NBA 2K22 is promising new features and greater depth for the series’ WNBA career suite, The W, whose first effort last year was a commendable and distinctly women’s basketball experience, although much of the progression that supported it felt dry and even dated.
Players will now find a Badge progression system similar to that of the series’ long-running MyCareer mode, as well as more off-the-track activities to deepen the lifestyle and role-playing qualities of the superstar’s career. Both respond to the two biggest criticisms I had for the mode last year, which meant a very flat, linear development path for the player, and a menu-driven life off the field.
In a development blog published on Thursday, Visual Concepts said that WNBA players in The W will have regular leisure activities that “will play a role in how you develop, become popular and build your wallet.” Scrimmages and exercises will allow players to develop chemistry on their teams, and increase their skills as well as teammates.
In some cases, players will develop mentoring or training relationships with established stars such as the Los Angeles Sparks’ Nneka Ogwumike (fresh from her appearance in Space Jam: A New Legacy, no less) or A’ja Wilson of Las Vegas Aces. These lead to 1-on-1, 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 mini-games of 21, which help a player’s brand development.
Brands, as with MyCareer, improve certain skills in four categories – finishing, shooting, playmaking and defense. Brand progression means earning points that allow players to unlock and equip these boosts, which can be stored in a series of launches. In addition to creating a player’s broader physical characteristics and attributes, the brands should help players further develop their playing styles in a way similar to MyCareer’s extremely popular building system.
Visual Concepts noted that The W Online, the multiplayer component of the mode, is also returning NBA 2K22. This time, W Online will allow players to line up before the matchmaking process, and online appearances will affect the player’s progression in the larger mode, as well as unlock superstar contacts and the benefits of practicing with them.
WNBA debuted in NBA 2K20 with a standard multi-season, full-team control mode, and then expanded the idea of The Ws premiere in NBA 2K21 on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X (this feature is again limited to these console versions; it is not available on PS4, Xbox One or Windows PC). We found the core game loop to be strong and enjoyable, but very limited in variety. It was joined by a MyWNBA franchise management mode that was more like the NBA 2K series running The Association mode than its deeper MyGM experience.
Still, it’s the first single – player career mode for women in a team sport, and the upgrades announced this week signal that Visual Concepts are making improvements to the mode and not leaving it.