With another year's NBA season not too far away, a brand new edition of NBA 2K makes its way onto Switch just in time to give b-ball fans a wealth of slam-dunking sports action to get stuck into. This time around developer Visual Concepts has made a few neat changes to shooting and defence, improved upon last year's controversial shot meter and introduced a new fatigue system that'll see you need to be more strategically minded during matches. If you're an NBA 2K fan there's certainly plenty to enjoy in NBA 2K22, even if this port can be a little bit of a pain to play at times on Nintendo's console.
Considering there's pretty much exactly the same core contingent of modes on offer as ever for this 2022 update, for the most part fans of the franchise will know what to expect at this stage. MyCareer, MyTeam, Blacktop, the WNBA, MyLeague and a bevvy of online options all make a return and, although the career mode has been shaken up a bit, it's pretty much business as usual outside of this. The fancy next-gen versions of NBA 2K22 may have a new City area to play around in this year but, unfortunately, this aspect of the game hasn't made it over to the Switch or other last-gen consoles.
So, it's mostly the tweaks that have been made to the core gameplay in NBA 2K22 that aim to give things a lift here and, thankfully, they're tweaks that make for a better game once you hit the court. Defending feels much improved and noticeably more aggressive, getting your blocks and steals in and covering the hoop from the opposition's attacks feels more satisfyingly impactful and AI defenders do a much better job overall of covering your players so you don't slip into a rhythm of making the same shots time after time.
The shot meter itself has reverted back to something more akin to its usual form too and you can choose whether to make your shots via timed presses of the 'Y' button or by flicking the right stick. It has taken us a little bit of learning to get the slightly altered timings down on our shots — we've been missing a ton of wide open three-pointers — but the way in which the shot meter is now tied to Shot IQ, positioning and fatigue, makes for a much more satisfying feeling game of basketball.
Indeed, you'll really need to factor fatigue into how you go about your business as using a tired player makes it much harder to post well-placed shots. You'll want to consider who you've got on the bench, as well as slowing the overall pace of your game right down, taking your time and not just holding in the sprint button as you move around the court. It feels more considered and engaging overall.
Off the court, as we mentioned, most modes are business as usual this year, with MyTeam especially giving us some serious deja-vu as we loaded into its menus to find a game setup that looks virtually unchanged. There have, however, been drafts added to the mix here — something fans have been asking for over the years — as well as one new way to play online tucked away in MyTeam's menus.
"The 100" gives you 100 points and challenges you to prove how good your defence is against other players, those points getting whittled down for every basket scored against you in matches. You'll get bigger prizes the longer you can keep your stash of points at a high level, and then get busted back down to the bottom tier of in-game goodies once you're all out.
As far as MyCareer goes, it definitely feels a bit more disappointing than usual this year in terms of its actual story, how quickly it blasts you into the NBA-proper — this game doesn't give you nearly enough time in college and lower level leagues — and the usual horrendously cheesy dialogue and scripting that, to be honest, we're more than a little bored with at this stage. We just never felt any real connection with MP, the Youtuber-turned-Basketball pro who we get to control here and the narrative elements of this mode could do with a real shake-up going forward.
However, things aren't all bad with MyCareer as there's also a cool new take on the game's Neighbourhood here that sees you run around on the Cancha Del Mar Cruise Ship doing RPG-style missions, spinning wheels for prizes, playing arcade basketball, as well as hanging out and playing 2v2, 3v3 and 5v5 games with other players. It's a slightly bizarre setting, for sure, but it's also a generously sized one that's stuffed full of activities.
We can see fans of this mode sinking lots of time into over the next year. It may not be the next-gen version's flashy new cityscape, but what's here is certainly a unique and worthwhile addition to proceedings that helps in making this last-gen version feel like its had some actual effort put in, instead of just excising the next-gen stuff and leaving us Switch gamers with the old-style Neighbourhood for another season. EA take note.
All in all, even with a lack of really big new features here, NBA 2K22 definitely continues to deliver a ton for basketball fans to get stuck into. The core gameplay on the court is noticeably improved over last year and that new Cruise Ship area is a decent amount of fun to muck around with. However, although this Switch port does continue the developer's tradition of delivering solid versions of their basketball games on Nintendo's console — with the game looking decent and playing at a smooth 30fps once you're in the thick of the action — we definitely have a few niggling issues to address too, the worst of which is loading times.
Yes, as you cycle through the many menus and modes here you'll find yourself sitting through some pretty lengthy loading screens, with a particularly nasty few minutes needed to connect to the game's online services, something that's not helped by the fact it disconnects whenever you put the console into sleep mode for a break. Loading times have always been an issue for this franchise and, although it's perhaps to be expected on a console that's getting on in years, it still makes jumping in and out of modes a bit of a drag.
We also noticed a good few visual bugs, with player hairstyles in the creation mode not loading in properly as we made our own pro, some shimmering artefacts on faces and beards, stiff looking animations on occasion and some stutters and full-on pauses during cutscenes in MyCareer mode.
Overall though, given how smoothly this one runs on the court, how decent it looks overall on Switch, and the almost overwhelming amount of content it offers, these issues pale in significance when held up against everything Visual Concepts has got right with regards to core gameplay mechanics this year. It may still reek of microtransaction shenanigans, and some modes are long overdue overhauls, but there's no denying NBA 2K22 is another solid entry in the franchise that improves over last year's offering where it really counts and lands on Switch with an impressively solid port — if you can forgive those tiresome loading screens.
NBA 2K22 is another fine entry in the franchise that continues the developer's habit of delivering satisfyingly solid ports of their basketball sims on Nintendo Switch. Yes, most of the modes don't try anything massively new — beyond MyCareer's revamped Neighbourhood setting — and the loading screens will have you pulling your hair out from time to time, but refined core gameplay and enough content to keep you playing until the end times make this one an easy recommendation for b-ball fans.