NBA Playgrounds was easily some of the most fun basketball gaming in recent years, since the old days of NBA Jam. Despite a rough launch, its light-hearted take on the NBA roster and their abilities shaped up to be quite the fun online game to play, especially with friends. The sequel, however, sees the game now published by 2K, hence the slight name change. How does it stack up against the original?
The first thing you’ll realise upon starting NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 is that the player card system is back. While you’re able to buy players in-game with real money – yes, 2K’s love of basketball and microtransactions is here to stay – the game is awfully generous with the money you acquire from progressing in the various game modes, as well as doing things like levelling up a player.
However, an unfortunate problem when picking a team for modes like Season Mode is that you won’t have access to many players, meaning some teams will be completely unusable until you open a pack with two players for that team. While this is annoying to experience in the game’s first moments, it doesn’t take that long to start earning in-game currency, and you can rack this up by completing NBA Season matches, Exhibition Matches and even performing well in the 3-Pointer mini-game challenge. The game generally reminds you that you can buy all of the characters for £5 though, so there’s always that option if you’re feeling lazy.
NBA Playgrounds 2 is certainly the larger of the two Playgrounds games and offers more “ballers” to choose from, this time including legends like Lebron James, Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Shaquille O’Neil and many more. Seeing their slightly silly, caricatured models is quite funny when you get the opportunity to see them perform their slowdown shots and other special dunks. The basketball courts also look much more presentable and the players in the game share more of a likeness to the actual players now, despite retaining the cartoonish, bobble-head art style. It all looks very crisp on PS4.
The gameplay feels nearly identical to the first game, but the pacing seems to be adjusted ever so slightly, allowing players to go back and forth a little easier and with less of a fidget. The controls are simple for shooting, passing and changing character, but there are other manoeuvres that overlap these buttons in certain situations. Trying to slap the ball out of other player’s hand when you’re clearly within range is still a bit too difficult at its worst.
Each match lasts about five minutes and the point system follows regular basketball, but with the addition of the shot clock and lottery pick system introduced in the first game. The shot clock ensures that shots have to be made or the other team will be handed the ball, while the lottery pick system ensures that you team gets a buff for generally playing well both defensively and offensively, otherwise it could mean that their teams is nerfed for a short time. This all ties in well with the competitive feel and games are generally close because of how the balance can swing back and forth. To be perfectly honest, it’s just genuinely fun.
Playgrounds 2 offers players four main modes to compete in. There’s the regular pick up play of Exhibition Game, while the Season mode replaces the old 82 game tournament-style single player in favour of shorter groups of games. Heading online, you’ve got the ranked competitive Championship mode, and the 3-Point mode returns, where players compete against each other by simply taking shots at the hoop and changing positions every 20 seconds. All of the modes are very fun, competitive and are swift enough where it doesn’t get boring or tedious.
NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 is an extremely fun and competitive game at its core, and with the publisher’s history of terrible microtransactions, it’s good to see a basketball game that’s easy to pick up and enjoy without having to spend money. The game is generous with its in game currency which makes playing the game very rewarding, especially if you invest time in the game’s improved Season Mode. If you’re looking for a slightly silly, competitive basketball game to play online, this is definitely for you.
Version tested: PlayStation 4
Also available for Xbox One, Switch & PC