NBA 2K has certainly come a long way from its start in the early 2000s, before toppling its main rival to become the juggernaut in the basketball gaming scene.
There was a time when the game reached its renaissance period by adding a Career mode, legendary teams, and MyTEAM mode.
But there were instances where the game felt like a recycled version of their previous titles, marred with many issues centered on microtransactions.
And while it seems the gameplay mechanics have remained the same, the latest iteration in the series made important adjustments that will make basketball junkies feel like they’re reliving the glory days of the series’ renaissance period.
A better defensive scheme spices up the gameplay
Prior to release, the game’s developer Visual Concepts trumped up many gameplay improvements, including a revamped defensive scheme. I personally experienced this in my playthroughs.
Loading up Giannis Antetokounmpo, I thought that he would be nigh unguardable in the game, given his insane physique.
Even with the Hall of Fame settings, he looked dominant against other opposing power forwards — until I encountered prime Kevin Garnett during his MVP season back in 2004.
Garnett’s defensive AI completely smothered my Giannis, forcing me to look for other ways to score around him. I had to use the usual pick-and-roll to isolate myself from “The Big Ticket,” which worked on some occasions, but could still backfire, especially if the defensive player is capable of snatching the rock away from you.
This actually forced me to get creative with Giannis, scoring with post and dribble moves.
Besides Giannis, I also tried out other players, especially shooters like Steph Curry, Trae Young, and Jayson Tatum. In previous 2K games, you could easily shoot over a defender, especially once you mastered the shot meter. But the current game encourages you to use every offensive tool in your arsenal, now that the defender can dynamically alter your shot meter.
And if these new improvements have made the AI smarter, what more if a seasoned player was in control of playing the team’s defensive gameplan?
This explains why, when I play a bunch of random online REC matches, my teammates (even those blessed with a plethora of shooting badges) were hesitant to score, especially when a defender is in front of them.
And this also explains why there are some players who would rather pass the ball on an open layup in transition near a defender. Even if the opposing defender doesn’t have the “Chase Down Artist” badge, a properly timed block could be executed.
Given the rigid defensive system, players are forced to maximize the other methods in generating offense. Dribble moves are one way to expose defenses, with 2K adding more ball handling maneuvers.
Also, relying on coaching playbooks can free up space for a deadeye shooter.
The new neighborhood design packs a punch
When playing MyCAREER mode, fans of the series are accustomed to heading to a digital neighborhood, surrounded with stores and basketball courts inside an urban setting.
The PC (as well as PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One) version of the game has brought a change in scenery as players could roam around a cruise ship instead of city streets.
On board is a European inspired shopping district, filled with art museums and a garden-filled walkway, breathing more life to a game that desperately needed one.
It was good that the developers decided to separate the basketball courts from the shopping areas. In the previous versions of the game, it was an eyesore for me to roam around the shops while seeing a bunch of players showcasing their skills on the court.
It also didn’t help that going from one store to another could be a grinding experience given the long distances of each store.
But with the decision to place the basketball courts and other gaming areas in the other parts of the cruise ship, the developers were able to conveniently give players an easier way to traverse the shopping district to spend your virtual currency.
Improved storytelling improves the career mode
When it comes to storytelling for the career mode, the latest iteration does a good job in lessening the dragging nature of the previous narratives and improving on the overall progression of the plot.
Gone are the long and cringey cutscenes from the beginning, which transitions to a generic story, filled with presscon events and public appearances.
The latest edition shortened the introduction sequence through a concise plot, focusing on a character that needs to prove that he is more than just a social media sensation.
And, upon reaching the NBA, the storyline still keeps its foot on the gas. Instead of the bland, drama-less progression centered on the player’s goal of reaching the starting 5, Visual Concepts introduced an immersive story that adds more intrigue with the narrative.
There will be heated exchanges between the player, the coach, GM, journalists, and agents, and the resolutions of each conversation may vary depending on the player’s decisions. Each decision has its own respective pros and cons, forcing players to think thoroughly.
And the changes don’t just end there. NBA 2K22 has introduced a quest system, incorporating an open-world RPG style of gameplay, adding more character interactions and additional story arcs as well.
Should you buy NBA 2K22?
With these additions and improvements, the transition from NBA 2K21 to 2K22 feels like leaping into a dunk from the free throw line. Be warned: It will take some time to master the gameplay changes.
But that’s a welcome problem to have, as it willl convince players, especially the veterans, that the latest game isn’t just a copy-and-paste version of the previous games.
Small details — like Visual Concepts getting the official PA announcer for each team — also help the game come alive. As a Dallas Mavericks fan, it was fun to hear the announcer pull out his signature “LUKAAAA!” phrase.
For diehard fans of the series, this one is a must-have.