Full Disclosure: I am not a huge basketball fan. I would actually rank it tied for 4th on my favorite sports list with soccer. (If you care, my top three are Baseball, Football, and Hockey in that order). The only time I invest time into watching basketball is during March Madness and occasionally the NBA Playoffs. I still like the sport, but I just enjoy watching my top three more. As a result, I have not played an NBA 2K game in a few years. However, I remember in my past having a great time playing 2K games, and due to the fact that I now know some people putting together an Online MyNBA League, I decided I wanted to give NBA 2K22 a shot. Others have told me this game has the best Franchise mode in sports gaming, and the game itself says on the MyNBA Main Menu “Experience the most customizable franchise mode in sports gaming.” As someone who primarily plays Franchise modes, I had to see for myself if these claims were true.
2K22 hits the mark when it comes to gameplay. There is no better feeling that hitting an Excellent on your shot meter when you pull up for three. Not only that, but you can customize the look and color of your meter and even the sound it makes when you hit that sweet sweet Excellent release. I sometimes found myself throwing up 3 fingers when I hit those shots because it felt so dang good.
The reason why it feels so good to hit that Excellent release is that it is not easy to score. One of the elements of gameplay I really like is that you are rewarded for creating open shots and penalized if you throw it up while blanketed by your man. You need to have an actual gameplan apart from running Isolation plays with your best player, because you will not be able to just blow by the defense easily. Running set plays, pick and rolls, and knowing how to use your dribble and post moves will all be essential in scoring effectively more this year than any other.
I am still getting used to the timing of the shot meter, especially when it comes to layups or moving shots. The meter adapts to the type of shot you are making, when you need to make the release, and changes the size of the “good timing” box depending upon how contested your shot is. Overall, I love how reactive the shot meter is, and it forced me to actually think about how to run an offense and what I need to do to get the best shot possible.
2K may have some of the best in-game presentation in the sports gaming world. First of all, the graphics look absolutely gorgeous. This is the first video game I have played where I actually thought to myself, “oh dang that’s some great lighting!” as I saw how the lights of the basketball arenas reflected off the courts. This lighting made the wood floor as realistic as if I was watching the game on TV.
Another thing that sets NBA 2K22 apart from the other sports games is their rotating commentary teams. Every other sports game has their one team they use for every game played while NBA 2K22rotates multiple commentary crews. This adds a lot to the replay value of the game, as it feels like you are changing channels each game. I am sure I’m not the only one who gets sick of hearing the same voice saying the same lines over and over again as you play for hours.
Not only do the commentary teams rotate, but new to this year, all of the real life PA announcers for each NBA team are in the game. This does so much for the immersion experience in making it feel like a real NBA game. It is not something I noticed at first, since the PA announcer is more of a background sound when playing the game, but it is this attention to detail that puts NBA 2K22 above other sports games.
Holy Customizations Batman!
This mode is my bread and butter. I spend probably more than 80% of my gameplay time in Franchise mode no matter the sport. So when a game claims to have the “most customizable Franchise mode in sports gaming,” I have to check it out regardless of the sport. And boy do they live up to their claim. While basketball in general may be lower on my list when it comes to favorite sports, due to the sheer amount of what you can customize, MyNBA has now shot to the top of my list of favorite Franchise modes in sports games. Not only can you customize every aspect, but you can also do it in a way that I never even thought the option should even exist!
For example, most sports games franchise mode lets you turn the salary cap on or off. That’s it. MyNBA? You can do that too. Or you can change what the salary cap is. You can change the rules of contract extensions. You can even change the inflation rate. Who thinks about inflation rate when playing a sports game?? Well I do now!
Want to make the NBA larger than 30 teams? You can add expansion teams already made from the Virginia Storm to the Honolulu Breeze. Or you can even create an entire league of custom made teams, from the uniforms, to the logos, to the arena itself. Oh, and you can upload these teams for others to download and use as well.
If you want to change an aspect of the NBA, chances are good that it is an option to change. You can change playoff seedings, the play-in tournament, use historical teams that 2K has made available, including an All-Time Lineup for every NBA Franchise, and you can even change the rules of how the game itself is played.
There is also so much depth to this mode that other sports games need to look to for examples. You can hire full team staff from the Assistant GM to a Foreign Scout, to a Wingman Coach. Each of these roles can have an impact on how players develop, scouting, and even trades and finances. You have to pay as much attention to the development of your staff as the development of your players, as they have different areas of strengths, weaknesses, and growth or decline.
The training and mentorship programs are deep as well. You can schedule every little detail of training and have young players go under the wing of veteran players to help develop new Ability Badges or improve the strength of current badges.
There is so much depth to MyNBA that you have control over that you can really get lost in all the menus and not even play a game itself after a while. And this is a great thing. Give control to the players as to how they want their game to go. Have it your way.
Oh and did I mention you can play MyNBA online with all teams controlled by human players? Oh and there is even a “competitive” option where you can be ranked based on how well you do as a GM? Sheesh this mode has everything.
I have always enjoyed the modes where you can create yourself and try to make it to the pros, regardless of the sport. I also love it even more when there is a narrative story that is impacted by my choices, and also includes the off the field/court actions that makes your player feel like an actual person and not just some player only focused on games. You get both with NBA 2K22’s MyCareer. Create your player, jump into the story, and make the choices and plays that will one day lead to the NBA. I have yet to make it to the NBA with my player yet, but the number of choices that have been presented to me have been plentiful, each making me feel like I need to take each one seriously as it could affect my performance on the court or my reputation off the court.
The amount of customization continues here as you can customize your looks on and off the court and what type of player you want to be. I am a huge fan of the way you build out your player in terms of the playstyle and ratings. You first set the height, weight, and wingspan of your player, which determines what you can do with your physical traits such as speed, strength, and stamina. It even affects some attributes such as rebounding. You then are given a list of all of the attributes and can assign attribute points wherever you want until the overall rating of your player hits 99. This sets what your player can be completely maxed out instead of giving you either a few canned archetypes or letting you have 99 in every attribute (who wants to see a 5’5” PG with 99 strength backing down a 7’ center?). This way of designing your player is the perfect way to determine what your player will be when playing a MyCareer type of mode. It is the right mix of customization and limiting overpowered super-players, since you take these players into competitive online play. You can also have multiple builds for whenever you want to play with your player online in the City as opposed to the main single player storyline. This is the most immersive experience when it comes to creating your own player and either following the single player story or taking it online against other players.
This is one of the coolest improvements any sports game has done, although to be fair it is hard to put something like the WNBA into football or baseball games. However, the WNBA being in 2K with MyPlayer and Franchise modes is a huge win, as this being a standalone game would probably not sell as well. You can also tell this mode was not just an afterthought thrown in to appease the fans. While the MyPlayer and Franchise modes may not be the complete full-fledged version you see with the NBA, the games played have full accurate rosters, face scans, and even commentary that follows the storylines of the league.
As I admitted earlier, this is not a mode I play. However, I did scour Twitch for some streams of people who do play the mode and I can still give some impressions for what I have seen. For those of you who do not know what MyTeam is, it is the same type of mode as Ultimate Team in Madden/FIFA or Diamond Dynasty in MLB the Show. The biggest positive is the amount of things to do in MyTeam with your cards. There are menus upon menus of challenges, modes, and achievements to unlock that it feels like you will never stop running out of some sort of milestone to reach or thing to do. If you enjoy these card collecting modes, I can pretty much guarantee you won’t be bored, especially with new content rolling out over the course of the year.
I also prefer the auction style of selling cards rather than a straight up marketplace. You still need to time when to put cards on the auction to get maximum value, but an auction feels way less risky and stressful than a marketplace.
I mentioned the defense and how it affects shooting as a positive. However, the defense of the player you are controlling feels more difficult than it should. Numerous times I had offensive players cut while I was defending them and my player would not react as fast as I was moving the left stick to follow, leading to a lot of open shots. I understand some players are slower and have lower acceleration, but it felt like my player was not moving when I wanted them to move. At least start the animation when I move the stick, not a little bit later.
I also wish it was a little easier to call set plays on offense. Too many times I spent valuable seconds of the shot clock trying to find the right play to start. This is probably something that will get better the more I play, but with how much I need to focus on getting an open shot, I have to do something other than having my players spread out standing still.
There is also not a variety of defense from what I’ve seen so far. While there is the option of running defenses such as 2-3 zone or 3-2 zone, I have pretty much only seen man to man or full court press. I am pretty sure there is more to NBA defenses than “Cover your man and communicate on screens.”
Overall, these are just minor negatives. For the most part, this game plays extremely well.
Again, these are just minor things compared to how many positives there are in this game.
First, sometimes the commentator’s tone of voice does not fit the situation. For example, late in the 2nd quarter of a game I was losing by 3, I took a 3 point shot. As I did so, the commentator went nuts, yelling “FOR THE TIE!!!” as the shot went up. Umm, I appreciate the enthusiasm dude, but it’s not even close to the end of the game where this would have been a big deal.
Another small thing is that the play art when plays are called are sometimes hard to read, especially in MyCareer/MyPlayer where the Dark Blue of what your player is supposed to do blends in with the your teammates. But who are we kidding, if one of my main complaints is the colors of the play art on the court, that’s a positive in and of itself.
I am still trying to comprehend the depth of all that is there for me to customize and control. I can see it becoming overwhelming for some who are looking for a simple experience. I love the depth by the way; it is just going to take me a while to understand how everything works.
So, this is actually the mode where I felt the most frustration while playing. In my opinion, the single player story mode of MyCareer should be separate from the multiplayer experience of MyPlayer/The City. Too often I found myself having to spend a few minutes either stuck in loading screens while I connected to the multiplayer servers or from skateboarding clear across the City to get to my next MyCareer objective. Don’t get me wrong, I think the City is an amazing immersive and unique experience that no other sports game can offer. I just feel like the forcing of the City in between story moments takes me out of the world of my player and into the world of long load times and unnecessary time wasted. Why not have the single-player story advance through cutscenes and menus and go into the City when you want to meet objectives related to multiplayer? Or better yet, maybe let people decide whether they want the City to load into a multiplayer server. That way I can just load in myself to complete objectives that don’t require multiplayer to complete. Then if I want to go to multiplayer, choose an option to connect to a server. I just felt like I sat around too much waiting for things to load that would be cut down if you didn’t have to be online.
2K has been criticized in the past for it’s “pay to win” model of its MyPlayer, linking progression of your player’s attributes to its Virtual Currency, or VC, which can be purchased with real-life money. So players who could drop extra money on the game would essentially get a 99 overall rated player right away and dominate online lobbies over players who tried to progress in the game. Unfortunately, this still exists in NBA 2K22. Now to be fair, they did put a maximum overall cap on the MyPlayers that can only be increased by playing the game. This definitely helps by keeping people from reaching 99 overall right away, but the fact remains that the progression of your attributes is tied to the VC which can be purchased.
The only downside here is that the MyPlayer is not the full-depth mode like MyCareer, with it focusing more on the gameplay and not being in the City or having cutscenes with a story mode. You also just jump right into the WNBA, choosing your team from the get go. There is nothing about how you get to be on that team to begin with. That being said, the MyWNBA is still able to be extremely customized with a full Franchise experience, even with the ability to play online.
I was not a fan of things such as the Free Agent cards or the need to use Contract cards in order to use certain players. These are temporary and feels more like it is more of a cash grab, forcing players to spend more money to get more use out of their players since their cards are not permanent.
Should you buy NBA 2K22?
If you are a fan of sports games, regardless of whether or not basketball is your favorite sport, this game is as close to a must buy as you can get. As long as you like basketball a little bit, the gameplay alone is enough to keep you coming back. But the sheer volume of ways you can customize your experience puts the power in your hands to give yourself whatever experience you wish to enjoy. They 100% back up their claim of being the most customizable franchise mode in sports gaming, and it isn’t even close. This fact alone makes the negatives seem inconsequential, as you can still have an amazing time doing so many different things from MyCareer and MyNBA to MyTeam and the W. For someone who has not played NBA 2K in a few years, this game reminded me why I had such a great time playing a basketball game, even if I was not the biggest fan of the sport in real life.