NBA 2K21: The Next-Gen Review

Usually when a game is coming out on the next generation of consoles, developers will optimize the game and leave it at that. But 2K didn’t just want to simply polish NBA 2K21 for a re-release. Instead they’ve both improved and expanded on features giving you an almost brand new experience. It only feels like it was yesterday that I was reviewing NBA 2K21 on the PS4, and as it should since it’s only been around 3 months since then. Surprisingly some opinions have completely flipped between my time playing on the PS4 and the PS5.

Loading up much faster than it did on Playstation 4, next-gen NBA 2K21 loads into a slick new-look main menu. That’s what I like about how 2K have released NBA 2K21 on next-gen consoles, it screams new and shiny right from the get go. I also notice another difference, the WNBA finally have their very own section in the main menu. No longer hidden within MyLEAGUE, the WNBA now have a much larger recognition and an almost equal playing field within the NBA 2K games.

After being introduced last year in NBA 2K20, the WNBA has finally expanded from just having a league focused game mode. Introduced as The W, fans can now create a female MyPLAYER to use within a WNBA Career Mode. Unfortunately, it doesn’t run off the MyPLAYER narrative nor is there a story for them. Hopefully this will change in next years release.

So the main menu has a fresh coat of paint and then some, but they didn’t freshen up absolutely everything. Jumping straight into MyTEAM for example, I noticed that its UI has gone unchanged. It sounds like the pettiest of critiques but I just expected that if one menu had a new look, all of them of did. It was one of the few parts of the game that felt like it was still part of the old generation. Though gameplay and in-game visuals are absolutely next-gen.

This is no surprise as we were shown pre-launch just how realistic gameplay would look on PS5 and Xbox Series X. The amount of detail they put into the players, their movements and lighting effects are impressive. Although the changes made to the camera angle to give it that realistic “televised broadcast” feel was something I had to get used to. This cropped the playing field more than previous iterations making it difficult to see some of my team mates.

I was expecting a larger difference playing on the PS5 thanks to the DuelSense’s Haptic Feedback but I felt it didn’t make that much of a difference. Sprinting obviously showed some strain in the right trigger after a while but other controller reactions like collisions with others didn’t feel overly different.

However my overall experience with MyTEAM has changed for the better since playing it on the PS4. It was widely known that NBA 2K21 launched with quite the learning curve in regards to its shooting system. Scoring required absolute precision as well as lots of practice with the return of the Pro Stick aiming system. This feature could be disabled but it didn’t relieve any of my frustrations. However, successfully scoring became much easier after playing on Playstation 5. At first I brought this down to merely being a fluke, so I took it over to what was my favourite mode in NBA 2K20: Triple Threat.

I was initially disappointed in Triple Threat this year as the new shooting system took away any enjoyment I once had. But now after a couple of months of being away from it, I’m scoring more points than I ever have this year. A visual change was made to the power bar when it came to shooting but whether it’s just that or there’s more internal changes is unknown. I know 2K were listening to fans when they first mentioned that the shooting was difficult. Either way, NBA 2K21 has now become more approachable to those new to the franchise or people like me who take months off at a time between releases.

It’s funny how I initially became less interested in MyTEAM this year and more involved in MyPLAYER. But the tables seemed to have turned with the introduction of The City. Replacing The Neighbourhood, The City is a larger social experience adding new social concepts. However I’m unable to review much of this area. Getting into The City requires progression in Rookieville, which to do so requires playing with others. However I must have missed the boat off of Rookieville as there have barely been any others around when I’ve tried growing my rep. It reminds me of other games where it becomes a bitch to progress if you haven’t been playing since right around launch. As much as I love the idea of expanding the social area to greater levels, they need to either do away with this particular requirement or create some sort of work around.

Personally, NBA 2K21 is much more enjoyable on next-gen consoles although I would like to see a couple of changes. The most obvious being the requirement to access The City as well as a narrative for the WNBA MyPLAYER mode. But overall, next-gen NBA 2K21 was a step-up from the initial release on PS4/Xbox One.

NBA 2K21 is available now for Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X.

More like this
Str8JaktJim’s Steam Game Festival Highlights