In making the leap from current gen to next gen, there were expectations that NBA 2K21 would be superior in a variety of ways. In at least in some regards, it has delivered on that promise. One of the biggest changes, for better and worse, relates to The City. When people play the most popular MyCareer mode online, they are confined to The Neighborhood on PS4/Xbox One, while the PS5/Xbox Series X gives them a chance to scope out The City. With this in mind, I wanted to put together this NBA 2K22 The City wishlist since 2K seems close to starting its NBA 2K22 media blitz.
NBA 2K22 The City Wishlist
Without a doubt, the scale of The City is something to behold, and it’s an impressive display of what developers and these new consoles are capable of performing from a technical standpoint. With all of its skyscrapers, stores, and different nooks and crannies hidden around the four different sections of the city, you can spend a lot of time getting lost in its architecture.
In a way, that’s part of where the concerns begin with The City. Though it may be a marvel in terms of design and size, that doesn’t mean there aren’t problems on the streets, or in the shops and on the courts that make up this basketball metropolis. As with any city, there are bound to be issues that need to be resolved in order to make it function properly and make sure its citizens are happy.
In this case though, it’s not the politicians that need to step up to make changes, but instead 2K developers who may be forced to navigate around something that’s plenty familiar to a lot of politicians: greed. Yes, some of the biggest frustrations with The City stem from the prevalence of microtransactions within the mode, and how those who run this town clearly make decisions that will entice people to purchase VC if they want to compete without having to waste too much of their time.
Beyond the greed, let’s investigate some areas of The City that could stand to be improved if this concrete jungle that the 2K developers have created is ever going to serve as an ideal basketball utopia.
Getting Around Town
The first thing you’re liable to notice when you reach The City after successfully making it out of Rookieville is that it’s all a little overwhelming. If you’re having trouble getting yourself oriented, the map is a helpful tool to point yourself in the right direction, depending on what exactly you want to do while in The City. As you begin to make your way from one point to another, it will become evident pretty quickly that getting around from one place to another takes quite a bit of travel time. Because things are spread out so much, you’ll find that even though you’re already right in the heart of action, there’s still a significant commute to do pretty much anything.
When you make it to the City, you’ll be assigned to one of four teams (Northside Knights represent!) that each have their own corner of the town. This helps to make The City seem at least a little bit smaller when you consider that it’s really four different similar neighborhoods all put together, and three of those four hoods you probably won’t have to visit all that much anyway. It’s also incredibly convenient if you happen to love playing ball mostly in the Park because whenever you visit The City, you’ll always spawn right next to your team’s park courts pretty deep into one of the four quadrants. This is significant because, if you’re wanting to do anything other than play in the Park, it may be quite a trek to journey out of your hood to get there.
Let’s look at the most routine task there is: collecting a daily reward. This requires making my way down to the center portion of the map, and then going even further south to the small park where members of teams go to obtain a prize simply for showing up. Back in last gen’s neighborhoods, you could accomplish this fairly quickly by walking down a short road. But now no matter what kind of route I take to get there, this is going to take me a minimum of about two minutes while holding down the sprint button the entire way. That’s almost 15 minutes a week — and a full hour over the course of a month — of logging on where you’re doing nothing in a basketball game besides running from point A to point B. Should you happen to win a prize from your daily reward that requires you to collect it at one of The City’s stores and establishments, that will add another minute or so to your daily commute time as well.
It’s not only getting your daily reward that requires making your way around town either. If you happen to prefer playing ball in the more realistic 5-on-5 Rec (center) than the slightly more arcade style of the 3-on-3 parks, that will also require making your way to the city’s epicenter. All of this traveling wears you down so much that there are definitely times where you might be considering hooping, but decide against it only because it will take too long for your characters to get to the place where they can actually play.
While on the topic, don’t get me started on how long it takes to get past the Zion loading screen when firing up the game. Weren’t reduced load times supposed to be a hallmark of next-gen games?
You might be saying, “If you want to cut down on those travel times in The City, why not just invest in a skateboard or a bike?” It’s true that having one of these methods of transportation at your disposal will certainly reduce that painful commute (and admittedly make it a little more fun), and you have to give 2K some credit for at least giving you a free basic skateboard to make covering all that territory just a little easier. In fact, the skateboard can trim travel times pretty much half, which still isn’t quite as quick as it is on current gen to accomplish the task but at least it’s getting closer. Regardless, if you want any sort of “custom” designed skateboard to help set you apart from the pack, these start at 30,000 VC.
Proper matchmaking has always been something that’s sorely lacking in NBA 2K (and in many sports titles for that matter), but that’s especially evident in the Park where you’re still left to do all of the matchmaking on your own. It doesn’t seem preposterous to think that with the move to next gen we might finally get a system in the parks that can have you automatically matched with and pitted against people on your skill level, but there’s at least nothing like that in place here yet.
What we’re left with instead then is all of the same old problems that once again delay you from actually being able to play any basketball in this basketball video game. That means having to navigate around the courts to find one that has a single open spot so that the game can start as soon as possible. When you get there though, you’re liable to find the teammates you have to go up against a squad currently on a three-game win streak are a 68 overall and a 99 overall who will never once pass you the ball.
This is actually one of the best-case scenarios when compared to how often you’ll instead end up scrambling to a court only to have someone else beat you there. Or you’ll find an open spot but have to wait an undetermined amount of time to have both teams fill up. Sometimes you’ll be forced to abandon a court completely because it will either take too long for enough people to join, or some squad of three will show up instead and force you to have to find another place to play.
It’s understandably a little more challenging to be able to match people properly according to their skill levels when there really aren’t all that many people yet relatively speaking who have been able to secure next-gen consoles — the pool of players is bound to be smaller. But in the future, it would be nice to see the developers consider implementing some sort of system similar to the one in Rocket League where you level up and down with each game you play, and eventually you settle in and are consistently playing competitive games with people roughly at your skill level. This would solve the annoying problem of making people desperately wander around courts for games while also keeping your teammates and opponents from making the experience too frustrating.
Rec Center AI
For as long as the The Rec has been around in NBA 2K, there’s also been the conundrum of what to do when people inevitably quit or disconnect from the games played in the building. It’s sadly all too common to have players brick their first couple of shots or turn the ball over once and decide to peace out. You can even expect a mass exodus of two or three players once you fall behind by double digits (or sometimes even losing at all is grounds enough for certain people to dashboard). But what about those of us who have already decided to invest our time in this game and want to play it out to its conclusion in order to receive the rewards to upgrade our player?
As of now, the AI player who replaces anyone who drops out is so incompetent that this teammate immediately become a liability at both ends of the court. On offense, they are often too quick to pull the trigger and yet can’t even hit wide open shots at a decent clip. On defense, they can easily be manipulated in the pick and roll, and this leads to giving up open looks either behind the 3-point arc or in the paint. Their ineptitude makes games routinely almost impossible to finish, and the conspiracy theorist can’t help but wonder if perhaps there’s some inherent strategy by 2K to purposely make the AI so bad that you will quit, get nothing to upgrade your player for your time and effort, and then have to invest more time (unless you want to just use that credit card) in the game to possibly (probably?) have the whole cycle repeat itself again.
For some reason (maybe lack of next-gen players again?), The Rec in next gen is even worse from an AI perspective than current gen because it’s pretty common to find the mode’s flawed matchmaking deciding to go ahead and team you up with an AI instead of another real person right from the outset. Because you can’t actually back out from the matchmaking once it’s in progress, the game then forces you to have to quit through the dashboard in order to avoid a nightmarish game with an AI teammate.
It’s the same problem that EA and the NHL series has faced within the World of Chel mode when you’re playing 6-on-6 drop-in games. While AI players who replace people who quit in that mode can be somewhat inconsistent, they’re not nearly as atrocious as the AI replacements in NBA 2K21. It’s not as if it’s expected that these scabs would be superstars or anything, especially considering there should perhaps be some punishment to the team that has players quitting, but it’s at least necessary that they be able to hold their own and not create a talent void that can threaten to sink the entire team. Also, shouldn’t the people who do the quitting be punished more than those left behind by the quitters?
There is plenty more items on the wishlist, but traversing the environment, making Rec games more enjoyable, and getting into more (competitive) Park games are near the top of my list. What’s on yours? Would it be improving latency in a general sense (especially in Pro-Am games)? General menu responsiveness? Having more chances to edit your player while waiting around (which is a constant in this mode)? Nerfing contact dunks into the ground and making defense matter more overall? Get rid of the Bail Out badge? Let us know!