NBA 2K21 finds itself in somewhat of weird limbo this year on current gen. On one hand meeting it’s expected annual release, on the other hand soon to be in the shadow of the soon to be released NBA 2K21 for the upcoming next-gen consoles at the end of the year which is said to have received a lot of attention and development. Add in the fact that the NBA itself has been in something of a holding pattern until very recently due to the global pandemic, postponing the regular off-season Draft and trades resulting in a game that has near the same rosters and stats as it’s predecessor.
At its core, NBA 2K21 is the same game. It plays the same, relies on largely the same high basket ball IQ and same gameplay mechanics as NBA 2K20, so anyone who has played it or any of the other NBA 2K title of prior years already knows what to expect on the court. Modes like Quick Play, MyGM MyLeague appear to be all but untouched. Graphically the game looks on par with past entries, which is to say, it looks great (Can only imagine how next gen will take it to the next level). Two subtle different difference this year are some reworking of the Pro Stick (Right stick) to facilitate easier dribbling as well as making it easier to perform signature size-ups and step-back moves against an opposing defender, which is a welcome change to people who don’t have every aspect of the multifaceted controls down. The other change is reworking the shot meter, making the timing of release more vital than ever before and meaning the difference between making a shot and watching the ball bounce off the rim. The emphasis is on rewarding skill, although this might frustrate people more comfortable with the shot meter sensitivity from prior games. For a MyPlayer with lower stats, this is a major thing.
Speaking of MyPlayer, MyCareer is in an interesting place this year. While fundamentally the same mode, they’ve worked a little razzle-dazzle to keep players engaged while keeping all the familiar trappings. The MyCareer storyline portion of the mode seems like the best version since NBA 2K14 & 2K15, with no overtly cheesy or over the top drama and instead takes your MyPlayer named Junior (the best name yet) on a journey through high school basketball after being encouraged back into the game by his high school coach played by Djimon Hansou, all the way through the riggers of college ball through the NBA Draft and the NBA itself. Along the way, the behind the scenes pressures of the game will weight on your MyPlayer as you navigate the other teams, family friends, social media influencers, agents and your family legacy; offering several areas of choice along the way that affect your draft stock and fate post story during the mode. Featuring actors like Michael K. Williams, Jesse Williams, Mirelle Enos, 2K can be proud of this year’s MyCareer narrative, even if the mechanics of the mode conflict with the coach’s advice in the story. The actual menus of the MyCareer mode look the same and the online hub functions the same, although with new skin and configured layout to navigate, migrating from the Neighbourhood to 2K Beach which is a most pleasing to the eye one has to admit.
The only other mode that has received notable attention is MyTeam. The 2K equivalent to EA’s Ultimate Team which sees players purchase and open packs of cards comprising basketballers of different levels throughout NBA history, contracts, shoes, healing cards, team playbooks, team jersey’s, team courts, logos, coaches and so on sees the addition of nice MyTeam limited allowing players to play in timed weekend events to win Championship Rings which can be cashed in for big rewards like Diamond & Pink Diamond player cards. The Exchange is a new feature that allows players to feed in numerous cards or duplicates they don’t want or need in order to obtain a high-ranking player card form the Exchange block that will give your team a definite boost. Other features like the auction block, player Evolution cards introduced last year as well as MyTeam Unlimited Challenges, Domination and Historic Milestones all make a return in 2K21.
While this game might well be eclipsed in the next couple of months by the next-gen release of NBA 2K21, current-gen is still worth our time if you’re a basketball fan and have sat on the bench for the last few years or are not looking at purchasing a next-gen console anytime soon. For those that will be purchasing a next-gen console during the holidays and looking to play some basketball, it might be worthwhile to wait for the next-gen release of NBA 2K21.