With the jump to Next Gen Gaming, the NBA 2K series faced a lot of huge expectations. Can they wow us like they did back when 2K14 debuted, and give gamers a leap in basketball gaming never before seen? Now while it hasn’t met either of those marks completely, lets dive in on the game famously quoted as “being built from the ground up” and detail just how big of a leap Next Gen NBA 2K21 is.
As far overall presentation, this isn’t another current gen 2k21 situation going on where it looked identical to the last installment. When you load into a game you notice the improved visuals immediately. From seeing all the pre-game happenings around the court, fuller crowds and people in the crowd not all wearing the same hoodie from the NBA shop its game changing! Arena’s feel like a living breathing thing, where you feel the whole production it took to put this all together for you to play ball more than ever before and I can’t wait to see the improvements they make to this as the years go on. Another aspect next gen 2K takes full advantage of is having multiple commentary teams in game. Being able to switch up the commentary booth is a key ingredient in making the game feel fresh and a huge bonus for those that actually listen to the announcers in game.
On another note, the game does have a problem with washed out colors on courts and jerseys. I first noticed this with Staples Center and then found a few other courts suffering this same issue. And there seems to be an issue with the color black appearing almost grey on certain team jerseys.
Now, the dribbling on next gen has been controversial. What people may claim as being nerfed and slowed down I’ve found to be a lot more realistic. Being able to switch speeds is something I’m a fan of doing and feel way more rewarded performing an ankle breaker or blowing by on a defender due to how much better on ball defense is on next gen.
Shooting on the new edition of the game is definitely a lot easier. The shot meter is larger, and I also feel next gen is way more badge reliant than current gen. There are a lot of different additions to shooting, like splitting up the type of on the move shots, bank shots and arc control that are cool. But I feel the latter two mostly probably won’t be used by the majority of the community…on purpose.
The defense I was pleasantly surprised with, specifically the user defense. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s a lot more fun playing perimeter defense now. The improved foot planting has removed the slide feeling I felt on current gen trying to defend on the perimeter as your able to track the ball handler better. The improved collision system rewards me a lot more often for beating the ball handler to a spot. To take it a step further, defenders can even be rewarded with triggering charge calls against undisciplined ball handlers, forcing ball handlers to be a lot more careful driving into the paint. I will say the shot contest system unfortunately isn’t reliable at all. Contest percentages seem to be calculated at random despite having supposedly great positioning on the ball handler, especially near the rim.
Playing the computer, they shine when they run plays or execute a basic pick and roll as they offer enough variety in their decision making and execution to keep you on your toes. Otherwise it’s a mixed bag, specifically in the strategy department. They don’t make obvious defensive assignment changes in certain regards that should be common knowledge, and instead will leave guys on players who have almost 10 inches and 60 pounds on him the whole game. The most frustrating part is how unstoppable I feel running a simple pick and roll against the computer, especially if the ball handler is fast, because help defenders don’t help, the screen defender’s feet will look as if its stuck in sand, and the on-ball defender will go over on players they shouldn’t. So, basically, playing the computer boils down to the AI offense gives a good challenge, but on defense it all falls apart. It’s like playing Trae Young.
As far as game modes, Play Now Online doesn’t record your record 95% of the time so that’s nice. And MyTeam is an exact port over from current gen
One of the most interesting things 2K announced before the games release was a mashup of MyLeague and MyGm called MyNBA. With every feature in each mode carried over into this new mode and made available offline and online. To take it a step further you can pick and choose which aspects of the two modes you want in your franchise.
It’s not perfect by any means, though. Although a recent patch fixed some stuff, MyNBA has a host of issues. The progression system is broken leading to supped up teams years down the line. This has a domino effect of very high rated players ending up priced out, and sitting in free agency because teams can’t afford them. Other issues include players leaving in free agency and signing to random teams for no reason, way too many low rated teams dominating in the playoffs, and, although adjustable, simulation stats are way off in multiple areas. A lot of these problems can be fixed before NBA 2K22 drops, and I hope they do because as of right now I can’t even enjoy all the ability to customize any and everything fully because the mode itself is so out of whack.
Now, the WNBA side of things got an upgrade as well with their very own mode called The W which features a female oriented, although limited by archetype, MyPlayer builder slotting you right on a WNBA Team of your choosing. There are some big omissions like not being able to take your player into The City, but The W does feature a RPG-style mode for your MyPlayer as you build her up. It even has a 3-on-3 mode baked into it which has a rather nice backdrop to play on. It’s a rather full mode in its own right, and I hope they keep working at this mode in future 2Ks.
In NBA 2K21 Next Gen, we are given a completely different MyPlayer builder, allowing users to create the do-it-all players that was once possible on older games. But, as currently constructed, it has a severe balancing issue making certain positions more valuable then others and certain ratings meaningless through gameplay that you don’t bother touching them.
As far as the story, although it’s largely the same, the additions to it alter it enough to be completely fresh. You now have more of a choice over your path to the NBA with the addition of the G League. And some familiar faces return on next gen although it would have made more sense for them to appear on the current gen consoles.
Lastly, The Neighborhood is gone and has been replaced with The City. Which, after escaping Rookieville, you get to experience this huge world. It may be so big that it can make the map seem empty with the player limit each server carries and cause long wait times for games. It’s so big your required to waste VC on something just to transport you around. That said, even with the amount of ballers in a given server making the map seem like a desert at times, the scope of this world is amazing and is something that gamers have been asking for years
NBA 2K21 Next Gen Verdict
NBA 2K21 on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S is definitely an improvement over its current gen partner, and, without a doubt, the best next gen sports upgrade out of them all.
The gameplay is night and day, and The City, while it does have faults, fully shows off the power of next gen gaming in its scale to give gamers a completely new experience. There’s something for everybody in this game, and if they work to correct the issues it does have the future of NBA 2K is as bright as ever.
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