By now, the formula for the MyCareer storyline in NBA 2K games has become fairly recognizable, with the general outline remaining constant even as some of the particulars may change from year to year. The basic malleable narrative that forms the foundation for the mode is a young hoops phenom attempting to make the leap to the NBA level with the help of close friends, coaches, and perhaps even a mentor or two. This has evolved in recent editions to include a choice of whether to play ball at a college prior to starting your pro career or making the G League your entry point to the NBA. Even when the game has touted an illustrious guest director like Spike Lee to helm the entire mode, the framework still hasn’t deviated all that much from past versions of MyCareer.
On its surface, NBA 2K22 doesn’t really attempt to re-invent the wheel or anything when it comes to the familiar trajectory of your promising athlete/musician/social influencer who goes by the handle MP within the mode, but it does refine and improve upon some of the ways its story is told. One way it does this is by providing more choices for how you want things to progress for your created player. These small but meaningful alterations allow MyCareer to now feel less like a movie that you’re being forced to watch play out with little say in what happens and has you instead sensing that you’re in control of your own story more than in the past. Regardless of whether you’re someone who prefers playing online or offline, there are now so many different ways to play ball and things to do throughout the sprawling City that it’s almost impossible to imagine you won’t find something you enjoy.
Let’s take a trip into the basketball metropolis to get a closer look at what’s new and exciting within the next-gen MyCareer mode, and also discuss any improvements that might still be needed in order to make this an optimal experience for everyone. If you have not read our NBA 2K22 review as of yet, Joel also talks quite a bit about MyCareer in that.
What I Like
A big complaint about MyCareer in NBA 2K21, especially with online play, was that many of the builds that you could use when creating your players to give them certain strengths and weaknesses weren’t viable because certain attributes (and badges) in the game didn’t really help you as much as others on the court. This inevitably led to a lack of variety within The City as many people would use the same overpowered builds that would allow them to perform well in the most important facets of the game. Predictably, it became rather tedious to constantly run into the same types of players, and it held the game back from being a realistic recreation of basketball.
This issue has thankfully been rectified in NBA 2K22 by limiting the kinds of abilities players can possess — should they not have the necessary attributes to do certain things on the court. For example, you need to have a fairly high ball handling attribute now if you want to be able to use elite dribbling animations, and the same is true when it comes to other things like being able to reliably dunk in traffic. Without even being someone who insists on testing many of the available builds and instead jumps in with one that’s created mostly by instinct, it’s pretty evident from community response that there’s now more balance across all of the builds. This has made it possible to have some value as a highly specialized player who can do one or two things particularly well, even if they may be limited in other aspects of their game.
It’s impossible to discuss MyCareer in next-gen NBA 2K22 without mentioning the expansive urban environment you inhabit because even though you’ll meet a lot of characters throughout your development, The City itself practically becomes another character thanks to how alive it feels. This starts with the addition of more NPCs going about their lives populating the streets where previously there had been a lot of inert empty spaces. It also helps that there are even more buildings you can enter, and you’ll need to get acquainted with many of them throughout your journey to becoming an NBA superstar.
The look of The City also appears more dynamic and colorful than it did in its first incarnation in last year’s game. It’s easy to imagine that the developers were overwhelmed by how much space they originally had to fill, but now that they’ve had some time to place down the foundation there’s been an opportunity to populate it with more places you can go and things you can do. It’s impressive to see some of the design and architecture in different areas, making it worth exploring beyond the beaten path to witness details you might otherwise miss entirely.
3-On-3 No Squads Court
Fulfilling an item that had long been on people’s wishlists, including my own, the addition of a new 3-on-3 court at the Old Gym (yes, I’m aware of how confusing that might sound) prohibits squads from entering. This limits the possibility of running into any elite opponents that you can tell are already incredibly familiar with each other by their long winning streaks that you often help increase. Perhaps even more importantly, the court introduces matchmaking functionality that every random player was longing for in the past when they were busy scurrying from court to court in a desperate attempt to find any game that was about to start.
This court is nothing short of a game changer for someone like myself who doesn’t have a regular crew to run with but still wants to be able to easily jump into a Park game without having it take longer to find a game than it does to actually play one. Everything initially appears to be working exactly as intended too in my experience as both teammates and opponents are established with limited delay and games starting in an acceptable amount of time. Yes, it has seemed as if my poor record in games thus far has owed a lot to the fact that my team more often than not ends up being saddled with the one guy who wants to put up every shot no matter how bad it might be, but for now let’s just chalk that up to unfortunate luck that will even out in time.
It might not make all that much sense to have a basketball game slowly but surely morph into an open-world game that’s not that far removed from the realm of Grand Theft Auto, but that’s kind of what’s happened with the MyCareer mode in the series at this point. The introduction of quests in NBA 2K22 puts the decision making more in your hands than ever before by allowing you to choose the times and places you want to play ball, and when you may want to turn your attention to other matters like fashion or music. By presenting you with tangible goals across various facets of your career, you can select which to make the highest priority at any given time and help steer MP’s narrative in the process.
The quests do a nice of job of keeping you running (or more likely skateboarding) all over The City to meet up with characters who can help you to achieve your lofty career aspirations. This helps ensure that you’re getting to see everything The City has to offer and allows for your destinations to serve as natural backdrops for the storyline. Completion of quests will allow you to unlock rewards that keep you on the path to increasing your level within MyCareer and see you earning MVP points that will eventually see you achieving various milestones (like moving on up to a better pad, for instance).
It’s not as if the basic structure of the story in NBA 2K22 is all that different from most of the previous MyCareer incarnations in how it charts the rise of a new sensation from humble origins to NBA superstar, but it’s more economical in its approach. The narrative doesn’t get bogged down in quite as many lengthy cutscenes that prevent you from sensing as if you’re all that involved in the fate of your player. The character arc is undeniably predictable if you’ve played earlier editions in the series (you’re once again choosing between starting your career in college or the NBA’s G League), though there are certain story beat staples (like being drafted) that are necessities for how the mode is built to function.
The MyCareer mode has been known throughout the years for having both memorable and annoying sidekicks alongside its main character, and this year your friend Ricky steps in to the role and is actually one of the better supporting characters in recent memory. The playful banter between MP and Ricky has some genuinely amusing moments, and this emphasis on humor carries over to other story threads as well. While nurturing a budding music career, my player had an enjoyable meeting with rapper The Game about a possible collaboration, but my refusal to do humiliating tasks for him triggered a quest where I was able to record a diss track. The ability to actually choose the lines you want to lay down for the song is the icing on the cake to a fun subplot.
By allowing you to choose which quests you would like to tackle, the story direction is more in your hands than ever before — like some sort of NBA 2K take on the classic choose-your-own-adventure format.
What I Don’t Like
While microtransactions are hardly new to the world of NBA 2K, it’s important to be reminded of just how much they remain a significant obstacle when trying to get the best out of MyCareer. Because you start out as a raw 60 OVR scrub with few skills, and it takes an overwhelming amount of VC to be able to get your player to the point where he’s not completely out of his league in online play, there’s the constant temptation to purchase the required VC rather than slowly earn it. It’s one thing to have to pay for cosmetic items like shirts and shoes, but it’s disheartening to have to make a choice between sinking an exorbitant amount of time to make your player competent or spending an extra $20-50 to accomplish the same thing instead.
Joel talked a lot about this so I won’t belabor the point, but the connection issues have gotten dicier in the aftermath of a very smooth launch. It’s weird that the game has gone backwards on the connectivity front since launch, but here’s to hoping it gets back to normal soon.
Your appreciation for NBA 2K22‘s MyCareer mode is likely to depend on what style of gameplay happens to be your preference. If you’re someone who tends to stay offline and wants to truly experience the progression of taking MP from some nobody with limited skills to a force to be reckoned with in the NBA by playing different kinds of games against the CPU, then you’re likely to find that the mode has nearly everything that you could possibly want. The story is briskly paced and entertaining enough, The City offers plenty to do even without taking your talents online, and the introduction of quests give you more control of dictating the flow of events.
Should you instead be someone who would rather go toe-to-toe with other real people online though, there’s the chance that any excitement about the mode will be quelled by what’s required of your player to get it up to the level of others out there. Putting you between a rock and a hard place, MyCareer demands either a huge commitment of time or an extra infusion of funds if you want to level the playing field to the point where your player’s skills aren’t going to be too much of a liability. While the online component offers a healthy variety of ways to play against others, it’s unfortunate that this huge portion of the mode remains inaccessible for many simply because they don’t have the time or money to invest in making their players good enough to keep up with those who do.