It’s about a week and some days after #2KDay, and I can say that I’m fully invested in NBA 2K22. A few issues on defense are still around, and some instability issues have plagued my experience intermittently since launch (and really more in the days after launch, ironically enough). Besides that, NBA 2K22 as a whole is an overall fun experience that I’m enjoying, and there is not as much community uproar as we’ve noticed over the last couple years. So in this NBA 2K22 review, I will discuss how 2K has improved over last year’s iteration and has potentially brought us a game that may be worth playing all year long.
(Also, I want to note that because NBA 2K is such a massive game at this point, my focus in this review centers around gameplay and MyCareer first and foremost. We’ll be deep diving the other modes even more in the future, but as always our reviews are about the individual experience, and my love for this game comes from the gameplay and MyCareer side of things. I will let other experts give more in-depth and interesting thoughts on modes like MyNBA because they simply play them more than I do.)
NBA 2K22 Review – What I Like
I’m going to start off by saying that I was not expecting to have this good a time with NBA 2K22. I thought we were going to get a game that was a step up from last year, but only incrementally. The way that the 2K team was trickling out news and waited until almost the last second to really let us know what this year’s game was going to contain really had me feeling pessimistic. Well, I was wrong — very wrong in some instances even.
I’m going to stand on the hill, potentially by myself, and say right off rip that this is arguably the best playing version of NBA 2K that we’ve experienced to date. That’s the tweet. That’s the “back of the box” line. Post and print it. If we want to put a caveat on it, then maybe the full context is this is the best playing 2K in the “badge” and “greens” era. What the 2K development team has done during a nine-month turnaround cycle is nothing short of remarkable. NBA 2K22 feels well balanced on both sides of the ball, some frustrating gameplay elements are all but gone, and I’m back to having fun that is rarely interrupted by major frustrations.
Yes, the game isn’t perfect, but the 2K team really tried to get there this year.
Dribble and iso gods should rejoice, and defenders should fret if your stick skills are not up to par. NBA 2K22 took last year’s iteration of improvements with dribbling and ran like Usain Bolt in a 100M sprint. Dribbling is still smooth as butter, but this year the chaining and implementation of a couple new badges really separates the elite from the mediocre. Unlike last year, we’re back to dribbling using combinations of the left stick, flicking the right stick, and using the L2/LT button to trigger size-ups and the like.
Some may need to get reacquainted to dribbling again, but if you’re a player who was always able to dribble and pull off moves at will, it won’t take you long to get back into your top-tier bag and get busy. That speaks directly to what I think the 2K team is really trying to put on display: a true skill gap. I personally am not a dribble demon and can get away with doing a couple advanced moves, but I’ve come up time and again against folks who are absolute beasts on the sticks and guarding these players is a real task. However, it’s not as frustrating to guard these players due to the drastic defensive improvements the game has — but we’ll talk about all that later.
There’s a bevy of dribble moves at your disposal, and there most definitely is and will be expert-level dribble moves and chains that only the truly skilled players will be able to execute. Add in the addition this year of Seasons and dribble animation content that will be added each season, and you’ll quickly understand that dribbling within NBA 2K22 should only grow deeper as the year moves along.
I never thought I’d see the day where defense would improve to such a degree that it was viable, and it would lead to better balance in the game. Luckily for me, the day and time has come, and I am amped about it. For me, this is the biggest reason why NBA 2K22 feels so good. It’s clear that the 2K team put some serious work in on the defensive side of the ball. Off the bat, I noticed that I wasn’t sliding all over the court while trying to defend. This alone sent me over the moon. I mentioned in the previous dribbling section that dribble gods could rejoice, but they also have to temper their cockiness if they run into players who know how to defend and counter their moves. Yes, counter.
While it’s still somewhat challenging to battle against a nasty step-back or a hesi-cross into a step-back, it can be done. There is a skill gap here just as much as there is for dribbling or shooting, but understanding how to defend against a dribble attack and ensure your player (specifically your MyCareer build) can defend adequately will be the difference between keeping your team in games or getting lambasted by your teammates. Unless you’re going to be making a build that will specialize in straight shooting and you don’t plan on doing anything else, you’re really going to want to consider throwing on above-average defensive ratings in NBA 2K22 so that you’re not a liability to your team.
On top of the improvements to on-ball defense, the defensive AI has seen quite the improvement as well. Your counterparts are no longer inept at stopping plays and are much smarter in their rotations and assignments. Unfortunately, the defense hasn’t completely been remedied of its issues, which we’ll talk about shortly, but all in all defense is leaps and bounds above what we’ve experienced in recent years in the 2K series. I truly hope that the development team leave this element alone as a whole.
Lastly, I want to be clear that offense is still very much OP if you can shoot (again, greens are their own issue, and non-greens seem to go in at a higher clip as well). Between this and users still having a bit of that “shifty burst:” that existed last year, you’re going to run into people you just can’t stop. In short, if you can get open, you’re still going to dominate. But, again, the difference here is offense was not nerfed, it’s just that defense was improved.
In NBA 2K21 you could make a MyCareer/MyPlayer build with literally no stamina, and it did nothing to affect your player or build, especially with Gatorade boosts to help you out as well. The story is not the same in NBA 2K22 whatsoever. You need stamina this year, and you’ll need a lot of it if you want to even keep up with everyone else on the court. Stamina doesn’t just impact your turbo or your energy levels when you do various things on the court.
One area that I’ve noticed it’ll impact quite a bit is a player’s shooting ability. If your stamina is low throughout a game, or you abuse your turbo and try to pop off a shot, you’ll shoot much slower than usual — even if you’ve got the fastest shot in the game. This is absolutely fantastic. It should cause players to think more about when they use their turbo. It’ll also affect how player builds come out, as most players are going to dump points into having high stamina now. Turbo abusers can pretty much forget about doing that at all this year — things won’t work out well for you if you do.
One of the major complaints I’ve seen and heard so far this year is that some feel that steals and blocks are overpowered. I don’t agree with this sentiment whatsoever and feel that both steals and blocks are right where they need to be. The skill gap here means that it’s more than ever on the user to control their turnovers. Is the AI more relentless? Yes. Are you punished more for your mistakes? Yes. These are good things.
In speaking about steals specifically, I have it on this list due to what 2K dev team has seemingly done to counter steal button spammers. In NBA 2K22 if you don’t have a decent to high steal rating, your player will reach out and swipe for the ball at an almost ridiculously sluggish speed that puts you at an instant disadvantage. You’re almost frozen in place and locked into the steal animation in slow motion, which will end up allowing your opponent to run right by you. This is a fantastic adjustment and implementation of a penalty for people who just want to sit around and spam the steal button with a 35 steal rating. There’s absolutely zero reason that a player should be rewarded for mashing a button to create a turnover.
Stealing in NBA 2K22, while slightly easier for players with a high steal rating, still requires the right timing to rip the ball.
This year’s game has seen a little bit of a step up in presentation. Player models don’t look too different than what we saw last year, but the player faces do look like they got a little bit more polish than NBA 2K21. The game also does look better visually this year. I can’t put my finger on if the lighting was improved or if there’s just more quality in the overall visuals, but they look better. The camera cuts on perfectly timed shots are a nice little addition that hopefully doesn’t get old too quickly. The addition of each NBA team’s real-life PA announcer is a surprisingly fantastic touch and adds that much more to the ambience in-game.
In both current and next gen, the 2K dev team and people responsible for keeping up appearances put in a solid effort. Current gen has the Cruise Ship and next gen’s updated, upgraded City are absolute beauties. Both the Cruise Ship and The City were well designed and are visually and aesthetically pleasing. The best part of it all is that, as it stands now, everything going on in the environments does not affect gameplay at all and are working seamlessly. We’ll really have to see how things turn out when and if there are implementations of different seasons/holiday events like Halloween or Christmas/winter.
While I haven’t yet jumped to current gen to experience MyCareer there, next gen’s MyCareer mode is a breath of fresh air this year. The 2K team has moved away from a linear star-studded story to a choice-filled RPG mode. You’ll still experience college, the G League, or going straight to the NBA — depending on what you want to do. You start as your own brand, literally. You’re a YouTube and social media sensation that hoops. I think that the implementation of this specific backstory is a perfect choice, as it speaks to how the world operates currently in real life. Social media and YouTube celebrities are created just off their media presence and what they bring to the masses without participating officially in a profession. They either make you laugh, inspire you, sell you on products, or amaze you with their athletic prowess all through your phone.
That’s who you are as MP, and your skills on the court that have people glued to their phones has earned you the opportunities to become a fashion, music, or NBA superstar, all based on the choices you make as you progress. As mentioned, the RPG feel allows you to participate and complete a multitude of side quests around The City, if you so choose to do so. While we don’t have the big-time actors we’re used to this time around, there’s appearances by Jake from State Farm (no, really, and it’s truly bizarre) and rapper The Game, so you’ll still see some familiar faces here and there. If you want to go ball out in the Park or Rec/Pro-Am, you can do that and come back to your side quests and NBA games later. The choice is really yours.
MyTeam has seen some improvements, but it goes in the “like” and “don’t like” piles as of now. The biggest reason it goes in the “don’t like” pile is the same reason some portions of MyCareer are painful: VC. I know, shocker. I’ll talk more about it in a later section, but the point is VC makes things more painful than they need to be. For example, I want to love the new Draft feature, but it’s hard to do so because you’re only flipping three out of five cards per round, and you don’t get enough tokens to offset the fact that you can only pay for a new Draft with VC (not MT). There are enough good BR modes out there in the sports space at this point that 2K shouldn’t mess this mode up in such obvious ways.The way 2K has arranged things makes me believe Draft will have a small user base when it should be very popular.
And this is all very frustrating because the long-term rewards system feels better this year. Plus, the gameplay makes competitive games more enjoyable because it doesn’t feel like you’re screwed if you just run up against an OP squad. Beyond that, Limited is fun (but the randomness factor of rings remains terrible), and Unlimited has better matchmaking, which is great, but it makes it worse for rewards because you now have to game the system to really have a chance at ever going 12-0 to get the top reward.
In short, MyTeam is a positive because of the gameplay and rewards you in the token market and elsewhere, but the rewards structure for TTO Online, Unlimited, and Limited are all messed up — and it’s purely because of how 2K set each of those reward structures up.
NBA 2K22 Review – What I Don’t Like
Not everything in life is perfect, and that’s very true in NBA 2K22. While the game is an absolutely massive step up from NBA 2K21, it does fall a little short in some respects.
Defensive AI/Pick And Rolls
While the defensive AI has improved substantially from last year, one thing that is still a problem and will need fixing is defense against the pick and roll. You can still run a high pick and roll, or the pick and roll in general, and the defense won’t be able to adjust or stop the play most of the time. Literally hours after NBA 2K22 launched, I received a text message from a notable friend who literally knows the ins and outs of defense in NBA 2K showing me how he blew out the AI on HOF difficulty by literally running a high pick and roll the whole game.
It’s no secret that running the pick and roll is a valuable and prominently used method to help in the MyCareer grind for badges/badge points (yeah I’m snitching, don’t think the 2K devs don’t know this already), yet this area of the game still hasn’t truly been fixed. While it’s clear that defense and defensive AI was a complete rewrite this year from the ground up — and a fantastic one overall — the level of technical prowess to fix the pick and roll still hasn’t been quite figured out.
The other component of this that makes it frustrating is that there is just a lot of “dead’ menu items when it comes to the strategy side of things. This makes it especially frustrating in head-to-head games because you can’t just put “house rules” in place for yourself like you can against the AI. Against another human, you want to be able to scheme up a pick and roll defense that works. However, there are things like “leave him” that just don’t work, or there are other things in the menus that don’t do anything at all when you toy with them. This impacts freelances, defensive adjustments, and it’s hard to know what works and doesn’t work because there are simply adjustments in the menu that either do nothing, don’t do what they say, or reset after timeouts.
2K is a complex game, but it’s only made more complex by having things in the menus that have no purpose. Building back from scratch seems to have worked out relatively well for the defense, so now it might be for the best to rip most everything out of the strategy/gameplay menus and start fresh to make sure anything that is added does work as intended.
We have arrived at the ironic part of the review. The irony is that NBA 2K22‘s launch weekend was smooth. If you were making bets, a smooth launch would have been the thing you put $10 on in Vegas to make $100,000.
At launch, the game played well, and there were barely any issues or complaints. However, as we get further and further from launch (and now further and further into patches), one thing that has been happening involves the instability of the servers and game itself. I’ve now almost lost track of how many times my game on PS5 has crashed and sent me back to the dashboard. It almost seems like if I try to do more than one thing at once, it’ll cause the game to crash.
I’ve received an astounding amount of error messages regarding being disconnected from the 2K server despite having gigabit internet and being LAN connected. My main MyCareer file/build is currently unplayable due to an issue where, when I select the file, I get error code 6F8CE31B and get kicked back to the main menu. I’m now on Day 6 of this issue happening and have had a ticket with 2K Support for five days, which hasn’t been answered in three days after being asked to do a multitude of things to test my internet connection — which I know is not the problem.
It’s been extremely frustrating.
At the end of some Park or Rec games, myself and some of my friends that I play with get errors disconnecting us from the server, which ends up not counting the game we just played. Completing some games sees the Season level bar go up five to seven levels despite only gaining 15-25% progress. The game over the last couple days has been kicking me out of Park, Rec, and Pro-Am games at an almost aggressive rate — to the point where I can get a game in 2 out 10 attempts. This is absolutely unacceptable at this point. These issues are now at the point where they have to be rectified, especially the disconnects, as it’s starting to leave a very bad taste in my mouth after the initial good vibes.
Okay, let’s get to it. I’m going to mention this every year until the 2K team decides to find a balance between the amount of money and VC we have to shell out just to play the game and stay competitive, and the amount of VC we get for doing anything. My initial build, a Versatile Paint Beast center, cost me 256K VC off rip to boost him to the almost prerequisite 85 overall rating. I’m used to shelling out roughly 185K VC to get any build to an 85, but this year things seem that much more expensive. Yes, it appears we have VC inflation in full effect.
My second build, a 6-foot-1 Playmaking Shot Creator, cost me 194K VC to get to an 85 overall. Boosting attributes that are primary in your build as you level up are also much more expensive than last year. Two attribute points on my 3-point shooting for my Play Shot build cost me almost 10K VC. When you take into consideration all the money you have to spend to improve your build, plus buying boosts for the extra necessary edge needed to play Park/Rec/Pro-Am, you start to realize how much you’re being gouged. Add in the insultingly low amounts of VC you earn after completing MyCareer or Park/Rec games, and it’s offensive. The most I’ve earned in a Park game was 427 VC. MyCareer games net me about 1,400 VC, and that’s partially due to playing on 12-minute quarters.
The custom shoes that you make in Shoe Creator still cost you 10K VC to buy, and even the cheapest merchandise in the shopping strip in terms of clothing has you shelling out 2,000 VC. If the 2K team wants to keep us paying exorbitant prices for things, they’re going to have to up the amount of VC we can earn to close the gap because right now there is a massive balancing issue.
This goes beyond MyCareer as well. The VC issue also exists in MyTeam. Selling duplicates does not earn you as much MT anymore, yet it seems like some packs cost even more. Domination is now even harder, and you earn even less MT from it. Beyond that, again, the Draft is the biggest new culprit. Folks who spend a lot of time playing MyTeam are not going to also have the time to play tons of MyCareer to get VC. You earn MT by playing MyTeam, yet you can’t use MT to buy Draft tokens. That’s insane. You are setting up the newest sub-mode to die by default by doing bizarre things like that.
Look, even if I had the time to really dig into MyNBA to go through all the ins and outs, the lack of a “true” broadcast camera in this mode is such a bizarre omission right now that it would suck a lot of the enjoyment from it. Again, we’ll have more in-depth thoughts on this mode in the weeks ahead, but the broadcast camera needs to be back in this mode first and foremost. The gameplay is the biggest strength of 2K22, so being able to play the game from the desired cameras is obviously a top priority.
NBA 2K22 is arguably the best playing game of simulation basketball that the 2K team has released in at least a generation. Offense and defense are much more balanced, a true skill gap has been established, and I think most veterans are really going to like the changes here. That being said, all the aforementioned things will truly be enjoyable when the devs rectify the massive and consistent server and disconnect issues that are now starting to really plague the game. (Beyond that, begging for microtransactions to be dialed back after the game has already launched seems farfetched so I leave that out.)
If the devs can stabilize the servers, give us back our cameras in MyNBA, and just make some general tweaks around the edges, I would suggest without hesitation that NBA 2K22 is worth scoping out.