Sports titles have been getting a bad rap when it comes to gaming in recent years. The iterative nature of their releases often means little changes from year to year, while issues and concerns of the community aren’t always addressed. So where does the recently released NBA 2K22 fall in the greater scheme of things?
This is what we spent the past week investigating, diving into each area of the 2K Games title to see whether it is worth trying or simply the latest in a long line of disappointing basketball games.
For the purposes of our investigating a review code was supplied to Hypertext by a local distributor on the PlayStation 5.
A taxing setup
Once downloaded and fired up, the problems begin. On this front we’re talking about the 2K profile you need to create or already have in your possession in order to enter the game. We tried to work our way around this process, but much like death and taxes, it is unavoidable.
To be fair to 2K, such mechanisms are nothing new in sports games, but this experience felt a little invasive. Not to mention the fine legal print for the terms of conditions, as well as data sharing requests that were difficult to read, even on the 55″ smart TV.
As such, our journey to the main game screen was less than smooth and left us feeling a tad frustrated.
Once we cooled down, it was time to explore, so we head to the virtual practice courts to get a feel for the controls.
Getting into it
Unlike something like FIFA or Madden (yes, we know we’re talking about a different publisher’s titles here), the controls for basketball are quite nuanced, so there is a bit of a learning curve, especially if you want to work inside the paint or experience more than just trying to drain threes.
In general though, gameplay feels solid and the flow of the game does not feel impeded in any way.
What we quickly learned while playing is that any time or space afforded to opposition often results in the scoreboard ticking over. Real basketball is much the same, so on that front, NBA 2K22 delivers.
We also found ourselves enjoying the game the more normal matches we played, exploring the rosters of different teams and seeing who the standout players were (outside of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and cover athlete Luka Doncic of course).
Paying to play
Once we were comfortable, it was time to explore some of the other elements of NBA 2K22. Our next port of call was MyTeam, which is similar to Ultimate Team in FIFA as players try to build out a roster in a system that is best described as being pay to play.
Much like the mechanics used in FIFA, notable progression is only achieved if you are willing to pay.
We can argue the merits of microtransactions another time, but for the purposes of our review, the moment we saw these mechanisms in place, it immediately turned us off.
Especially when someone is paying R1 250 (PS5 Digital Version) for the game.
Said transactions are powered by VC, NBA 2K22’s in-game currency, which requires real world money in order to acquire. Microtransactions feature in other gaming modes, such as MyCareer (which we’ll touch on shortly) and myNBA too, but it is in MyTeam that it is the most prevalent.
Either way it is a less than ideal playing experience and one that more than NBA 2K22 suffers from, but such is the nature of modern gaming.
Shifting to the MyCareer mode and things get interesting, once you have designed the player to your specifications you take on the role of MP, who is a High School star trying to make the move to the NBA.
Much of the story elements of the game take place in The City, which is virtual playground where you can take on different activities to hone skills and earn in-game currency and cosmetic items, which is where the microtransactions come into play again.
We steered clear of them for the review as we generally don’t want to throw any more money into playing a game than we have to.
The City itself is an interesting concept and one that we think could be superb given the time to develop over the coming years. Right now though, it still feels a little rough around the edges, which is to be expected given how ambitious 2K has been with it.
That said, if the franchise wants to win jaded fans over, The City and MyCareer need to be as polished as possible.
NBA 2K22 is not a terrible basketball game. In fact, it has a lot of potential that is quickly marred by microtransactions, a frustrating interface and a desire to do everything at the expense of doing it well. In terms of gameplay there is plenty to enjoy and the on court action slowly pulls you in, not to mention presenting games in a really satisfying way.
While action on the court is great and shows promise, the experience off it still needs plenty of work. We understand that advertising and selling things pays the bills at 2K, but the sheer glut of it in NBA 2K22 is really off putting.
If the franchise is serious about giving fans what they want, strip away the unnecessary after-sales stuff and just focus on serving up a great basketball game – emphasis on the basketball part.
NBA 2K22 shows plenty of promise and while we started to really enjoy the gameplay, it is the other gaming modes that continue to frustrate, not to mention the microtransactions leaving a sour taste. It feels like whoever is heading up these titles have lost their love of the game.
Failing to Swish