Any athlete will confirm that you can do the right things in the off-season and still fall short. Visual Concepts has clearly been working on improving the game with NBA 2K21 and getting better results. However, this was not a typical off-season for visual concepts. Not only did the team try to take NBA 2K to the next level, they also tried to take it to the next generation. It was the first sports game to go all-in on the new console performance of the PS5 and Xbox X Series. The result is a brave effort, full of great new features and impressive visual leaps, but it is clear that there are still some spices and tweaks to be made to the game book.
Visual Concepts released a version of NBA 2K21 (for PS4, Xbox One, PC and Stadia) in early September. However, this next-generation edition has been designed from the ground up to take advantage of the power of the new hardware. Some things from the previous version carry over, like most of Junior’s MyCareer history, but there are also new modes as well as important improvements like smoother movements and more realistic contact. Above all, the long loading times that plagued the series are a thing of the past. Games load in seconds and get you right into the action. The only issues I noticed were when my player banked for a move and between periods; Sometimes your player will only stand stoically for a few moments during this transition. It breaks the immersion as everything else works as if you were in an actual arena, including a lively crowd and staff performing various tasks.
Aside from minor issues, Visual Concepts continues to offer stellar gameplay that looks and feels right out of the NBA. The new generation technology has only given the action in court more authenticity and variety. When you are able to change the speed of your dribble and size-up moves, the ball handling feels great and gives you tons of options. I loved being able to use hesitation, escape, regression, and crosses to throw off defenders, and this new dribble quickly became my favorite upgrade. Passes also look more realistic, especially for teammates. Thanks to a new lead-pass mechanism and additional bounce-touch passes, you always have different options for how situations can be played out.
As with previous entries, certain players have signature movements, and Visual Concepts only added realism to the mix with new skills like LeBron James’ suspended dribbling. It’s cool that players move or play differently depending on who they are, their position, and how they’re built. I was constantly impressed by the level of detail of each player model, from the similarity to real colleagues to the facial expressions and the droplets of sweat in intense moments. NBA 2K21 is for sure one of the best looking games out on the new consoles.
Another highlight is the addition of The W, which for the first time allows you to create your own WNBA MyPlayer and build your own path to stardom by playing for one of the league’s 12 teams. The level of detail in this mode is great as I loved learning more about the league and its players from the announcers, and games feel different than the NBA with a more technical and team-oriented style. The W doesn’t have a cinematic experience like the main MyPlayer mode, but you can increase your popularity, wealth, team chemistry, and progress by choosing between a variety of activities on your day off, such as: B. Volunteering for a youth program or streaming NBA 2K21.
You have to fill in the blanks on your own story through these little choices, interact with other players via text messages and your social media feed, but the whole point is being a visible role model and getting other young girls into the sport, whatever I think it’s fantastic. I just wish it had a separate storyline, and I’m disappointed that your female MyPlayer can’t be brought into the main multiplayer section: 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 spaces available.
The City is a further development of The Neighborhood, in which players come together with their created MyPlayers in multiplayer mode to play pick-up games and shop. The city is a major attraction and exclusive to this next-gen version of the game. It is clear that Visual Concepts has some big ideas as you gain an alliance and help build their reputation by attending events. I enjoy walking through this huge metropolis, encountering special vendors who sell unique clothing, and mastering speci al challenges like teaming up with cover star Damian Lillard to compete against the legends Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter. You can even spin a wheel for a daily sign up bonus that offers you cool freebies. Most recently I got a free tattoo which made me happy because spending VC (which can be earned in-game or spend real money to get it) isn’t my thing, especially on cosmetic items. If you’re like me, you will most likely grind to get something cool or hope your luck will do you good spinning the wheel – though I haven’t gotten a high-level item that way yet. Good items are very expensive, and grinding requires an inordinate amount of patience. It feels like an obvious effort to get players to microtransactions, which feels gross.
The city is a cool idea, but this is where the biggest problems arise. To enter The City you must first improve your rank by making a profit in Rookieville. This is miserable as you are in a sealed off area where you cannot enter any part of The City and just wait for games and play with others. Losses don’t do much to your rank, so every game will feel like you’re fighting to get onto the show. I’ve met a lot of players who clearly bought VC as a way of boosting their character’s stats and giving themselves the best advantage – which makes it even harder to win if you’re not paying real money yourself.
As I ran through Rookieville, I rarely came across a player who wasn’t rated 86 or higher. Badges only make this even more difficult as badges allow you to capture unrealistic shots or avoid simple thefts. That made me hate online games because the games don’t play out fairly or realistically. They just aren’t fun. Visual Concepts needs to find a better way to reward teamwork as players don’t want to pass the ball and just want to shoot with these modifiers all day. It is becoming more and more of a problem as online gaming continues to take center stage.
Those frustrations aside, you can still expect the other basic modes and some improvements. My NBA is now a comprehensive franchise mode that combines 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 RPG elements. MyGM has yet to be completely redesigned, although I appreciate the redesigned boom / bust system and the larger variations in player potential. I also enjoyed that there are some small variations on the old generation version, such as a new path in Junior’s MyPlayer story where you join the G-League and die with some well-known players from the fiction of the series Can brush shoulders.
The team on court action of NBA 2K21 is the best ever and the graphical jump is impressive, but it still falls short in some key areas. Visual Concepts still hasn’t found a great way to improve online play, and microtransactions continue to destroy what should be a fun part of the experience. I love creating mirror games and the thrill of sinking a buzzer that strikes three, but the moment I step into the online room, that feeling disappears. It’s about the money, not the love of the game.