The Good, The Bad, And The Bottom Line For Current-Gen Version


If I had a $1 for every time someone has asked me if it was worth it to buy the current-generation version of NBA 2K21, I could have paid for a pre-order of the Mamba Forever Edition of the game.

I have answered the question in an article form, but it doesn’t really tell the story of the current-gen versionat least not completely.

This is a peculiar release and one that is tough to evaluate for a variety of reasons. first, it was largely developed during a global pandemic, which certainly matters. That said, the product isn’t discounted for the public, so it isn’t fair to grade on a curve despite the challenges the hard-working development team faced during the production of the game.

Secondly, it is released just about two months before the next-generation version that is projected to blow it out of the water in every way.

Lastly, the global pandemic has impacted the actual NBA season, which has made it impossible to deliver the usual roster update a new version provides.

With all those factors in mind, I still have to evaluate NBA 2K21 for current-gen systems as an individual product, no matter what world events have affected it, or what likely amazing version is set to make us forget about it in 60-80 days.

So here is the good, the bad, and the bottom line with NBA 2K21 on current-gen consoles.

Gameplay

The Good

  • Everything about movement feels smoother. The biggest highlight is the dribbling. It feels as if the handcuffs have been removed from the user, and some truly impressive and gratifying moves are available with some skill required.
  • The shooting is a major hot-button issue in the 2K community, and without question, it is much harder to drain threes in this year’s game than in most versions of the game. There is a new shot meter that is giving most of us the flux, but I’m seeing improvement in my own play, and most definitely in others. I like the increased difficulty, and I believe there is some rhyme and reason to it. In offline modes and MyTeam, accuracy greatly improves with shooters with high attributes and related badges. In Neighborhood features, most are struggling mightily if they haven’t acquired enough badges. It’s not coming as easy to the 2K community, which can be one of the most spoiled gaming groups, but it’s coming. 2K also announced a hot-fix for the lower difficulty levels that will launch on Sunday, September 6, which should meet novices where they are.
  • The freelance offenses are beautiful to watch unfold, and diverse as it relates to the different teams. Real basketball heads will gain some enjoyment from watching the various offenses work to get their best players the ball.

The Bad

  • Playing defense is still based too much on running into the ball-handler rather than cutting them off with some relation to impeding their progress to the basket. 2K still hasn’t quite figured out the cat-and-mouse game between dribbler and defender. It’s a delicate balance because they want to maintain the flow that originally made 2K a more fun game to play than NBA Live, but there needs to be a game within a game in this component, and 2K still misses the mark a bit in this regard.

The Visuals

The Good

  • A few players have updated renders, including legends like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
  • The 2K Beach Neighborhood is pleasing to the eye. It’s mostly just a cosmetic difference, but the design is strong.

The Bad

  • Almost nothing changed from NBA 2K20. With the exception of a few guys with different hairstyles, or perhaps a few more tattoos, this is visually the exact same game as NBA 2K20.

The Sound and Presentation

The Good

  • The voice acting and script in the MyCareer story is particularly strong this year. This is a double-edged sword, which I’ll get to in a minute, but for what it’s worth at this point, the story of Junior, the reluctant second-generation star was pretty compelling.
  • I’m kind of over soundtracks in these kinds of games, but as it is, there are some definite bangers. That said, there’s nothing present that will keep me from muting the entire thing on the first day of play.

The Bad

  • The menus are extremely bland, taking the simplistic and clean approach to an unfortunate extreme.
  • The halftime show, pre-show, intros and national anthem are almost identical to NBA 2K20.
  • Much of the commentary is the same as last year’s game as well. Collectively, all of these untouched or under-developed details makes this aspect of the game more of a negative than positive.

The Features

The Good

  • MyTeam is phenomenal. 2K has added so many layers to the experience that it is difficult to encompass everything in a few paragraphs. The Ascension boards are one of the most rewarding, but nervy experiences I’ve had in a mini-game with a sports video title. Rising to the top of the tower is executed perfectly from a visual standpoint, and it’s a treat to earn one of the cards that gives you access to the board. The Seasons approach overall is exactly what the mode needs to keep it fresh, and to better establish goals for the user. Domination has new depth, and it also benefits from the Seasons concept. The new MyTeam Limited mode isn’t exactly what the feature needed in the way of a structured and restricted concept (that would have been a salary cap option) but it’s fun and exciting nonetheless. Quite honestly, I haven’t found one aspect of MyTeam I don’t like. This is without a question, the best iteration of the 2K card-collection concept ever.
  • There is a nice new feature added to MyLeague. The MyLeague Scenario share allows you to upload challenges for the community or simply facilitates the sharing of the fantasy season experience. This wasn’t advertised prior to the game’s release, but it is something valuable to users who play MyLeague.
  • Something about the badge grind seems more fun this year. The tracking of your progress and overall climb through the stages feels more satisfying and rewarding. I’m not usually a huge MyCareer guy, but this year’s build after the story hooked me a bit.
  • You can edit WNBA players in their Season mode now, which is a step in the right direction, but still leaves room for improvement.

The Bad

  • Aside from the feature I mentioned above, MyLeague and MyGM is almost completely unchanged from NBA 2K20. Some more tangible additions would have been ideal.
  • The creation suite is also still missing some valuable pieces. The number of hairstyles are limited. You cannot add tattoos to offline created players, and there is no image upload option available for created player faces.
  • I’m over the MyCareer guided story conceptat least as a part of the MyPlayer grind. I’d be all for the inclusion of an elaborate story–even if it had quick-time events–if it was a separate mode from the MyPlayer build that awarded VC for completion. It’s time to separate these two things.
  • You still can’t create female MyPlayers, though it seems like that might be coming for next-gen.
  • There is no way to set up leagues or tournaments in Pro-Am and Rec. Adding this feature would greatly aid the development of 2K’s eSports presence.

The Bottom Line

Aside from the polarizing shooting concept, a new look to the Neighborhood and a completely revamped MyTeam mode, there isn’t much difference in this and NBA 2K20. If you’re not a hardcore MyTeam player, I’m not sure this is a must-have for youespecially if you’re buying it on next-gen.

Also, were this a half-priced or free-to-play expansion to NBA 2K20, I would have evaluated it through a different lense. As it is, there are some strong components, but it doesn’t feel like a completely new game in as many aspects as usual.

  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Google Stadia
  • Developer: Visual Concepts
  • Publisher: 2K
  • Released: September 4, 2020
  • Price: $59.99 for the standard edition, $99.99 for Mamba Forever Edition
  • Review Score: 7.25 out of 10

2K provided a review code for the Xbox One version of this game.



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