Welcome To The Next level

HIGH  The on-court presentation is stunning

LOW  MyCareer mode is boring. The City is an interminable grind.

WTF  Slowdown, clipping and crashing? On the Series X?

On this website, roughly a year ago, I wrote that the NBA 2K series was in desperate need of an upgrade. The problem was that “next-gen” wasn’t (and still isn’t) widely available to most gamers. Well, I’m one of the lucky ones, because I finally got to review NBA 2K22 as the developers intended it to be.

By and large, the NBA 2K experience is alive and well on next-gen consoles. The visuals, as expected for the Xbox Series X, are pristine, with a level of texturing and polish never before seen in console sports. From the beads of sweat during player close-ups, to the brilliant light and reflection work on the courts, there’s not one aspect of the presentation that hasn’t improved over the previous generation.

(This praise also pertains to the hair on the player models, which may not be perfect, but is far better than the poorly-animated manes we’ve become accustomed to over the years.)

Beyond the court, 2K22 is also enjoyable in menus and side activities. While the in-game advertising (including an ill-advised quest for “Jake from State Farm”) is more prevalent than I’d like and the droning hip-hop soundtrack becomes tiresome, there’s enough to do so that these factors don’t become too distracting — and, the menus and cut screens look amazing along the way.

No matter how gamers want to hoop, 2K22 has a mode to suit them. Traditional NBA and WNBA exhibitions, full seasons, street ball, online challenges — it’s all available right from the outset. As is the expected MyTeam card game (which is a little more generous than in previous years) making it easier for newcomers to build a quality squad without dipping into their own pockets.

The one major disappointment in NBA 2K22 comes from a mode players have grown to love over the years — the MyPlayer singleplayer story. While the requisite underdog draft day story is in place (as are the branching, RPG-lite conversation trees) I’ve never felt more disconnected from the story or the experience. Even with countless things to do in the expansive, GTA-like “City” hub world, there’s a distinct lack of personality with this year’s characters, leading to an even greater sense of apathy.

The story begins strongly enough, with the gamer (a social media-obsessed streetballer named “MP” for “MyPlayer”) given the option to risk it all for NBA stardom, or take a more measured route to fame via stints in college and the NBA G-League. However, once it becomes clear that the character will succeed no matter the choices made, the mode becomes a tedious grind. None of the cutscenes add much to the progression or gravitas, they simply lead to another task for the player to complete in exchange for small currency rewards.

Also, in a mind-boggling turn of events, the MyPlayer City made my shiny new Series X shut down completely. The framerate slowed to the level of a PowerPoint presentation, while my controllers were rendered unusable until the machine caught up with the game’s ambition. Because of this, I found myself skipping the timed sidequests and fast-forwarded my progress to season games. This might be missing the point of the mode, but after my fourth monotonous, stuttering trot across the large city map, I just wanted to play basketball.

Thankfully, this is where NBA 2K22 truly shines. Past editions of this title were gorgeous, but the new console versions are a sight to behold. Animations no longer feel canned and AI movements are far smoother and more realistic. As a result, the presentation is realistic and well-paced, with none of the jerky, awkward movements gamers saw in older editions.

More importantly, the controls feel more responsive than before, putting full control of passing and special moves back in the hands of the gamer, and not not preloaded animation sequences. When combined with the above-average announcing and audio, it’s difficult to tell NBA 2K22 apart from a real NBA broadcast.

Online, the game performs well with active lobbies, quick matchmaking, and accurate controls. The only time I experienced any latency was on the title’s launch night, when servers were predictably overworked. Since then, my online experiences have been identical to offline play, in both speed and responsiveness.

It appears that NBA 2K has finally started to take the “next step” into greater gaming possibilities. Though MyPlayer needs a good amount of tuning and streamlining before reaching the heights of past story modes, it hints at bigger things down the line. But, based solely on the thrilling, beautiful, on-court presentation and gameplay, 2K22 is still a tremendous achievement.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is published by 2K Games and developed by Visual Concepts. It is currently available on XBO, PS4, XBX|S, PS5, PC and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the XBX. Approximately 31 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to online multiplayer.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains Mild Lyrics within the in-game music selections. Additionally, the single-player MyCareer mode contains a narrative that includes some adult themes to which parents of younger children may object.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: NBA 2K22 features subtitles and numerous tactile feedback features within the controller, in all modes. The game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, the game’s controls are not remappable.

Brad Bortone
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