I’d heard for months 2K was building an entirely new game for next-gen, but with the third and final gameplay related blog released (aka Courtside Report) on Wednesday, it’s clear this is truly an entirely different experience from current-gen—and we haven’t even learned about the changes to any of the modes yet.
The third piece of the gameplay blog focused on Player Builds, Badges, Takeovers and A.I. These elements affect multiple modes in the game, and it appears far more balance has been added to each concept.
No More Pie Charts
That line in the blog might have been the most pleasant thing I read throughout the entire early look at the third Courtside Report.
2K on next-gen consoles will still have restrictions on your MyPlayer, however, according to Gameplay Director Mike Wang, gamers will have “control over setting each individual rating to the cap” they prefer.
I despise the pie charts, but I understand the reasoning behind them. However, I still believe there is a better approach that would allow gamers to compete with no restrictions, but that’s neither here nor there.
This will at least offer more flexibility to player builds which will hopefully manifest itself in a more diverse group of players you’ll see in online competitions using My Players.
New and Canceled Badges
In 2K21 on next-gen, 2K is introducing new badges and eliminating some of the ones they felt were “redundant, didn’t fit in the new design, or the community just didn’t like them.”
Here are some of the new and returning ones:
● Fearless Finisher – Boosts contact layups and decreases fatigue
● Heat Seeker – Boosts takeover progress on inside shots
● Highlight Film – Boosts teammate takeover progress on flashy dunks
● Hook Specialist – Boosts hook shot ability
● Revived Posterizer – Contact dunks!
● Rise Up – Boosts ability to do standing dunks in traffic
● Anti-Freeze – Harder to get cold and lose takeover meter progress
● Blinders – Less affected by peripheral defenders when shooting jumpers
● Circus Threes – Improved ability to hit pull-up and stepback 3’s
● Fade Ace – Boosts all post fadeaways
● Hot Shot – Increases takeover meter faster when knocking down jumpers
● Deep Threes – Dame and Curry range 3 balls
● Rhythm Shooter – Boosts shot %’s out of size-ups as well as 1-step pull-ups ● Set Shooter – Shooting ability gets better the longer you set and wait before pulling ● Sniper – Boosts the ability to hit shots when using Pro Stick aiming
● Stop & Pop Three – for the JJ Redicks who want to pull-up for threes in transition ● Bullet Passer – Gives you the ability to throw laser dots like LeBron
● Relay Passer – Boosts the shooter on pass to assist situations
● Special Delivery – Boosts takeover progress for the passer and receiver off a flashy pass assist
● Ankle Braces – Makes it tougher for ball handlers to break your ankles
● Clutch Defender – Boosts your defensive ratings in clutch moments
● Hot Stopper – Boosts takeover meter for good defensive plays like steals, blocks, and good contests
What I love most about this altered approach to badges is the balance. It appears there are a number of defensive badges that could help to give players a chance to enjoy playing the game on that end, while also countering some of the most powerful offensive badges.
The Following badges have been “retired.”
- Consistent Finisher
- Contact Finisher
- Cross-Key Scorer
- Fancy Footwork
- Fastbreak Finisher
- Deep Hooks
- Pick & Roller
- Relentless Finisher
- Deep Fades
- Flexible Release
- Hot Start
- Pick & Popper
- Pump Fake Maestro
- Range Extender
- Quick Draw
- Steady Shooter
- Pass Fake Maestro
- Flashy Passer
- Lob City Passer
- Lightning Reflexes
- Moving Truck
The Takeover concept is already a huge deal in 2K, but with the way that it will function on next-gen, it would appear there is more strategy and even more balance as well.
The concept has been expanded and now there are 24 specific takeover abilities rather than one linked to the general archetype.
Here’s a look at the takeovers
● Advanced Gathers – Unlocks more effective spin, euro, hop step, cradle gathers ● Finishing Moves – Able to absorb contact and finish at the rim
● Easy Blowbys – Enhances ability for slashers to beat defenders off the dribble ● Pull-Up Precision – Boosts well timed/aimed shots off the dribble
● Anklebreaking Shots – More anklebreakers off of spin and stepback jumpers ● Negative Impact – Reduces defensive impact against pull-ups and other skill shots ● Limitless Range – Extends your shooting range out to the logos
● Spot-Up Precision – Boosts well timed/aimed stationary jump shots
● Team Ratings Boost – Playmakers boost their teammates’ offensive ratings
● Team Takeover Boost – Boost your teammates’ takeover meter progress
● Team Badge Boost – Boosts your teammates’ badges up a tier
● Extreme Clamps – More stone wall and lost dribble body-up resolutions for locks ● Perimeter Badge Drop – Knocks shooting badges down a tier when you get close ● Enhanced Jump Shot Contests – Boosts your ability to contest jumpers
● Stuff Blocks – Unlocks more swat, backboard pins, and grab blocks
● Paint Intimidation – Boosts your ability to affect shots around the rim
● Interior Badge Drop – Drops opposition’s scoring badges down a tier in the paint ● Boxout Wall – Improves ability to seal off opponents for easy boards
● See the Future – Shows where missed shots are going to end up
● Glass Clearing Dimes – After rebounds, kick out passes boost your teammate’s shooting ● Power Backdowns – Easier to push defenders around when posting up
● Post Playmaking – Boost your teammates’ offensive abilities when passing out of post ● Advanced Post Moves – Easier to beat defenders with post moves
● Post Shot Daggers – Increased scoring ability with hooks, fades, shimmy shots, etc.
The last layer of the Takeover concept is the multi-tier system. You get a primary and secondary takeover. You can fill up your primary meter by having successful related plays and activate the associated takeover as is the case now, or you can wait to fill up your meter for the secondary takeover and have both activated at one time. You can even double up on one takeover to have dual activation.
There’s another step.
You can also wait until you fill a third meter which starts team takeover along with your other two takeover meters.
Lastly, in a tribute to Kobe Bryant, 2K introduces the Mamba Mentality Badge. When you’ve earned all your badge points, you receive MM and it allows you to change your takeovers whenever you want to fit the current situation.
I’ve had some issues with AI in NBA 2K games over the past five years, and most has to do with transition defense and offense. If I had to be more specific, I’d say spacing on offense in all situations and proper rotations on defense.
In the blog, 2K makes a ton of promises about the next-gen version improving in these areas.
Here are some of the areas that were mentioned.
● New switching logic update: Both on-ball and off-ball screen logic has been rewritten and the auto-switching logic was refined to reduce bad switching instances. So expect to see fewer cases of the AI calling for a switch without a screen and leaving a player open.
● Improved logic for CPU defenders to get in position to take charges.
● Several improvements to transition defense.
● The player can now call for help defense by holding L1/LB instead of just calling for a double team. This is a great mechanic that you can use when guarding the ball; instead of hoping the AI selects the right time to send help, it’s now under your control with a simple press and hold of the button.
The things done to improve offense are really exciting as it appears to give you more control over the kind of smart offensive strategies you employ.
● Next-Gen Game Planning: This is a great new feature that allows players and AI to have more specific game plans for their teams. In the past, you could choose to run pick & rolls with LeBron, but the new system allows the AI to target a team’s best players. So for the Lakers, not only will they run pick & rolls, but you can have them run exclusively with LeBron and Anthony Davis. There’s a new game plan option in the pause menu. Here, players can select between 8 pre selected game plans that they can access in game through the On-The-Fly-Coaching panel (OTFC). Each game plan has default options already set up for them, so the player can pick a single option and have all the important details for that game plan ready to go. Here are two examples of game plans you can choose:
○ Play Through Star: This game plan will have ACE automatically select the best scorer on the team and only run scoring actions for them, both via plays and freelance actions. It also sets the tempo and rebounding choices automatically to accommodate your star’s playing style.
○ Pound the Ball Inside: ACE auto selects the best post scorer on the team and will exclusively run post scoring actions and plays for them.
● Double team counter intelligence: You’ll see the AI using less movement and create more spacing for shooters spotting up behind the three point line to punish excessive double teaming.
● End of game logic: Improved the AI’s ability to time plays with the shot clock for buzzer beater situations.
The bullet points come directly from the blog, but there is far more to see. It seems with every blog release my expectations rise. We should be hearing about modes beginning as early as next week, and that could take things to yet another level.
2K is setting a pretty impressive set of expectations for NBA 2K21 on next-gen with this blogs, and we’ll soon find out if it delivers.