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Game review 14 September 2021, 15:00

NBA 2K22 Review: Above the Rim

Just like clockwork and right before the start of a new NBA season, NBA 2K22 is back with another bigger, bolder installment to give fans more of what they want.

The review is based on the PS5 version. It's also relevant to PC, XSX version(s).

Fan-service is in full effect this year as this flashy, robust, and smooth sports game is just what any b-ball-loving fan – pro or rookie – is looking for to keep them satisfied through the season. Sure, a lot of the same modes return this year, but NBA 2K22 looks better, plays smoother, and has enough small changes that make it a worthy upgrade.

Courtside views

PROS:
  1. Enhanced presentation making you feel part of the game;
  2. MyCareer is sure to keep you busy for hours;
  3. Impressive realism everywhere you look;
  4. Small but noticeable improvements to court interactions .
CONS:
  1. Your MyCareer character doesn’t feel yours at first;
  2. Repetitive animations and voiceovers.

Right off the bat, 2K22 has a certain style that is pure entertainment. From its stylized cover art to cutscenes during games, the game knows it is meant to give you the feel of being part of an actual NBA broadcast – and it never disappoints here. Fans show up late to games, react to your team missing a shot, and even leave early if it’s the fourth quarter and you have zero chance of winning. It’s these little details that keep the games alive even when most of the action happens on the court.

Of course, despite the level of realism shown seen as you play, there will be repetitive animations that you are bound to see again and again. The same halftime show on the court is the same regardless of where you play, and the only difference is the uniforms and mascots. It definitely lacks variety, but you’ll probably skip these anyway.

Halftime reports also return and feature more commentary from Shaq, Kenny Smith, and Ernie Johnson. This time, their commentary is more detailed, providing a breakdown of the last two quarters’ best players, plays, and even sharing their own opinion of who is likely to win. New lines and some cheeky exchanges between the three make this banter organic and fun. Even last year’s pandemic is touched upon giving the game an even greater feeling of realism.

Besides just great commentary, the sounds you hear as you play are top-notch. Part of this is thanks in part to the PS5’s controller as it’ll let you hear players shouting to each other, the squeaking of sneakers on the court, and the rustling of fans near your players. Plus, the game now includes the PA announcers from every team, not only making you feel right at home but also allowing each game to feel even more real.

Strategy on the court

The action on the court also feels a lot more genuine than before, albeit somewhat slower. But that’s not a bad thing. One of the reasons why is that your stamina plays a bigger role in your overall plays this time. Sprint too much and your shots will suffer, passes won’t always be successful, or you’ll be late to track back when getting on defense. It’s how real life works and makes for a faithful sim.

This slower speed also gives you time to pick your next move – and with a smarter AI, you will also need to up your game. In fact, the AI has significantly evolved and features an impressive array of mix-ups and surprises on its higher difficulty level. While alley-oops are not the easiest to pull off, the AI was able to stylishly get them under our noses simply because we made a bad play. Leave someone unguarded for a split second, and the AI will capitalize and score.

On the attack side, shooting is easier and now features an arc meter which changes depending on which player is shooting or how tired you are. Miss that middle shooting line, and your probability of landing that shot will go down, but hit its sweet spot and you will be rewarded with a new camera angle covering your flawless three-pointer. Sure, it’s easier, but like everything in the game, shooting still takes practice to master and lots of time reviewing the basics.

Roleplaying baller

This year’s MyCareer feels a lot bigger and better mainly in part because the city you play in just feels so busy and filled with things to do. Add to that even more players playing on the PS5 compared to last year, and this mode feels as close to an RPG-MMO as it will ever get.

This time your MyPlayer is a social media star who just finished high school and needs lots of guidance. With the help of his manager Ricky, you decide where you want his career to take him. Do you go to college, the G League, or declare for the NBA draft? The latter is the fastest way to be a star, but comes at a price since you will lack serious upgrades to your character build that you get through the more traditional methods. Regardless of what you opt for, the game gives you full reign to shape every aspect of his professional life.

You can name him whatever you want and, heck, even scan your face to make him resemble you, but your baller is referred to as MP (probably short for MyPlayer) during conversations and while playing games. It’s a bit disorienting since he doesn’t feel like your own creation, and his somewhat entitled influencer personality doesn’t make him the most likeable character at first. But as the story progresses and you win and lose games, he realizes what it takes to be an NBA star. You begin to like him, and how you play games lets you customize how he feels on the court.

Besides games and tournaments to make it to the NBA, you can also undertake lots of quests in the city, some ranging from working out to improve your stats at the Gatorade Gym to playing 3-on-3 games to unlock gear and apparel. You can even go shopping or participate in mini-games like roller-blade races. With so many NPCs to interact with throughout your journey, and its Seasons format bringing in updates to MyCareer every six weeks, the city truly feels alive and dynamic.

A worthy upgrade

VERDICT

There is a lot to love about NBA 2K22 which makes it one of the best basketball games out there. Besides just looking and feeling amazing, a lot of time and effort was put into ensuring this game wasn’t just a rehashing of last year’s version. From its smart tweaks on the court to its heightened level of realism in nearly every aspect of its gameplay, NBA 2K22 is the ultimate fan experience and delivers a season worth of thrills where it matters most.

Also receiving an upgrade this year, MyNBA gives you even more ways to manage your team experience down to the little details. You can manage your team’s training schedule each day, even selecting what they will focus on in the morning, noon, and evening. It’s that deep. Plus, you now have the task of filling in Front Office roles like governors and coaches, further allowing you to upgrade them as the season goes on. Other modes like MyWNBA and MyTeam return, and their core remains the same.

NBA 2K22 Review: Above the Rim - picture #9

Our reviews are featured on Metacritic.

There is a lot to love about NBA 2K22, which makes it one of the best basketball sims out there. Besides just looking and feeling amazing, a lot of time and effort was put into ensuring this game wasn’t just a rehashing of last year’s version. From its smart tweaks on the court to its heightened level of realism in nearly every aspect of its gameplay, NBA 2K22 is the ultimate fan experience and delivers a season worth of thrills where it matters most.

Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com

Giancarlo Saldana

Giancarlo Saldana

Giancarlo grew up playing video games and finally started writing about them on a blog after college. He soon began to write for small gaming websites as a hobby and then as a freelance writer for sites like 1UP, GamesRadar, MacLife, and TechRadar. Giancarlo also was an editor for Blast Magazine, an online gaming magazine based in Boston where he covered various video game topics from the city's indie scene to E3 and PAX. Now he writes reviews and occasional previews for Gamepressure covering a broad range of genres from puzzle games to JRPGs to open-world adventures. His favorite series include Pokémon, Assassin's Creed, and The Legend of Zelda, but he also has a soft spot for fighting and music games like Super Smash Bros and Rock Band. When not playing Overwatch after a long day at work, he enjoys spending time working out, meal prepping, and discovering new international films and TV shows.

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