NBA 2K22 is a step in the right direction for the long-running basketball series. Thanks to some welcome refinements to the game’s MyCAREER and MyNBA modes, alongside more robust defensive AI and a sleek presentation to boot, 2K22 feels like it’s properly planted its feet and has room to evolve.
As has been the case for some time now, MyCAREER takes you through the early steps of pursuing a professional basketball career all the way through to winning it all in the NBA. The City returns in 2K22, becoming fully integrated into MyCAREER this time around. You’re now able to roam around the hub world, taking on quests and levelling up your character in whatever way you see fit. The quest-based system, almost like a sports RPG of sorts, is something that I particularly liked. It’s unashamedly grindy, as you’d expect, but it does feel like a nice change to the formula.
Exploring The City was relatively enjoyable, too. Bar the abhorrent (sub 30fps) framerate on Xbox Series X, there’s enough to do to keep yourself occupied within the neon-lit streets. Often, I just enjoyed being able to cruise around on my skateboard, taking some time to reflect on areas where my player could improve.
With that said, I have a particular distain for the voice acting and writing in MyCAREER. It’s cringe-worthy, to say the least, and often pulled me out of the immersion more times than I’d have liked. I get it’s supposed to be edgy – and I wasn’t surprised to see the litany of licensed shoe shops and clothing brands sprawled throughout The City – but I found it hard to properly connect with my player when all that came out of his mouth was slang straight out of the late 2010s.
As you make your way through MyCAREER you can choose to take some time to learn the ropes in college, compete in the G-League or throw your name in the hat to be pulled into the NBA draft. You can tackle any of these right off the bat, though it’s recommended to start with the former two if you want any chance of extended playing time and time to level up your stats.
You can use earned (or purchased) virtual currency (VC) to upgrade your character’s stats and progress their overall rating, which does take some time if you elect not to drop some real-world money. It is worthwhile committing, though, as the MyCAREER experience is fun for the most part. There’s a plethora of things to do and explore and aside from the awful voice acting I had a great time with it. It’s worth mentioning multiplayer matches in The City will wreak havoc on you if you don’t have a high overall rating, though, with players in the high 80s regularly being matched with players that are just kicking off their basketball career. It’s not a good sight to see.
MyTEAM includes a handful of improvements and new inclusions compared to last year. MyTEAM: Draft making its long-awaited debut, giving players a more casual mode to play around with. Much like my experience with 2K21, I didn’t really gel with MyTEAM at all this year, though. I like the ability to build a dream team to take on others around the globe, but the means to get there are surrounded by a litany of microtransactions. I wasn’t surprised to see this continue in 2K22, with the mode quite happy to shove new packs and card opportunities my way from the beginning. It’s not something I particularly enjoy, and while the new additions are great on paper I quickly moved on to other modes that weren’t so keen on taking my money.
MyNBA and MyWNBA both make their way to 2K22 this year, exclusively tied to current-gen systems. As someone who loves dabbling in the series’ Franchise Mode, I was pleasantly surprised to see how robust these modes were. There’s a lot on offer for management gurus who want to get into the nitty gritty of a basketball sim, and the improved MySTAFF hub gives full control to players wanting to make staffing choices. These range from basic department coaches all the way through to sports medicine staff, allowing you to fully invest if you want. As someone who just wants to play some basketball over a couple of seasons, I found it relatively easy to drop in and let most of those things be taken care of by the AI.
Unfortunately, The W, the WNBA-focused MyCAREER-like mode, suffers in 2K22 thanks to very little refinement or change. It’s a shame, given how much of a focus is placed on MyCAREER, that The W feels more like an afterthought than an accurate representation of the WNBA. Visual Concepts has some way to go before this becomes a fully-fledged, go-to mode for those wanting a break from the other modes on offer.
While the NBA 2K series has had its shortcomings of late, something that I very rarely fault the series on is its excellent gameplay. That, unsurprisingly, doesn’t change in 2K22. The game feels fantastic to play, leaning in on momentum and encouraging slow build up play and calculated shot selection this year.
If this is your first 2K outing, it’ll likely feel daunting. There’s a lot to learn in 2K22, and the multitude of tutorials on offer will be hugely helpful in getting the basics down. When you start getting an idea on how to execute successful fakes and work with the rhythm of the game, it’ll all start to feel like second nature. This year punishes sloppy passes and even on rookie difficulty you’ll struggle to fully bulldoze opponents if you aren’t familiar with how the game plays. That said, defensive improvements have been made across the board and when playing in player-focussed modes like The W and MyCAREER, you’ll come to appreciate (and hate) how much better the AI is on both sides of the court.
Presentation, as always, is fantastic in 2K22. I’ll always maintain the NBA 2K games blow other sports titles out of the water with the dynamism in commentary and general presentation. It’s on another level entirely.
NBA 2K22 comes together to form a solid basketball package and a marked step forward for a series that has tripped up of late. While I’m completely against the microtransactions seen in MyTEAM and found MyCAREER to be rather grindy, I can’t fault the gameplay and presentation of 2K22. The slight improvements in MyNBA and MyWNBA help salvage a package that is still the best basketball sim on the market. I just hope these improvements and refinements are the beginning of some big changes coming in future entries.
THE XBOX SERIES X VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS TESTED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THE REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
NBA 2K22 is a sound step forward for the series. While it doesn’t always hit the mark thanks to the grindy MyCAREER mode and microtransaction-heavy MyTEAM, the gameplay and presentation is still second to none.