Game reviews

NBA 2K22 Review — Improving What Counts?

Does NBA 2K22 manage to up-the-ante of an already-solid foundation?

NBA 2K is an interesting spot in the sports genre. While it is the premier basketball franchise on the market, there is essentially no real competition in the virtual b-ball game to speak of, which makes assessing how much evolution the series achieves year on year somewhat subjective. With that said, after a few iterations of stagnation, NBA 2K22 delivers huge leaps in terms of gameplay fluidity and features that even the most familiar of fans will appreciate.

There’s no doubt that with the further adoption of new-gen consoles in the Xbox Series X and PS5, 2K Sports and developer Visual Concepts aimed to deliver the most comprehensive and finely-tuned iteration the series has ever seen, and to a large extent, they’ve done just that.

From a gameplay perspective, it was hard to fault NBA 2K21, but 2K22 has made a few tweaks that manage to standout in the moment-to-moment action of the game. The goal this year is all about giving players more choices and versatility on both attack and defence, and 2K22 puts “basketball IQ” front-and-centre, allowing you to use left stick dribble skills to break down and bamboozle defenders, along with new signature moves and combos which anyone familiar with the real-world stars will spot. Furthermore, jump shooting has been refined and gives players greater precision when placing shots, better dunking through traffic, and even more skill-based alley-oops to help you string together some stylish plays. Alongside this, they have also added a completely new set of defensive tools which features revamped shot contest and blocking systems.

All of these changes work well and do push NBA 2K22 further into the simulation sphere of gaming, rather than a quick pick-up-and-play option. It may be quite overwhelming for some newcomers to adapt to, but the depth of options in terms of how you want to play is impressive. Your stamina is more important than ever and you’ll have to keep an eye on it, highlighting the reliance on intelligent team play. You’ll also rarely see the same attacking play or animations right after each other, making the whole experience feel (and look) fresh.

Speaking of feel, the game has an absolute banger of a soundtrack, featuring the likes of Travis Scott, Juice WRLD, Jack Harlow, J. Cole, Freddie Gibbs, Gunna, Nas, Metro Boomin, Aitch, Skepta and many more. The soundtrack of any NBA 2K game is always an important element, and this year delivers the goods too. Even if you’re not a hip hop enthusiast, it’s hard not to have your head-bobbing while you’re in the menus or diving into the action.

Arguably the most popular mode of the game, MyTeam (essentially NBA 2K‘s answer to FIFA’s Ultimate Team) has been given an overhaul too, especially on PS5 and Xbox Series X versions. MyTeam Draft allows you to build a fresh line-up from a constantly updated pool of players, a feature long-requested by fans. Additionally, MyTeam progress and collections can be transferred between consoles of the same brand (ie. PS4 and PS5, or Xbox One and Xbox Series X) along with VC wallet, MyTEAM Point, and MyTEAM Token balances.

One of the most immediately noticeable differences, though, is in the beloved Neighbourhood feature (where you level up your created player and enter into online matches). The neighbourhood was replaced by ‘City’ in NBA 2K21 on the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S versions, and has received a revamp of sorts in order to be a much bigger, more sprawling area to connect with other online players, shop for items, and take on challenges. The new City space is rather impressive for a sports game, mimicking something you’d see in the open-world action genre from a few years ago. You have clothing stores, pick-up game spots, and even the ability to skateboard around. It’s not game-changing, but it does make NBA 2K22 feel more like a holistic pro basketballer simulator, rather than just a basketball game.

Verdict

The NBA 2K series needed a win after the backlash around microtransactions last year, and it’s safe to say that NBA 2K22 has put the focus back on the court to deliver the best gameplay the franchise has seen to date. It’s also bolstered by incredibly enjoyable off-court moments in the open-world City area and included mode, and a punchy soundtrack to boot. NBA 2K22 breaths new life into the series and gets us excited for the season ahead.

NBA 2K22 is available on Xbox Series X|S, PS5, Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

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