NBA 2K22 gives your star good role-playing as well as great game action

Football or baseball, Formula 1 or soccer, you can rely on me to be a good person. It’s how I’d choose to consider myself, after all. In the role-playing options provided by franchises like MLB The Program, or in the stories of Madden NFL’s Longshot or FIFA’s The Journey, I’ve constantly taken the high roadway. My pal Samit Sarkar played NHL 21’s revamped Be a Pro profession and discovered its minimal story arcs — self-centered super star or stand-up group leader — to not be much of an option at all.

Commend NBA 2K22 however — its MyCareer mode makes being an abundant, self-indulgent jerk practical. It makes it sensible. And the designers at Visual Principles, and the stars in these scenes, make it enjoyable.

In my very first week in the league, I discovered myself captured in between the basic supervisor who prepared me and the coach who didn’t desire me; chose a passive-aggressive social networks battle about my playing time; tape-recorded a diss track about rap artist The Video game; got chewed out by my old college coach; and offered a bombshell interview in which I stated I was thinking of a trade hardly 10 video games into my novice year.

I in fact hadn’t been thinking about requiring a trade, however the rubbish going on in my very first week — with a side of Kendrick Perkins’ hot takes about my conduct — had me legally thinking my scenario with the Detroit Pistons was beyond repair work. When the rest of my colleagues played like steaming trash in a 40-point loss to Brooklyn — and MyCareer has actually been understood to contrive ghastly video games for narrative result — that was it. I connived my method to the Sacramento Kings. They’re where I felt my gamer was a much better fit all along, however due to the fact that I carried out so well in the pre-draft part of MyCareer (which is dipped into the most affordable problem), I was prepared No. 1 by Detroit.

Previous NBA center Kendrick Perkins puts you on blast nearly right away and truly doesn’t look after any choice you make in NBA 2K22’s MyCareer.

It’s not that single-player profession modes in other sports titles don’t use methods to act out or act completely in your own self-interest. They’re simply a lot blander about it, and additionally, their extremely minimal narrative arcs merely don’t provide any reward to make such disruptive options. Madden NFL 22’s “Face of the Franchise” backstory is, if possible, even thinner than in 2015’s threadbare, hole-ridden setup. The gamer character never ever establishes a character, as the either/or discussion options all appear to lead to the very same group enthusiast or gamer advantage.

MLB The Program 21’s Roadway to the Program deserted the perk tree its 2 predecessors had, and with it, the video game lost all of its discussion interactions. In the past, addressing concerns according to a character type (“Maverick,” for instance, or “Heart & Soul”) would advance the gamer towards specific increases and opens, both enhancing and developing the character. However even then, any beef-starting with competing groups was extremely anodyne, if not good-natured.

At one time, the career suite in Codemasters’ F1 series experimented by giving your driver an attitude, offering players the choice of answering press questions as a “Showman” or a “Sportsman.” Racing groups were supposed to have a preference of either, and you’d have to meet that to either get a new contract or maintain your current one. That never ended up being the case, because winning trumps all. In F1 2021, the post-race press conferences were well constructed, in that sometimes you’re vexed by a question whose answer will damage some relationship or someone’s morale. But this still does little to establish any kind of emergent personality in your driver.

However inconsistent the efforts, these are the three series doing the most to give fans a role-playing component to go with their gameday action. And yet, they’re all light-years behind NBA 2K22. I’d argue that the superstar aura around NBA players in particular — a league with smaller rosters and larger contracts creates even bigger celebrities, it seems — means Visual Concepts and 2K Sports have to take extra steps to nail the sense of off-the-court immersion. And they do, though some of these inclusions can be a little obnoxious.

A tall man in a bowler and wild sunglasses confronts Jake From State Farm, who is seated and looking up at him

“What the hell are you doing in my apartment, Jake from State Farm?!”
Image: Visual Concepts/2K Sports via Polygon

Much has been made of NBA 2K22’s rather crass product placement and obnoxious, nonstop pressure on players to spend extra money, especially within MyCareer. Both are, in no uncertain terms, disrespectful to the game’s longtime player base, as well as anyone who paid $70 (or more) for the base game.

But at least MyCareer, which in NBA 2K21 adds MMO-like quests and dozens of off-the-court objectives, also gives me the sense that I’m in there exploiting a system that’s out to exploit me — much like the big business of professional sports. Moreover, it gives me the sense that acting in my own interest is understandable and acceptable, if not also encouraged.

The player character in MyCareer is constantly scrolling a fake Twitter feed (whose authentic tone, again, is head-and-shoulders above other series’ attempts) and will find stans pleading their side in a controversy as much as they’ll see get-off-my-lawn grandpas like Perkins chiding them for not shutting up and being grateful. You have a personal manager, as well as your choice of two agencies to represent you, and all of them made my “Social Samurai” stunt as I agitated for more playing time sound like good, just-business sense.

2K Sports gets away with the microtransaction hustling and the in-game advertising of MyCareer — barely — because it’s attached to strong role-playing and lifestyle elements. The game’s publisher has jammed its hands into players’ cookie jars every year since 2014, yet those players have still come back. I doubt they would if the single-player profession hit story beats as safe and as vapid as Madden NFL 22’s Face of the Franchise. I know I wouldn’t tolerate being expected to conduct myself cheerfully and respectfully at all times in the materialistic, transactional society of MyCareer’s hub city.

And it was damn cathartic, before that pivotal game against the Nets, to unload my frustration on interviewer Candace Green and see my fans increase and my personal “brand” shoot up across practically every measurement. In other sports video games, me-first vituperation usually gets you some passive-aggressive suggestion that gamers aren’t expected to behave that way.

I’ve come to expect this; sports video games are important PR for the leagues that license them, and developers typically want to present them and their athletes in the best possible light. Fortunately, it appears the NBA and 2K Sports have a trusting enough relationship where the natural conflicts and confrontations of expert sports can be presented and resolved authentically. The result is a profession where I seem like I’m part of the action, not a mark being hustled.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.