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NBA 2K22 last-gen review: Improvements abound, but I still feel left out

NBA 2K22 has launched and millions of gamers are connecting all around the world to pass, dribble, and shoot their way to ultimate sports-RPG glory.

This year, however, there are two versions of the world’s most popular basketball sim. And it’s important to know which one you’ll be playing.

There’s a current gen version that’s only available to PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series players. That’s right, you read that correctly: PC players get the last generation version that’s also available on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

What does that mean? Well, you’ll be missing out on a lot if you’re stuck in the last gen.

Here’s a trailer for the next gen version’s “My City” environment:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDasyD5m1g

The major differences include a different environment (an open-world style city versus a cruise ship), the weird fact that the WNBA is completely omitted from last gen, a brand-new matchmaking system, and a completely revamped badge system for My Career on current gen.

In other words, you’re getting a different game on current gen. Last gen versions however, follow the tried-and-true incremental update format that results in it taking hours to suss out all the changes. On to the review.

Note: I didn’t have time to check out My Team for this year’s review. If 2K eventually offers the current-gen title to PC owners, I’ll cover it in a review then.

I tested NBA 2K22 on PC. I played last year’s version on PS4 Pro, Xbox One, and PC but this year I opted for the best possible last gen experience. And I wasn’t exactly disappointed.

The good:

  • The animations are improved
  • Dice rolls have been either eliminated or had their impact lessened, this game takes more skill
  • Difficulty levels are solid this year – All Star difficulty is closer to NBA-feel than ever
  • Dribbling is more challenging and less spammy
  • Shooting is mostly fixed. The new system relies more on skill but uses stamina as a measure of meter-size. This is much, much improved over last year
  • Everything feels smoother – navigating menus, transitioning between animations (such as pull-up fade-aways or chained dribble moves), and even passing and defending

The bad:

  • It feels like the devs simultaneously nerfed dribbling and made it harder to defend, this results in some eye-rolling moments when defenders blow by you by merely changing direction as soon as they start moving
  • It’s no longer a viable option to stand off a stationary defender and swat at the ball, I kept getting sucked into a fouling animation
  • My Career is a more subdued experience, with just minor tweaks to the training, practice, and sponsorship aspects of the game. Next gen players get side gigs such as becoming a famous rapper to enhance their experience
  • You’ll spend more time walking from point A to point B on the cruise ship than you will actually playing the game, if you’re trying to do the new “quests”
  • The new NPC characters and open world are mostly a waste of time (but all the art in the game as you wander around is nice)

The ugly:

  • The game is still one giant funnel trying to get you to spend real money on microtransactions or pay attention to in-game advertising content
  • You have to pay VC to unlock a basic dunk animation – it literally costs real money for your player to be able to dunk (at least for the SGs I made, perhaps there’s a build that comes with dunks included, none of mine did)

Final thoughts: If this game had come out last year, I would have given it a glowing review. This is the improvement we should have seen between NBA 2K20 and NBA 2K21.

But, on last gen consoles and PC, it ends up being a mixed bag.

It’s good. And if you never plan on getting a current gen console, I’d recommend picking it up. It’s a better all-around game than last year’s versionNBA 2K22 is a solid entry into the series and it does enough right — even on last gen — to merit the upgrade for serious fans. 

However, it was a somewhat insulting decision for 2K to choose to leave PCs out of the current gen. I mean, wasn’t the game literally developed on PCs?

It’s understandable that last gen versions don’t have the sprawling “The City” open world or some of the flashier bells and whistles. But it’s almost unconscionable to give last gen owners a completely different badge system for My Player creations – and don’t even get me started on the fact that the WNBA experience is limited to current-gen only.

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