NBA 2K21 Review – Here Comes the Money

NBA 2K21 Review

For years, fans have considered the NBA 2K series to be the pinnacle of basketball simulators. With its painstaking attention to detail, an array of modes, and incredible presentation that replicates the television experience, competitors for the throne have retired and bowed down to the king of the sport. Now all competition ceases to exist, will 2K’s latest effort in the franchise be nothing but net or due to having an eye on the upcoming next-generation version, a labored rebound of last year’s effort?

On the court, NBA 2K21 plays almost exactly like its predecessor. Now that may not be a bad thing to fans of the franchise as core mechanics have been clearly established and purist may yearn for just subtle tweaks. If you fall into this category, then you will not be disappointed. Visual Concepts have revamped the Shot Stick meaning you will no longer randomly shoot whilst attempting dribble moves to cruise past your opponent. All shots are assigned to vertical movements of your right analog whilst dribbling is assigned to horizontal movements. Although this may only seem like a minor alteration, it reduces the frustration that plagued NBA 2K20 and as a result, improved on an already brilliant simulation of the sport. Additionally, gone is the shot meter and in its place is a timing bar. Rather than stopping the shot meter in the release window, you now need to hit a dynamic aim point which alters depending on shot difficulty and positioning making those three points harder to claim. Unfortunately, in terms of gameplay, those are pretty much the only changes. So, if you’re getting tired of rehashed annual releases and yearn for something different, you may want to wait for information on the next-gen version.

If you’re new to the series, then don’t worry as the tutorial in NBA 2K21 is deep and expansive. From dunking to defending and from dribbling to passing, everything is covered here meaning you’ll go from dunce to dunker in no time.

All The Modes

NBA 2K21 has a plethora of modes for you to sink your teeth into but one of the most impressive is MyCareer: The Long Shadow. As the son of a famous baller, you are tasked with creating your own legacy in order to reach or surpass the heights of your father’s career. Starting at high school and leading all the way up to the NBA, this cinematic mode allows you to live out the ultimate fantasy of becoming a legend in the sport. With a new year comes with a new Neighborhood and this time you will hit the streets of the Venice-esque 2K Beach. In this persistent world, you will receive regular content, activities, and events that will keep you coming back all year long. With its deep customization, slick soundtrack, and featuring voice acting from the immensely talented Michael K. Williams (The Wire), I would recommend stepping into The Long Shadow.

Don’t want to just be one person? Then MyGM has you covered. Manage and manipulate your team to guide them to the top. New to the mode is dynamic player progression but barring that, it felt largely the same as previous entries in the franchise. If that doesn’t scratch that control freak itch of yours then there is also MyLeague, which allows you to control the entire League!

Some just want to jam. If that’s you, then Quick Play is the way to go. With every NBA team and legendary line-ups at your disposal, a range of match types including the street style Blacktop mode, this is the place to be for pure ballin’.

Show Me The Money!

By far the game’s most popular mode is MyTeam. Building and customizing your own squad is an addictive cycle that will keep you hooked. New additions include Seasons which will have regularly updated content throughout the year; The Exchange, which allows you to trade those cards you don’t need, and Limited mode where players can compete every Friday to Sunday to win their championship ring. With an array of events and a progression system that consistently rewards, you’d think that this is the ultimate game mode, however, rooted deep in its heart is a disease.

Monetization is rife in video games, but this is one of the most heinous examples. VC (Virtual Currency) is sparsely earned throughout the game and this is the cornerstone of most game modes. You can spend it on upgrading and customizing your MyPlayer, packs that include random items in MyTeam, and much more. In addition to this, you can earn MyTeam points, MyTeam Tokens, and other drivel which is only gained through grinding. If you don’t fancy the grind then don’t worry, you can just purchase VC starting at $1.99 and going up to a whopping $99.99!

Whilst boasting a revamped Shot Stick and altering the shot meter to a timing bar, these updates are only minor which raises the question, have Visual Concepts been focusing on the next-gen release over the current-gen version? Unfortunately, that seems to be the case. Even though the core gameplay is solid, most game modes are riddled with micro-transactions that prioritizes grinding and monetization over enjoyment.

*** A PS4 code was provided by the publisher ***

The Good

  • Realistic representation of the sport
  • Loads of content
  • Engaging story mode

The Bad

  • Plagued with microtransactions
  • Grind, grind, grind!