NBA 2k22 review – A slam dunk for an ailing franchise

2K Games

After a series of uninspired entries, 2K gets back to basics in NBA 2K22 – and the latest title is an on-court sensation.

Sports game franchises have the unenviable task of shipping with as many major features as possible to justify another hefty investment from players, and while NBA’s 2K franchise has been running unopposed like a Giannis breakaway, it’d be fair to say fans wanted more.

However, with NBA 2K22 they’ve broken the ‘safe’ model they’ve been following in recent years. With new additions to nearly every game mode, and a revamped outlook on MyCareer and The City, NBA 2K22 is looking to cement itself alongside the best in the franchise’s history – and it’s worked.

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NBA 2K22 – Key Details

  • Price: $59.99 / £59.99
  • Developer: 2k Games and Visual Concepts
  • Release Date: September 10, 2021
  • Platforms: PC, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

NBA 2K22 trailer

MyCareer and The City feel alive in NBA 2K22

The single-player experience has become one of the staple game modes within the 2K franchise over the years, and this ignited a few years ago when 2K decided to take a more story-driven take on their career mode. This was first introduced back during NBA 2K14 and since they’ve expanded this game mode, adding huge stars to the cast and improving the game’s flexibility.

One of the issues fans have had over the years is how stagnant MyCareer has become, with little deviation to the core story. However, 2K Games and Visual Concepts have rejuvenated MyCareer in many regards, starting out with The City, 2K’s immersive world for players to gather, take part in quests and duke it out on the court.

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Each year 2K has added to its player hub, and within is usually a wide array of stores, NPCs, and other activities that give players something to pass their time with. While many of you are probably already aware of the now-viral in-game State Farm ad, looking past this, NBA 2K22’s city is one of the best in quite some time.

There’s an abundance of activities for players to dive into, and early on in your journey to become an NBA superstar, you’re able to venture into The City to get a feel for all the content; new stores, quests, and even a boxing ring make their debut. While The City has reached new heights, the gameplay and story within MyCareer have also taken a step forward, after many years of just getting by as a short narrative prelude to the career mode grind.

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The City 2k222K Games
2K’s new city has lots of places for players to check out, including a boxing ring.

In years past, we’ve gone the route of either your MyCareer player being a High School superstar going straight to the NBA Draft, or an undrafted rookie who has to climb their way up the G-League. But, this time around we’re going to be diving into the College route, with an emphasis on the NCAA March Madness tournament.

Your player, known as “MP”, is a social media star who gained recognition through viral clips posted online, and you’ll be tasked with transitioning their success to the court, with some obstacles along the way.

Without spoiling the story too much for players who haven’t dived in yet, this is one of 2K’s best stories in recent years, with a wide array of narrative choices that directly impact how your career will pan out.

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There are also more animations, badges, and side activities such as becoming a rapper and even partaking in fashion shows that delve deeper into basketball culture than the franchise has attempted before.

New gameplay changes make NBA 2K22 the most intense game yet

nba 2k22 best jump shots to use2K Games
NBA 2K22 has taken a leap in the right direction.

Replicating the on-court action that fans witness every night during the NBA season has proven difficult for 2K Games over recent iterations of the franchise. But, NBA 2K22 has taken gigantic steps forward in how virtual basketball is played, and it’s easily the best the game has felt in countless years.

A large portion of this can be attributed to the overhaul of defense, which was rather clunky in years past, and most of the time players would just be moving their joysticks around until they can stop their defender.

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Significant changes to on/off-ball defense are the key points of refinements this year, as players will no longer just simply need to stand in front of their defender, and wait for some fluky animation where they magically pass by. Instead, there’s a genuine emphasis on the defensive side of the game, and off-ball defense has also changed – particularly in how the AI reacts.

Playing 2K in years past, it was far too common to run into situations where the AI wouldn’t read a screenplay or an opposing player cutting to the rim, resulting in an easy bucket for the opposition. Now, they react much more keenly to offensive changes, preventing easy runs in the paint.

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Moving on from defense, NBA 2K22 is by far the most fluid a 2K’s ever felt, largely due to their reworking of the dribbling mechanics and how shooting works. Performing dribble moves can now be done faster than in years prior, and players are able to combine multiple moves together in quick succession to speed past their opponent. It now feels like we’re taking control of some of the best dribblers in the game, and helps separate the top stars from the rest of the roster.

One of the notable changes this year is a brand new shot meter with direct feedback based on the quality of the shot you’re player is taking. If you’re highly contested past the 3-point line, then the shot meter for a perfect shot is going to shrink. But, on the flip side, if you blaze past a defender and get a wide-open jump shot, then you’re meter will greatly expand, which is fantastic to use. It’s a far cry from 2k21’s finicky shot meter at launch.

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MyNBA/Franchise mode FINALLY receives an overhaul, sorta

MySTAFF_Carousel2K Games
Players can hire and fire more staff than ever before.

The franchise mode within 2K has been lacking since it debuted back in 2K14, and for countless years now fans of the game mode have felt neglected. Simply due to the constantly evolving MyCareer and online game modes, fans who just want to manage their favorite NBA team had limited options within the game mode.

This year, though, things are different; new staff badges, attributes, and much more allow for a more enticing process when looking to hire to lead your team to glory.

This, combined with the new training feature, which far too often felt like a chore in prior titles, now enables players to directly see how their player is evolving and adds more insight into what training programs work, and what ones don’t.

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It’s a step in the right direction for sure, and fans who’re eager to dive into this game mode on current-gen consoles will be delighted with some of the latest additions to franchise mode.

MyTeam takes inspiration from other games, but is it enough?

my team starter pack 2K Games
MyTeam Draft is back, after years of fans begging for it.

Alright, it’s time we talk about one of the most controversial modes within NBA 2K, and this has unfortunately been the case for numerous years now. MyTeam is 2K’s take on the ubiquitous “Ultimate Team” game mode, where you create star-studded lineups with players from all generations and eras to build your dream team.

In recent years, there’s been a flurry of discussion around the pay-to-win aspects of MyTeam, and while we’ve seen other titles such as MLB The Show take a user-friendly route towards this mode, 2K has remained unchanged.

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However, with NBA 2K22, Visual Concepts has made some notable changes to MyTeam, which includes the long-awaited return of DRAFT – a feature that allows players to draft a roster of players that constantly changes. It’s one of MyTeam’s best aspects by far, allowing for unique team compositions, but it’s still bogged down by limited access without paying real cash.

Besides this addition, there’s also an emphasis on continual updates through seasonal content. This is all great for loyal 2K players, but the core issues of MyTeam are still present, namely that it’s still inherently pay-to-win. It’s easier to get a competitive team together, sure, but you’ll still be coming up against all-star teams when players open their wallets.

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Rating: 7.5/10

NBA 2K22 is 2K Games and Visual Concepts’ best entry into the franchise in quite some time, with bountiful changes to certain gameplay mechanics that make this the most fluid basketball sim in years. Combining this with the new MyCareer story and how immersive The City has become, here’s hoping it’s a new era for the NBA 2K franchise, and it offers a much-needed bounceback for a series that many fans had started to give up on.

We’re excited to see the evolution of NBA 2K throughout the year because what’s here is off to a more positive start than we’ve seen in a while.

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Reviewed on PS5