NBA 2K22 is ramping up to be the crème de la crème of their long-running beloved basketball franchise that’ll even surprise the most-familiar of 2K fans. 2K Sports and developer Visual Concepts are finely-tuning an already-fantastic product, but also revising how everything works — from the shooting mechanics and dribbling to the career mode and defensive options. This could well be the pinfnacle of 2K’s b-ball efforts.
Developer Visual Concepts has made no illusions that there have been major code rewrites, new technical hurdles, and systems getting rebuilt in order to make 2K22 the best game possible.
“We had an ambitious feature list that we wanted to tackle this year: faster-paced gameplay, tighter and more responsive movement, more skill-based offence, and big changes to the player builder,’ explained the developer. Another key thing to note is that no matter which version you choose to go with this year, you’re going to get a brand new experience. But the one major focus for the team that was priority one, was defence.
A new line of defence
The new defensive system in NBA 2K22 gives gamers the tools to be able to really change the outcome of the game on the floor and at the rim. If you were a great perimeter defender who anticipated well, you’ll now have a greater ability to clamp up the dribbler and force a pass. As for the rim protectors, Visual Concepts wants you to feel like you have the ability to send away weak shot attempts at will.
Therefore, the shot contest and blocking systems have been completely rebuilt, leading to several new snatch blocks and volleyball spikes that were previously unavailable. This also paved the way to reward basketball IQ much more in the shooting systems. The shot contest rewrite removed the “ghost contests” that many complained about, and this year, being out of position or not getting a hand in the shooter’s face will lead to some easy buckets for the offense. On the other hand, properly crowding shooters with good contests will result in plenty of bricks and airballs, as they should.
For floor defenders, body-up rides and bumps feel much more rewarding as there has been an improved feel of on-ball defensive movement. Unwanted “bump steals” and snatchy body ups have been reduced in favour of giving both the ball handler and on-ball defender more freedom of movement and respected input. Shifts, launches, stops, and cuts all feel much tighter, and with even more new gen foot-planting improvements, you’ll see a lot less sliding on both ends of the floor.
Steals also received an upgrade with a greater emphasis placed on the steal attribute. Low-rated stealers get sluggish animations that punish them when they reach, while high-rated stealers (with good timing and opportunity) will be able to pick pockets at a much higher rate. Also be prepared to see more layup/dunk strips from high-rated stealers when slashers try to force their way to the rim in a crowd.
These defensive improvements have also been extended to your AI teammates on the court. New on-ball defensive positioning logic gives defenders more consistency in their positioning regardless of their distance from the basket. This enables a much less jittery defender who knows where they want to be in all phases of defensive positioning. This along with motion improvements tightens up general defensive positioning, which means gamers will feel more defensive pressure on-ball than was present in last year’s game.
There has also been a bump-up in increased defender logic, as the AI will react faster and will no longer send a defender to double-up on a standing offensive player nowhere near the basket when a user requests drive help in the defensive settings.
The AI will also be able to anticipate certain plays (like floppy or down-screen scenarios) take the proper route around screens or blocking players to put themselves in a better position. This helps with the overall flow and spacing on both sides of the ball. Lastly, there’s also a brand new cutter help defensive system. This system helps to fill in defensive gaps and sends help anytime a player has a clear path to the rim. This system can pick up that cutter and send a rotation defender to cover the helper when possible.
On the ball
Attack will obviously never be neglected in any 2K basketball game, and NBA 2K22 is upping the ante on offensive plays too. Dribbling is obviously important, so the 1-to-1 Basic Size-ups from NBA 2K21 have been removed and replaced by 1-to-1 Signature Size-ups. But what exactly does that mean? Flicking the Pro Stick in various directions last year gave you fairly generic-looking size-ups, while holding up on the stick gave you a nice-looking mo-capped dribble series. In 2K22, each player has a unique feel and rhythm when sizing up, while also giving the gamer complete control over how the series plays out. KD’s big hesi crosses, Harden’s around/thru the leg moves, Steph’s quick machine gun crosses, and Luka’s methodical rock back and forth dribbles are all now under the gamer’s direct control rather than a preset animation.
The speed stick that we introduced on new-gen last year also returns. So flicking the stick quickly results in quicker dribbles while slower flicks give you more rhythmic ones. There are around 50 unique signature size-up packages to choose from, each with its own distinct advantages. Additionally, you can equip one of 32 unique dribble sequences (which I’ve dubbed Signature Combos) as well. These are quick, three or four- second dribble combos that you can trigger by simply holding Sprint and flicking the Pro Stick up. Mixing the Signature Size-ups and Signature Combos together gives you a limitless variety for how you want to break down your defender.
Shooting for the stars
Shooting has undergone many changes for NBA 2K22. There’s a new shot meter with a dynamically resizing window. This window will expand when you’re taking high-quality shots with good shooters, but will shrink when heavily contested, shooting with a low-rated shooter, or fatigued. The major emphasis for shooting success this year is Shot IQ. The teams that work for open looks and take smart shots are going to see much more success than the teams that force up bad shots. It sounds elementary, but it’s something that brings another element of realism to the game.
On top of the revised dunking animations, on new-gen, there are new timing meters to both alley-oop and aggressive skill dunk attempts. When an alley pass is in the air, you’ll need to press the Shot Button at just the right time to finish off the oop. If you’re too early or late, you’ll either smoke the finish or miss the catch completely. (side note: you can force bounce pass alleys this year!) And on the dunking side, holding Sprint and pulling straight down on the Pro Stick will trigger the aggressive skill dunks. When you have a defender standing underneath the rim, using the aggressive skill dunk feature will let you basically force a dunk attempt on-demand as long as you have a strong dunker and you have a bit of a runway. It’s tough to hit the perfect timing for these high-risk, high-reward plays, but the goal is to make it as gratifying as possible when you pull them off.
On top of the gameplay improvements, there are a host of additional elements being added to the Badge system (allowing you to add perks to your players and teams), along with a revamped City area, which we covered in our initial NBA 2K first-look. Basketball newcomers, aficionados, and long-time fans are all in for a treat when NBA 2K22 hits Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, PS5, PC, and Switch on 10 September 2021.
There’s a lot to look forward to with NBA 2K22, and you can check out more on the upcoming release on the official NBA 2K website.