NBA 2K21 Review

It has been two weeks since the release of NBA 2K21, giving the game time to have any bugs and glitches fixed that have occurred during the launch – and trust me, there were a lot of things that needed to be fixed, from players not receiving their pre-order bonuses to the constant crashing of multiplayer. Now that the game is in a more stable condition I can come in with my final verdict. 

With yearly sport titles people often say that a new coat of paint is all that really changes before they’re sent off to market. I will say 2K21 is not an exemption to that rule. My Team makes a return with some new enhancements but is overall the same mode with the same features. Without a doubt the 2K series is most recognizable for the My Career mode. In this new addition the story mode portion is titled “The Long Shadow”. The story surrounds Junior, son of a legendary basketball star who couldn’t make it into the league; this puts pressure on Junior to succeed where his father failed. Despite this set up, the story itself is pretty lacking and empty. It just becomes very cliché. There’s even a point where Junior gets a love interest but this contributes nothing to the story. The only redeeming attribute the story had was the fact it featured 10 officially licensed college programs to choose from, giving it that extra sense of realism. The colleges you are able to choose from consists of  Michigan State, UConn, Florida, Gonzaga, Syracuse, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, UCLA, Villanova University, and West Virginia. Once the story is all said and done you’ll be drafted with your NBA team and will be taken to the neighborhood where My Park is located.

The My Park has been given a complete graphical overhaul as it changed into 2K Beach. The modes in the game are more or less the same though, with your regular 3 vs 3 blacktop games, Pro Ams, and Ante Up. The shops such as Swags, The Arcade and Docs Barber Shop also make a return. Unofrtunately, this brings back the problem that has remained the same throughout all these NBA games; The Virtual Currency Dependency.

Everything is dependent on VC; want to upgrade your character? VC. You like those shoes? Gotta cough up VC. If it was purely cosmetic it would be bearable since most games do that now theme days, however it’s not fun playing against someone who paid their way to Overall 90 while you’re grinding to at least get to 75 overall. Things such as dances, clothes and animations are not only restricted by VC but also locked behind a ranking system, which is just prone to more grinding.  You just feel way too restricted in a game you already paid 60 bucks for.

In 2K21 the basketball gameplay, at least, is fast paced and flows very well. Early in the launch week the shooting mechanic was downright awful and atrocious. After a patch or two however it feels much better to play the game without struggling so much. In the new patch came a much improved stick shooting set up, though if that’s not preferred than button shooting is always an option.

Visually there’s nothing special when it comes to 2K21. The neighborhood itself looks nice but besides the boardwalk there really isn’t anything that makes it resemble a beach. It’s very similar to its previous adaptations. Even the characters don’t look as standout as I’d expect.

Conversely, this soundtrack is the best I’ve heard in NBA 2K in a while. The only problem is that all of the songs are censored way too much. Totally kills the mood. If you’re gonna censor a song to oblivion you might as well not have it all.

An addition to the game was the introduction of the WNBA league. The only mention of them though is in the quickplay option. It was disappointing to me that you couldn’t create a female character in My Career mode. It’s nice that the league was added to the game but so much could have been done with this opportunity.

Conclusion

NBA 2K21 is in the end another basketball simulation game. Nothing here will catch you by surprise and leave you in awe. The biggest thing this game suffers from is the painstaking grind for VC so you can be on par with everyone else, which is not very welcoming to newcomers. It’s an enjoyable game but without any new updates or features it will end up lost in your backlog.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.
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Good
  • Great soundtrack choices
  • Shooting has been patched and is much improved now
  • Fast paced gameplay as always
Bad
  • VC reliance, and it's easy to feel unpowered to those that pony up the cash
  • New players may be turned off by some of these aspects
4.8
Poor
Gameplay - 6
Graphics - 6
Audio - 4
Longevity - 3
Written by
My name is Varno Harris II. I currently attend school at Miami University double majoring in journalism and professional writing. My dream is to create and develop a popular video game media company and shape the future of journalism.

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