Saturday 19 September 2020

NBA 2K21

Welcome to our review of NBA 2K21, available on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.

Another year and another NBA 2K game. The annual release cycle of the basketball juggernaut can leave some people to wonder what really changes with each iteration. But real fans will know all too well that the little updates, however small, can make all the difference in whether a game is a slam dunk, or if it gets served. Where does 2K21 stack up in the rankings? Read on to find out...

Firstly, although it looks very, very similar to last year’s predecessor, there are some small but welcome graphical updates. For example, player facial expressions now look much more natural, helping to bridge the uncanny valley just that little bit more. With that being said, it wasn’t like last year’s game looked bad at all, and it’s perhaps better to look at it that this year’s is maintaining the high standard. It’ll be interesting to see how the aesthetics fare on next-generation consoles in a few months. 

The sense of movement has also been improved, feeling a lot more fluid and realistic. The ball moves much more believably, rebounding off surfaces and being handled by players so well, at a glance you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference from the real thing. We have experienced the odd texture glitch which can be annoying, but unfortunately, it’s almost to be expected with 2K sports titles nowadays. Fortunately, these were few and far between. 

Arguably the biggest update this time is the controls. The Pro Stick shooting mechanic is back for the first time since 2K17 and allows you to not only control the accuracy of your shot but the correct angle too. Admittedly it proves to be a steeper learning curve than previous entries, but it’s all the more satisfying when you pull off a sweet dunk and gives you an unparalleled level of control.

What’s more, 2K have done their best work yet to recreate individual players’ playstyles. You could honestly spend hours getting accustomed to everyone’s strength, speed, footwork and more, demonstrating a staggering level of detail. 

MyCAREER has had some great additions too, including the return of NCAA college basketball. You play as the son of a local basketball legend, working your way from high school all the way through to the peak of the NBA. It’s a real narrative-driven campaign, and offers a welcome, albeit slightly gimmicky add on to the base game. 

Then we get to the controversial MyTeam mode. Similar to Ultimate Team in FIFA, you have to either grind or pay up to get the best players for your team. Although it’s been rebranded to look less overtly like a casino this time, that’s still largely what it is. It’s all about making money, and although there is a greater emphasis on customisation, with you now being able to choose different skill paths for your evolution cards, it still emphasises the scummiest practices of 2K.

To wrap up, NBA 2K21 is a case of evolution, rather than revolution. It provides some welcome tweaks to the graphics and particularly the gameplay mechanics, without really breaking the mould all that much. If you enjoyed last year’s entry or NBA in general, you probably don’t need me to convince you to pick up 2K21. For everyone else, it’s a much harder sell.

Tom Baker

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