in MyCareer. I really wanted to make a custom shoe, but found it lame that I had to run around The City doing mundane tasks in order to do so. Second, a lot of the gameplay tied into Personal Branding is simply not fun. Walking on the runway, making music in a studio, it’s all quite boring. Every time I did it, I was just thinking about how I’d rather be playing basketball.
I’m sure a lot of players will get a kick out of the extra stuff in 2K22’s MyCareer, but I wish it was more optional, and that there was a way to make meaningful progression for the players that couldn’t care less.
MyTeam is another staple of the 2K games, and is where players assemble their dream roster of players from both the past and present. Players begin with a mediocre squad, unlocking new cards through challenges and packs, which are the loot box equivalent in MyTeam. Although there are certainly concerns with the randomized loot box aspect of microtransactions, MyTeams’ Domination mode offers a way to unlock some decent players that doesn’t feel like too heavy of a grind.
Whether it’s collecting cards for sets or attempting to get three stars on challenges, there’s a lot to keep players busy in MyTeam. You could get practically the full experience without ever going online and facing other players. It’s enough to appeal to both casual players and the most hardcore out there.
As players progress their MyTeam, they’ll be able to customize team branding, using their own logo and creating their own jerseys and court. It’s fun to go online and see the teams that other players come up with. That said, sometimes the matchmaking can feel a bit off, as I often went against players with incredibly stacked squads. If you’re hooked in by this style of mode in sports games, then MyTeam will probably tickle your fantasy.
The NBA your way
MyNBA is the series’ NBA league simulation mode, and makes a welcomed return in 2K22. In MyNBA, players can create leagues, fine-tuning just about every single aspect of the experience to their liking. You can do a fantasy draft, use custom rosters, add expansion teams, play with CBA rules, and so much more. You can even create an online league and compete against friends as you all work to build the best franchise.
NBA 2K22 adds more depth to the front office aspect of MyNBA, doubling the staff badges and adding more attributes as well. During the offseason, players will need to fill roles, such as Head Coach, Defensive Coordinator, Head Scout, Team Doctor, and so much more. The people that you hire in these roles will directly impact player performance in dynamic ways, adding more immersion to what is already a mode with endless options.
There’s so much to mess with and manage in MyNBA, that I didn’t find myself actually playing games very often. Instead, I found it much more challenging to do everything I could to build the best team off the court, simulate large chunks of time, and observe their performance. I created an expansion team in Baltimore, my home state. After picking up young names like James Wiseman and Jalen Suggs, I spent years assembling the best staff, working on contracts, and putting together the best roster of players. It wasn’t until my 12th season that my team won a championship, and it was the most exciting moment of all my time with NBA 2K22. MyNBA is without a doubt the best mode in the game from top to bottom.
At the buzzer
As a big basketball fan and avid player of sports games, it’s hard not to have a love and hate relationship with the NBA 2K series, and NBA 2K22 is no exception. The basketball gameplay itself is as good as it’s ever been, and it genuinely feels satisfying to move the ball around, shoot, and play defense. However, modes like MyCareer are heavily bogged down by useless baggage, and a strong emphasis on microtransactions. Spotty servers mean that even the best parts of the game are often hard to enjoy. MyNBA is the only aspect of NBA 2K22 that provided a thoroughly enjoyable experience with practically nothing to complain about. NBA 2K22 gets in its own way, but there’s some genuinely great things there if you’re willing to endure it.
This review is based on a digital Xbox Series X code provided by the publisher. NBA 2K22 is available now on Xbox One, PS4, and PC for $59.99 USD. NBA 2K22 is also out on the Xbox Series X and PS5 for $69.99 USD.
- Gameplay is still high-level and satisfying
- MyNBA is the best league simulation mode yet
- MyCareer's RPG elements fall flat
- The City is too big and too boring
- Microtransactions remain intrusive
- Server stability issues
Donovan Erskine posted a new article, NBA 2K22 review: Benching talent