The must-have basketball simulation, NBA 2K22, is back for the new year on PS5, PS4, Series X, Xbox One, Switch & PC! For the 75th anniversary of the NBA, does this new opus bring absolute novelties and evolutions to the license? Find out in our full review!
Released on September 10th, 2K Studios’ successful basketball simulation, NBA 2K, returns for episode 22 that follows a version of the game that was, according to the publisher, “stuck between two generations of consoles”. So what happened to the promises made about a game adapted to the new generation of consoles? Is NBA 2K22 a complete departure from its predecessor? Our test will give you all the information you need to know whether or not you’ll be joining the playgrounds of orange ball fans!
The new NBA season says a recent episode of the successful franchise edited by 2K, namely NBA 2K! After a year disrupted by the health crisis linked to COVID-19, the NBA season is back to its usual rhythm and timing, with games resuming on October 19. The release of NBA 2k22 remains in line with the idea of constantly releasing a month before the players return to the American courts. For this year, it is the Slovenian phenomenon, Luka Dončić (Dallas Maverick), who is the figurehead of the game, accompanied by Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets), Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Los Angeles Lakers), who is on the cover of the 75th Anniversary edition of the NBA.
Better respect for the reality of the courts
Many questions arose when NBA 2K21 was released, with many fans raising their voices to understand why the gameplay was so unrealistic and completely unbalanced in terms of offense and defense on the court. Because yes, it was much easier to attack and score in the paint (under the basket) by running to outflank your opponent, who had very few options to anticipate the attacker’s direction changes. This is paradoxical because the game wants to be faster on the floor this year, but the defense is much more considered because the players on offense can not overrun as quickly as in NBA 2K21. The reason? Very simple: some moves have been reviewed and corrected so that they are no longer game breaker and problematic for defensive players, such as turning 180° when attacking a defender in the post (i.e. when the player protects the ball by putting his back to the defender).
The developers at Visual Concepts are particularly keen to reconnect with the game on the pitch and erase the inequalities present in the previous opus. Nevertheless, there are still problems linked to the abuse of the gameplay, such as the ease of scoring from a distance as long as the timing on the shot gauge is mastered. For example, it should not be “common” to be able to shoot 80% on shots contested at more than 50%: only a few players are capable of it like Stephen Curry or Luka Dončić, but being able to do it with more than 30 different players is a problem. A forgivable concern given the work done on the overall game mechanics gives back the feel of a real basketball game.
The shooting gauge has been redesigned to look more graphic and certainly less visual or efficient than last year. During our test, it proved to be more of a problem than a help, and we ended up hiding it to rely on the players’ animations during jump shots to master the timing. A blessing in disguise will force players to adopt a more realistic style by hiding the UI aids once they are in the game, thus enhancing player immersion. On the other hand, it will require a lot of time to adapt and several hours of training at the gym to become one with your shot.
Let’s take a break now to discuss the technical and graphical aspects of this 2022 version on which we will be more severe than last year since where the 2021 version found itself with the ball in the middle regarding the passage from one generation of console to another, NBA 2K22 disappoints by its state of mind of “minimal service” and its tendency to rest on its achievements. Yes, the game is excellent graphically, but it doesn’t evolve in any way compared to its predecessor, and it’s still hard to feel the real leap into the next-gen as already promised last year by the publisher.
The modelling of the players is always a real tour de force so much they are recognizable for the majority, even if there are less fortunate players, as in particular one of our French players evolving in New York Knicks, Evan Fournier. It will be effortless for you to recognize all the players who make the news in the NBA, as well as the legends who did this sport what it is today. The big graphical drawback comes once the My Career mode is launched, in which graphical and technical inequalities are omnipresent: there is a drastic difference in the modelling of the NPCs, who end up with almost zero facial expressions and a graphical rendering that doesn’t do justice to what next-gen consoles or good PCs can offer. The same goes for creating our player’s character in My Career mode since the customization possibilities are tremendous but almost unchanged since NBA 2K20. It’s a real disappointment when you see that 2K put a lot of effort into this mode by customizing it so that players can identify with it. We would have appreciated the fact that there were new customization possibilities with a more advanced and less restrictive creation editor.
A big black mark on the technical picture is the loading times in the My Career mode, where the transitions between the City and the buildings are far too long… We feel a considerable lack of optimization at this level where as soon as we want to go out in the City from a building, a 30 second loading time (on PS5) intervenes and breaks the immersion. Hopefully, a patch will fix this so as not to frustrate players playing on PS4 and who will see an even longer loading time.
Some dense content lacking innovation
NBA 2K22 was expected to be innovative in content, which was absent last year, even if the game modes were still qualitative and dense. No new game mode is present in this new version, where we find the fundamentals with the My NBA mode, My Teams, My Career and the quick games. The My NBA mode benefits from significant additions that make the mode even more focused on making us live an NBA career. It can start as a general manager of a franchise or as a player with more options for team management, player development, or financial possibilities on the control of salaries, revenues of the franchise, or the advertising and media contracts that can be created.
As for the My Team mode, there are no significant changes, which will offer players the same experience as last year, with more and more player cards to collect to build a dream team and compete with players from all over the world. As usual, we regret that microtransactions are too present in this mode, where it is challenging to fill your collection through the game without going through the cash box. Indeed, as last year, the game does not give enough rewards via challenges or the currency recovered after each match. Nevertheless, fans of the orange ball and the players who have marked the history of basketball will find their happiness with no less than 2,000 cards planned to be released over the year.
The bulk of the game’s content is found in the Career mode, which, unlike the previous year – in which the story was based on a professional player’s career – is positioned here upstream of a career that opens up to several areas of development via fashion and song. To put it simply, once your player has been created, you will be able to develop him much more precisely than before, and this is possible thanks to a multitude of attributes which will be improved and which will depend on your exploits on the pitch, your answers in interviews or dialogues with NPCs and finally as a reward for quests. Yes, the big novelty of the My Career mode is that quests are now visible and present to give players the possibility to either follow the main storyline of the career or to perform a multitude of activities related to basketball, fashion, song or multiplayer.
The number of quests to complete is quite pharaonic: you will rarely run out of them, as 2K seems to feed its mode daily and weekly with quests and challenges to complete every day, every week and all the time! A season pass is also introduced in this mode, where you’ll need to complete 40 levels by completing multiplayer quests or matches with friends and against opponents to earn points to unlock customization rewards for your player. All of this seems positive at first glance. Still, unfortunately, the redundancy of the quests and their interest raises questions, as the sporting aspect of the career is ultimately impacted by all the additional activities to be carried out. Therefore, it is legitimate to wonder if adding quantity to the detriment of a strong narrative experience is a good thing. We would have preferred to have a scripted and controlled career, with community or multiplayer quests to accompany it, but without altering its quality. We quickly do not want to do the quests anymore because they lack interest in what they offer (a lot of back and forth and uninteresting discussions) or because of their redundancy.
Finally, let’s talk about the multiplayer mode, which is an absolute satisfaction this year, with much more stable servers that suffer less from the lags encountered on NBA 2K20. It will be much more pleasant for players and less frustrating to spend time there. The only downside is that ragequits don’t give you any rewards if you witness them, which is a shame.
NBA 2K Plays it Safe
NBA 2K22 is an excellent basketball game, but it tends to rest on its laurels and not evolve because there is no competition at the moment. And it shows. It is difficult to see the differences between the 2021 and 2022 versions in technology, graphics and content available to players. However, the efforts made on the gameplay are noticeable, which is much closer to the reality of the courts and less frustrating, as well as the care given to the My NBA mode, which will delight the fans. As far as the career mode is concerned, we’re left wanting more, despite the developers’ desire to give players more things to do – but which in reality only amount to filler to the detriment of the career’s narrative quality. In conclusion, NBA 2K22 remains solid on its feet, still offering the best for a fan of the orange ball, but cruelly lacking in creativity and struggling to renew itself.
+ Revamped gameplay is better than ever
+ Properly next-gen look and sound, with fast load times
+ The new open-world area of MyCareer is a potentially fun way to spend time
– Microtransactions are still overwhelming in MyTeam mode
– Many modes don’t offer much that we haven’t seen before
– Mark Price is annoying
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Visual Concepts
Release date: 10 September 2021