Any professional athlete will confirm that you can do all the ideal things in the off-season and still lose. Visual Concepts plainly worked to up its video game with NBA 2K21 and provide much better outcomes. However, this wasn’t a normal off-season for Visual Concepts; the group wasn’t simply attempting to take NBA 2K to the next level, it was attempting to take it to the next generation, being the very first sports video game to go all-in on the brand-new console power of the PS5 and Xbox Series X. The result is a worthy effort, filled with terrific brand-new functions and outstanding visual leaps, however it’s clear there’s still some spices and modifications to the playbook that require to be done. 

Visual Concepts launched a variation of NBA 2K21 back in early September (for PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Stadia), however this next-gen edition was constructed from the ground up to harness the power of the brand-new hardware. Some things from the earlier release rollover, like the bulk of Junior’s MyProfession story, however it likewise has brand-new modes, in addition to essential tweaks such as smoother motion and more practical contact. Most notably, the long load times that have actually afflicted the series are a distant memory. Games load in seconds, getting you right into the action. The just missteps I observed were when my gamer went to the bench for an alternative and in between durations; often your gamer simply stands stoically for a couple of minutes throughout this shift. It breaks the immersion given that whatever else operates similar to you’re at a real arena, consisting of a vibrant crowd and personnel carrying out different jobs.

Minor concerns aside, Visual Concepts continues to provide excellent gameplay that looks right out of the NBA. The new-gen tech has actually just included more credibility and range to the on-court action. Being able to alter the speed of your dribble and size-up relocations makes ball-handling feel terrific and offers you lots of alternatives. I enjoyed having the ability to utilize doubts, gets away, stepbacks, and crosses to shake off protectors, and this brand-new dribbling rapidly became my preferred upgrade. Passes likewise look more practical, specifically alley-oops off the glass to colleagues. A brand-new lead-pass mechanic, along with the addition of bounce-touch passes, makes it so you constantly have actually differed methods circumstances can play out. 

As with previous entries, specific gamers have signature relocations, and Visual Concepts has actually just contributed to the realism with brand-new abilities like LeBron James’ suspended dribble. It’s cool that gamers move or play in a different way depending upon who they are, their position, and how they’re constructed. I was continuously wowed by the level of information in every gamer design, from their similarity to their real-world equivalents right down to their facial expressions and leaking sweat in extreme minutes. NBA 2K21 is quickly among the best-looking video games on the brand-new consoles. 

Another peak is the addition of The W, which enables you to can produce your own WNBA MyGamer for the very first time and develop your own course to fame by betting among the league’s 12 groups. The level of information in this mode is terrific, as I enjoyed discovering more about the league and its gamers from the commentators and video games feel different from the NBA with a more technical and team-centric style. The W doesn’t have a cinematic experience like the main MyPlayer mode, but you do get to build up your popularity, wealth, team chemistry, and progression by choosing between different things to do on your day off, like volunteering for a youth program or streaming NBA 2K21. 

You have to fill in the blanks to your own story through these small choices, interacting with other players via text messages, and your social-media feed, but the crux is focused on being a visible role model and bringing other young girls into the sport, which I think is fantastic. I just wish it had its own self-contained storyline, and I’m disappointed that your female MyPlayer cannot be brought into the main multiplayer space: The City. You can play with other players in The W Online, but playing in a small gym isn’t the same experience as having tons of shops and courts at your disposal. 

 

The City is an evolution from The Neighborhood, where players come together in a multiplayer space with their created MyPlayers to play pick-up video games and shop. The City is a big attraction, and exclusive for this next-gen version of the game. It’s clear Visual Concepts has some big ideas for it, as you get assigned an alliance and help build up its reputation by participating in events. I enjoy walking through this massive metropolis, stumbling upon special vendors selling unique apparel, and unlocking special challenges like teaming up with cover star Damian Lillard to take on legends Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter. You even get to spin a wheel for a daily log-in bonus that gives you cool freebies. Most recently, I scored a free tattoo, which made me happy because spending VC (which you can earn in-game or spend real money to acquire) isn’t my thing, especially for cosmetic items. Unfortunately, if you’re like me, you’re most likely going to be grinding to get anything cool or hoping your luck serves you well when you spin the wheel – though I have yet to get a high-tier item that way. Good items are very expensive, and grinding for them requires an unreasonable amount of patience; it feels like a blatant effort to drive players toward microtransactions, which feels gross. 

The City is a cool idea, but it is also where the biggest problems surface. To enter The City, you must first get your rank up by grinding out wins in Rookieville. This is miserable, as you’re in a sequestered area where you can’t access any part of The City and must just wait for games and play with others. Losses don’t do much for your rank, so every game feels like you’re fighting for entry to the show. I encountered many players who had clearly bought VC to boost their character’s stats and put themselves at the best advantage – which makes it even harder to win if you don’t pay real money yourself. 

As I walked around Rookieville, I rarely came across a player who wasn’t rated 86 or higher. Badges only further complicate this, because badges can let you make unrealistic shots or avoid easy steals. This has made me hate online play, because the games don’t unfold fairly or realistically. They’re just not fun. Visual Concepts needs to figure out a better way to reward teamwork, because players don’t want to pass the ball and just shoot all day long with these modifiers. It’s becoming more of a problem, especially as online play continues to be a focus. 

Outside of these frustrations, you can still expect the other basic modes and some tweaks. My NBA is now an all-encompassing franchise mode, combining MyGM, MyLeague, and MyLeague Online. It gives you more customization options than ever before, from toggling certain league rules to bypassing some of the annoying role-playing elements. MyGM is still in need of a complete overhaul, even if I do appreciate the revamped boom/bust system and more variation in player potentials. I also enjoyed that there are some little variations from the old-gen version, such as a new path in Junior’s MyGamer story, where you can join the G-League and brush shoulders with some familiar players from the series’ fiction. 

NBA 2K21’s full-team on-court action plays the best it ever has, and the graphical leap is impressive to boot, however it still comes up short in some key areas. Visual Concepts still hasn’t figured out a great way to elevate its online play, and microtransactions continue to destroy what should be a fun part of the experience. I love creating spectacular plays and the thrill of sinking a buzzer-beating three, however the moment I walk into the online area, that feeling evaporates. It becomes about the money, not about the love of the video game.