Published on September 20th, 2020 | by Lyla Saudi
NBA 2K21 Review (XBox One)
Summary: Feel, play, and win like the NBA superstar you always dreamed you were!
Complete with all the style, appeal, and glamour that it is famous for in the real world, NBA2K21 continues the tradition of this iconic franchise which celebrates the NBA; the world’s biggest, most celebrated and most talented basketball league in the world. Produced by 2K games, this presents a fantastic on-court experience which accurately represents the play and style of current NBA basketball for its adoring fans to sink their teeth into. And with multiple game modes allowing you to experience the season in a variety of ways, there is plenty to chew on.
Now I’ve been out of the NBA 2K series for a little while, so this review brings fresh eyes and a different perspective to this gaming behemoth. While other gamers are commenting on 2K21 suffering from the same thing most annualized sports games exhibit, that it is more of the same, I have to say that if this is more of the same, then we should all consider ourselves lucky.
The first thing that hits you is that this game is cool. With Dame D.O.L.L.A. on the cover, the music throughout makes every gamer, even the nerdiest among us, feel like we are part of something special. Whether it’s the music in between games, the in game sound tracks, the thump of the basketball on the court or the sweet ‘kush’ of a swish, the sound and music are done by those that love basketball, and each small element adds to the feeling that you are part of the NBA scene. The game is edited and flows in a manner which exemplifies, and pays homage to, the NBA at every moment. Complete with intros, timeouts, replays and of heavy focus on star players, at times you feel like you are watching a TV broadcast that you just happen to be in control of.
The graphics are good but not amazing. And while there is plenty of character customization, including the ability to scan your own face with your phone and stylized animations of each star’s trademark movements, the characters still look a little ‘blocky’. This is no more evident that when they cut away to recorded interviews with the players, which feels a little odd with their video game face filling up your screen to show the limitations of the current gen machines. But the animations of the superstars movements is something that is really cool; whether it be the way LeBron backtracks after a made basket, Giannis’s hulking movement forward, or Steph’s smooth 3 point jump shot, it again brings the realism to your experience and the NBA into the palm of your hands.
The depth of the controls of the game certainly don’t make it easy on new players. The days of a button for pass and the other for shoot have long gone, replaced instead with the ability to move not only your player, but the whole team with a myriad of triggers, bumpers, thumb-sticks and combos. From calling plays, dynamic handles, pinpoint finishes, fadeaway jumpers, and explosive dunks you really can play the game in any way you want… once you get the hang of it. While there is a gym to work out in, you certainly have a learning curve in front of you. But it is a fun path, and the amount of control you have over the players while at first overwhelming, soon becomes a key component of the game’s longevity.
There are plenty of game modes to choose from, with the MyCareer a particular favorite. Named, ‘The Long Shadow’ you take control of ‘Junior’, a talented athlete but raw basketballer who is trying to create his own path forward with the expectations of his dad ‘Duke’ looming large. As with all sport game stories it is pretty heavy of the stereotypes and clichés, and the cutscenes can feel unengaging and cheesy. Following the linear story, you do get to shape your fans and personality, but the story is just a vehicle to get you invested in your guy and watch him grow from high school to the pros. To use a sport metaphor, ‘the game happens on the court’, and it is this growth that makes you feel a deep connection to your guy, not so much the choice of college or choice of suit on draft night.
My least favorite element of the game is the embedded microtransactions which have a noticeable presence in both the MyCareer and MyTeam modes. While both can be played by grinding daily and weekly tasks, the virtual currency can be used for everything from haircuts to on court attributes. Unfortunately, the limited available methods to earn in game currency mean that it will either be a while until you can reach your peak, or you will have to shell out some extra funds to be competitive in the shorter term.
Providing a complete NBA experience, NBA2K21 accurately captures and then places you center stage of everything that makes NBA basketball great. The music, the sounds, the energy, the hype, and most importantly the gameplay, this sports sim provides fans of the game the complete experience. With detailed controls and dynamic gameplay which mimics the game’s best players, you, the player, can play out your hoop dreams on the world’s biggest stage. Just mind your step on the microtransactions on your path to glory.
Title: NBA 2K21:
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Visual Concepts
Platform: Xbox One
Release Date: September 4, 2020