Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S (reviewed)
Price: $60 (PC/PS4/Xbox One) / $70 (PS5/Xbox Series X/S)
Release Date: September 10, 2021
NBA 2K22 feels like a different game from its predecessors — and in all of the best ways. The NBA 2K series remains the most accurate sports simulation on the market, and the developers clearly prioritized building a realistic gameplay experience in this year’s edition.
The standout feature of NBA 2K22 is the new City mode. This is an open-world online city that your MyPlayer lives in. It's also integrated with 2K’s career mode, where you can upgrade your player by accepting quests from NPCs and playing pickup games in the City. If you are looking to bring your hometown team an NBA championship, MyNBA is an in-depth franchise mode that puts you in the shoes of an NBA general manager.
MyTeam offers users a chance to build their own teams and compete online by adding both current and former NBA players to their rosters. This mode also offers a number of offline challenges and customizable options. Read our full NBA 2K22 review for everything else you’ll want to know about the long-running basketball sim's latest installment.
NBA 2K22 review: Gameplay
The gameplay in NBA 2K22 is like fine wine: Crisp, smooth and better with age. Often, sports games will copy and paste the same mechanics and animations from the prior edition of the game, and the NBA 2K series has been guilty of this in the past. This year, however, is different. While it's not perfect, the AI in this game simulates what real basketball players would do. It is more difficult to play isolation basketball, making ball movement and creating openings more important.
The most obvious improvement to the gameplay is in defense. Gone are the days where point guards could blow by defenders with ease. In NBA 2K22, defenders will stay in front of the ball handler and force you to get past them. In the past, trying to steal the ball on defense would result in a near-automatic reach-in foul. But this year's game rewards players for well-timed steals. The same applies for the new shot contest and shot-blocking mechanics. It is a balanced system that eschews the absurd late closeouts that contest wide-open shots, as well as fixes the commonplace instance of a well-guarded shot being considered wide-open.
On the offensive side of the ball, the most significant change is a new shot meter. The shot meter takes a little while to get used to, but once you do, it is a welcome change. Whereas past shot meters were small icons that appeared over the shooter’s head, this one is a long arc that appears behind the shooter. The meter expands with high-quality shots from better shooters, and shrinks with low-quality shots from worse shooters. NBA 2K22 has also added new dribble moves and signature combos, creating more offensive versatility for players.
NBA 2K22 review: Visuals and Sound
I played NBA 2K22 on an Xbox Series X, connected to a 65” LED 4K TV, and it looked incredible. The player models are as close to real as you can get, and the immersive presentation accurately simulates an NBA atmosphere.
The motion capture in NBA 2K22 is exceptional. Star players have their own personal animations baked into the game,which makes it feel like you are truly playing with real athletes, not randomly generated characters. These animations span from Stephen Curry turning his back to the basket as he releases his three-point shot, to Carmelo Anthony’s patented baseline turnaround jumper. NBA 2K22 is full of more subtle new animations too, including a neat camera cut that rubs a perfect release on a three-pointer in your opponent's face.
The sound in NBA 2K22 is also top-notch. From the swoosh of made baskets to on-court audio, everything sounds exactly how it is supposed to. The 2K developers went out of their way to do the little things that add to the realism of the game, such as adding all 30 PA announcers from teams around the league. When you are not actively in games, there's a stellar soundtrack, featuring numerous artists connected to the NBA universe, such as Travis Scott, Gunna, Future, Megan Thee Stallion and Migos.
NBA 2K22 review: MyNBA/MyWNBA
NBA 2K22's developers employed relatively simple logic when building its franchise mode: "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it." This game mode allows users to choose an NBA or WNBA team and play through multiple seasons to start a dynasty. Users take their team through the draft and free agency process each year, with the ability to make trades, and hire and fire staff.
This year’s version of MyNBA/MyWNBA includes new features in staffing and preparation. Users can now build an entire front office staff made up of four departments, employing up to 17 staff members. The mode now features a Prep Hub that puts all of the information about your team into a single menu. NBA 2K22 has also added training updates to MyNBA/MyWNBA, which add another layer to running a franchise.
NBA 2K22 review: MyCareer/The City
In the new City mode, NBA 2K22 combines the classic career mode with an open-world online universe. Here, you can improve your player by completing quests from NPCs and playing pickup games online. I came away extremely impressed with the effort that went into building the City. NBA 2K22 ditches the linear story mode from past games and replaces it with an integrated online experience that offers more freedom for players.
The City first appeared in NBA 2K21, but the experience in NBA 2K22 is nothing like last year’s mode. Imagine an online Grand Theft Auto, except instead of theft and murder, the game is based around basketball. In your spare time, your player can hit the booth or the design studio to start a career in hip-hop, or become a fashion mogul. This is an ambitious and creative mode, although it's admittedly not for everyone, as it doesn't focus on the on-court aspects of the game.
NBA 2K22 review: MyTeam
NBA 2K22’s MyTeam is 2K’s version of EA’s infamous ultimate team game mode. These game modes have attracted criticism for promoting gambling, as you have to buy new players in randomized packs. However, people continue to play the game. In NBA 2K22, the microtransactions needed to improve your player in MyCareer are often more impactful than those in MyTeam.
MyTeam has improved in quality each year, and the improvements have continued in NBA 2K22. MyTeam draft allows players to create a temporary squad of elite players to play online and earn real rewards. There is also now a card grader that will approximate the value of your card before you put it on market. If you don’t mind the pay-to-play nature of this game mode, you may enjoy MyTeam.
NBA 2K22 review: Verdict
When it comes to realistic sports simulations, NBA 2K22 is one of the best that I have seen. The developers clearly listened to fan concerns, and took action to improve this year’s edition. This game has almost completely eliminated the glitchy plays and unforced CPU errors from last year's entry. NBA 2K22 is more of a skill-based game than a luck-based one.
Not only is the gameplay impeccable, but the graphics and presentation add an element of immersion that other sports games often fail to replicate. Outside of the excellent gameplay, NBA 2K22 has something for everybody. MyNBA/MyWNBA is a comprehensive franchise mode where players can bring their teams to glory, and MyTeam has made changes that fans of the game mode will love. The City and MyCareer offer something completely new.
NBA 2K22 is a must-buy for basketball fans, and a considerable improvement over NBA 2K21. The gameplay is outstanding, the graphics pop and there is enough variety in game modes to keep you busy for a whole year.