Let’s set the scene. Was NBA 2K21 a great game? No, there were several fundamental issues with core gameplay and too many long-lasting bugs in MyNBA to be considered great.
Was it as bad as much of the community says? No: 2K is a huge game with multiple layers that are often taken for granted because of the way the development team pushes the envelope each year.
In any case, it is still safe to consider last year’s game a disappointment from a critical standpoint because it fell short of expectations.
Enter the latest version of the series, which dropped on September 10. With mounds to prove and some wounds to heal with a bruised user base, 2K has delivered a version of the game that might ultimately be considered one of the best in franchise history.
Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the bottom line with NBA 2K22.
There isn’t much done in the way of new models, but there is something about the lighting that looks a bit enhanced over last year’s game. I have spoken with at least 2 other hardcore followers of the series who agree; NBA 2K22 has a bit of a sharper look than NBA 2K21.
Defense, Defense, Defense
The biggest reason NBA 2K22 is a better experience than last year’s title is the gameplay. The biggest change in gameplay is on the defensive side.
To put it plainly, the defensive A.I. is much smarter and on-ball defenders have more tools to use in their attempts to stop an opponent from scoring. There are still a couple of issues with a few things from an A.I. perspective, but the defensive gameplay is exponentially better.
The options, chaining and skill gap when it comes to dribbling are impressive. I spoke to one analytical 2K player who discussed some of the dribble combinations available in the game that many users haven’t even discovered.
When you couple that with some of the dribble-animation-specific content drops that have been promised by executive gameplay producer Mike Wang, an already deep component has room to get even deeper over the course of the year.
It’s an exciting time to be a dribbler in 2K.
I have been critical of MyTeam in the past. The mode was lacking two pretty important features and the requisite grind component wasn’t as fun as it is with other games that have similar modes. Not every gap has been filled, but the addition of MyTeam Draft is a major win for the mode overall.
This adds a layer that prevents almost every MyTeam experience from being a battle of overpowered cards. When added to Limited, the enhanced Seasons concept and a release calendar that appears to be even more stacked with content, MyTeam is moving in the right direction.
More Enjoyable MyCareer Experience
Over the past four years, the MyCareer experience has gotten pretty stale. It has felt as though your character was forced into a ton of long, drawn-out cinematics. It’s also been bogged down by in-story grinds on the NBA scene that have lacked real-life immersion qualities.
In NBA 2K22, not only does the gameplay feel better because of some of the things I’ve already mentioned, your entire experience is much more like an NBA career, which is how the feature was originally designed.
Even if you don’t take your character to The City and the other features that spin off traditional MyCareer, you’re still going to have more fun than you would have last year.
The MyPlayer Build Brings Balance
In NBA 2K20, the PARK, Pro-Am and Rec were filled with power forward builds because it was an overpowered archetype. It made little sense to create anything besides that archetype and perhaps a paint-mashing big.
Thanks to some tweaks to gameplay and the ceiling for some of the builds, there is a reason to create just about any kind of layer. Small guards can be a factor thanks to specific dribble animations and shooting attributes only available to backcourt players.
Creating a MyPlayer is a fun science project again.
Awesome PARK Presentation
Can we give some love to the men and women who design the courts and environments around the PARK? The visuals at some parks and events are just stunning.
The games in the PARK are exciting because the gameplay is better, but the experience is also easy on the eyes due to one of the best artistic designs we’ve seen in years.
The City Is Sprawling & More Cohesive
Speaking of visual excellence in MyCareer, The City is more packed with options and character. From Go Karts and Ziplines to skateboards, Jake from State Farm and NPCs with side quests, The City is a game in itself.
With fewer launch issues than I can ever remember, NBA 2K22 and its massive City environment are both playable and enjoyable in the first week. When you consider 2K’s team added a few features while fine-tuning what was already there, it feels like a near-perfect bit of execution.
In-Game Injuries Are Back
2K has finally heard my cry on this issue. In-game injuries had been completely removed from the game, and while that isn’t a big deal in MyTeam and certainly not in Play Now Online, PARK, Pro-Am or Rec, it was a huge problem in MyNBA.
Thankfully, players can now suffer injuries in the games you play and not just in simulations.
Aside from defense, one of my biggest issues with gameplay in NBA 2K20 was the lack of stamina effect. You could essentially ride the turbo button like a tamed horse with no regard for bodily harm or season-long wear-and-tear in a MyNBA season.
This year, you’ll not only see the impact of overworking players over the course of a season, from possession to possession, your players will experience a noticeable falloff in ability when they’re tired.
Less Under the Hood Issues in MyNBA
Over the years, some of the glory associated with MyNBA has been lost due to some unfortunate bugs that have kept some of the under-the-hood features from functioning properly. Aside from some smaller and likely temporary early bugs, things seem to work as designed.
MySTAFF Adds a Decent Layer, If Interested
The biggest new addition to MyNBA is the MySTAFF feature. By design, this feature makes every layer of your organization play a part in your team’s success or failure. The dynamic the development team attempts to create by adding a point of impact for everyone from Shot Doctors to general managers is a smart one. I’m calling this a plus overall because I like the idea.
However, it is involved–perhaps too much for some users. I’ve already seen one hardcore franchise guy say that it feels more like a chore. At the end of the day, it comes down to your own preferences. The execution is there.
A Few Defensive A.I. Issues
Largely, the defense is great. It is so good, I don’t really want to see the 2K dev team tinker with it at all. That said, I have noticed some lingering issues with the A.I.
For example, in one of my early games during the review process, I scored a game-winning bucket with Zach LaVine that led to a 2-point victory online. The shot came on a drive to the basket after LaVine left Kyle Anderson on the perimeter. The big man was out of position to help, but Jaren Jackson Jr., who had gotten cross-matched on DeMar DeRozan, failed to stop the dribble-drive, despite having a non-three-point shooter spotted up in the corner of a three.
JJJ should have left his assignment to help out on the more immediate threat to score. There is a need for 2K to implement a know-your-personnel feature within one or more of the A.I. systems. Quite honestly, the game’s defensive A.I. had to be redone from the ground up after NBA 2K19 and 20, and the game is seemingly just moving back to a good place.
Fixing this issue requires a highly technical adjustment, but it is something users will notice.
Missing Some Options in Create-a-Player
There are some new hairstyles in create-a-player, but the creation suite is still behind MLB the Show and WWE 2K when it comes to depth. It would also be nice if we could edit existing player’s hairstyles and other physical characteristics.
A modder created a tool called the Cyber Face Mixer that allows gamers to mix the features of characters in the game to edit existing players or to create new ones. An option like that and/or a legit randomizer feature would be ideal.
G-League Stars Invade your MyNBA
Usually, I don’t include bugs in my review, at least not with specific mentions. However, I’m not sure how soon we will see this one remedied.
At the moment, the default roster has a bevy of G-League players with astronomical ratings in the free agent pool. A user created a workaround roster, but that shouldn’t be necessary. I’d love to see this issue fixed.
MyNBA Online Isn’t Equal to Offline
2K has always been ambitious with its online franchise modes. It has been an admirable effort considering other developers have chosen to stop offering equivalent features due to massive technical issues.
However, MyNBA online simply isn’t providing all of the features as advertised. Too many of the features that are promised or “available” don’t work or offer a drastically impaired experience when compared to the offline version.
At this point, it would be better if 2K plainly said, ‘our online franchise mode doesn’t have all of the same features as the offline version.’ Removing the problematic features while still allowing users to have an online league is the best approach moving forward.
Outdated Legend Renders
OK, it’s been too long since the last massive update to the renders on the classic and all-time team rosters. There are some renders of legendary players that are still in the game from what appears to be Gen-3 tech.
Players like George McGinnis, Oscar Robertson, Rick Barry and others are desperately in need of updated renders. With Legends playing such a big role in MyNBA, MyTeam and Play Now Online, cleaning this area of the game up should be a priority.
No Salary Cap Mode in MyTeam
I like most everything about the MyTeam experience, but salary cap mode is still the missing component. It is the last piece to provide a completely balanced collector mode experience.
The Bottom Line
2K has produced a strong game with fewer warts than we’ve seen since the bar for series was raised to an elite level. Does that mean it is perfect? No, but, what 2K has produced in a 9-month development cycle is truly amazing.
Game development is hard and a year after being the only major sports video game franchise to produce a full-on next-gen experience, they followed up with the most polished and still feature-rich game they have produced, maybe ever. NBA 2K22 is a must have for anyone who has remotely enjoyed the series in the past or who has a taste for basketball and the culture it powers. Still, there is room for improvement on multiple fronts. It’s the gift and the curse of producing a game with so many layers.
- Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Seris X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Google Stadia (PS5 Version Reviewed, code provided by 2K)
- Developer: Visual Concepts
- Publisher: 2K
- Released: September 10, 2021
- Price: $59.99 for the standard edition, $99.99 for Legends Edition
- Review Score: 8 out of 10