NBA 2K22 – I’m Not Mad I’m Just Disappointed
Xbox Series X/PS5
I want to start this review off with some context. I am a long time NBA 2K fan. It all started in 2011 when NBA 2K12 got me through a few weeks stuck on the couch thanks to a dislocated knee. Since that point, I have played every single entry of the venerable franchise extensively. It is my go-to game for a lazy afternoon on the couch, a quiet night in or simply to fill in an hour between activities. I easily have more than 50 hours in every year’s entry, often a lot more. Now I am not saying this to gloat, I am not saying this to brag, I am saying this so you know that I have a pretty good idea of what makes a good NBA 2K game.
So when I tell you NBA 2K22 is a disappointment, you know I am not lying. I hate to say it, I really do, but this year’s edition of the game has me frustrated and despondent in equal measure. There has been a whole raft of small design choices that have led to this disappointment, and it isn’t just one thing that has gone horribly wrong.
Perhaps the biggest flaw with the game is the career mode. I usually adore the story mode, building a player from college to an NBA starter. It is my most played mode in the franchise. This year however it is an exercise in frustration. In an attempt to move it more into the realms of an RPG as opposed to just a story, 2K has created a world of boring, pointless and time-wasting activities that take away from the basketball. The story takes place in a city that is stupidly big, so big that it took me the entire length of Iron Maiden’s seminal rock anthem Fear of the Dark to run from one side to the other. That is too big and it is frankly too empty. Add to that the only fast travel is to your apartment and not to any other location and it doesn’t take long to realise that you are going to be spending a lot of time getting from point “A” to point “B.”
2K tries to lessen this travel time by giving players a skateboard but the actual mechanics of the skateboard are just another layer of irritation. I am playing a basketball game here, not Tony Hawk’s Boring Skater. A bike can be purchased to make the trips more pleasant, but of course that costs VC, which is better spent upgrading your player. More frustration creeps in as so many of the goals are obviously in the game simply to give sponsors air time and meet their contracts. For example, a string of quests has you meeting every sponsor rep in the game, from Nike to New Balance, Converse to Under Armour. Each of these quests seem to simply exist only so you can get a brand’s logo jammed into your face and in no way add anything but annoyance to the experience.
As for the basketball itself, it is the strongest part of the game, but it still needs work. There have always been instances in past games of AI players doing “dumb” things, things that professional Basketballers haven’t done since they were in the under 10’s, but in 2K22 it seems these instances have been multiplied. Barely a minute goes by without an AI player crash tackling the opposition, passing the ball 3 feet over the head of the receiving player or forgoing the easy dunk for a flashy fadeaway jump shot that is destined to miss. That being said, there is still fun to be had with the five on five modes despite these issues and if the game placed more emphasis on the actual basketball I would be much more kindly disposed to it.
It is with some surprise however that I have found myself gravitating to the MYTeam mode. Perhaps it is because I have bounced off the career mode or that it has genuinely improved, but I am enjoying my time unlocking cards, building a team and taking on the world. In the past, I have found the MYTeam mode to be particularly nasty for microtransactions but this year it seems not to be the case. There is a steady stream of unlocks, card packs and boosts coming my way after every single game so the desire to buy more with VC is non-existent. There are some great modes for both single players and those who like to play with others, including a new draft mode which is a nice twist on the card-based team formula and some exciting 3v3 challenges.
At this point, I think it is fair to say that NBA 2K22 isn’t a bad game as such, just a disappointing one that seems like a step backwards from last year. Perhaps the challenge of developing two versions of the game, for the previous gen and current-gen, is simply too much or the engine is just getting long in the tooth and needs a refresh. Whatever the case may be, NBA 2K has been better than this and last year’s version in the bargain bins at EB might be your best option. That said, it is the only game of basketball available and while it does leave a bit to be desired, there is fun to be had, as long as your expectations aren’t set too high.
NBA 2K22 was reviewed on the Xbox Series X with code kindly supplied by 2K Australia