Published on November 23rd, 2020 | by Lyla Saudi
NBA 2K21 Xbox Series X Review
Summary: Feel, play, and win like the NBA superstar you always dreamed you were!
NBA 2K21 is the latest title in the world-renowned, best-selling NBA 2K series, delivering an industry-leading sports video game experience.
While the next-gen (PS5, XSX) consoles share many similarities with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One version of NBA 2K21 when it comes to gameplay modes, the developers have also ensured that this is not just a port with just higher resolution graphics. Although the resolution supports glorious 4K with improved textures and detail all running at 60 frames per second, and yes it is almost like you are watching basketball on TV, there’s a few more surprises for next-gen owners. With access to quick-games, online play and MyCareer, the PS5 and XBox Series X features an “open-world” area called the City that is like a MMO basketball game which allows you to explore the city, interact with others and play hoops. While not quite GTA with a basketball, it really expands on the gameplay mechanics of this series and more importantly creates a vivid and engaging world that feels immersive.
- Next-Gen Graphics, Next-Gen Realism – Experience the NBA game with an enhanced level of realism and immersion possible only on next-gen gaming platforms. The dynamic new Rail Cam presentation transports the player to the hardwood floors, providing a full view of the game and highlights the incredible visual fidelity of the players and arena.
- Lightning-Fast Load Times – By utilizing the built-in solid-state drives (SSDs) of the next-gen consoles, NBA 2K21 now features incredibly short load times that get players directly into the action.
- The Arena Comes to Life – Step into a living, breathing arena with the all-new Lower Bowl presentation. Experience the sights and sounds of the arena floor and crowds powered by more than 150 AI characters: on-camera interviews from reporters, interactions between fans, vendors going about their duties and much more.
- Smoother, Tougher, More Precise – Huge next-gen improvements across all aspects of gameplay blur the line between game and reality. Control the arc of your shot or the pace of your size-ups, execute step-back threes with new foot planting technology, twist and turn in mid-air with the new Impact Engine and more. Feel the game’s collisions and new energy/fatigue system on the new DualSense™ controller for the PlayStation 5, made possible by its adaptive triggers and haptic feedback features.
Next-Gen Features and Modes:
- Welcome to the City – Leave the Neighborhood; enter the City. A map that is many, many times larger than previous Neighborhoods, a towering Event Center for all basketball activities and multiple districts and factions, the City invites you to live out a much-expanded, more seamless basketball life – possible only on next-gen gaming platforms.
- Introducing the W – Greatly expanding on the WNBA experience introduced last year, The W is the first-ever WNBA MyPLAYER experience for the NBA 2K Create your own fully customizable WNBA player and take her through a pro career featuring all 12 WNBA teams and the league’s brightest stars. Experience the thrill of competition and go head-to-head in The W Online, featuring intense 3v3 MyPLAYER competition set on a beautiful new court exclusive to the game mode.
- Your Own Basketball Journey – Take your MyCAREER destiny into your own hands with all-new player choices and dynamic career paths. Start your budding basketball career in high school, get the full four-year college ball experience in one of 10 authentic US universities or head to the NBA G League.
- Revamped League Management with MyNBA and MyWNBA – This is your NBA and WNBA, and this is your franchise mode, with an unprecedented amount of control over every aspect of the game. Expand your custom NBA league to 36 teams or reduce it 12, watch and control player growth through the boom/bust system and share your setups and scenarios with the community.
- Industry Leading In-Game Soundtrack – The largest and most definitive collection of music ever assembled in NBA 2K, with more than 350 tracks available to players throughout the life of the game.
Welcome to next-gen basketball that is complete with all the style, appeal, and glamour that it is famous for in the real world and thankfully 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 (and now off-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 that is on super-charge on both the PS5 and XSX!
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 from its slick presentation to lush 4K graphics, including the music throughout which 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.
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.
You can also focus on building your team from the ground up in MyLeague which puts you as the owner of an NBA franchise to MyGym that is similar to MyCareer and more hands on. As mentioned, the city is an open-world area that is massive with lots of places to explore and an impressive cap of 100 players which ensures there’s quite a few options to join games and become linked with a team. Another highlight with next-gen versions is the almost non-existent load times which supports the already fast gameplay mechanics and lush graphics. In terms of controls, they work quite well on the new Xbox Series X controller and is very responsive.
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 with some wonderful next-gen mechanics and graphics.