‘NBA 2k21’ game review: We say, wait for 2k22


Unless you love microtransactions, there is not much reason to upgrade to NBA 2k21

The NBA 2k series has distinguished itself with its excellent MyCareer mode and solid on-court experience. NBA 2k20 was an excellent entry into the series that brought a lot to the table with enhanced graphics and better footwork and player spacing systems. NBA 2k21 improves on those a bit, but carries over a lot of the problems.

NBA 2k21

  • Developer: Visual Concepts
  • Publisher: 2K Games, 2K Sports
  • Price: ₹3,999 on Playstation 4, Xbox One and ₹2,999 on PC

The MyCareer mode carries over those movie-like high production values as seen in previous games. The Long Shadow is a story that focuses on Junior, a footballer-turned-basketballer trying hard to succeed and clamber out of his deceased father’s shadow. Look forward to some excellent performances by Djimon Hounsou (Black Panther), Michael K Williams (The Wire) and Jesse Williams (Detroid: Beyond Human). The story does its job propelling your custom character into the game on a journey into the NBA — though it is not as powerful as that of its predecessors, it still puts your character in the scheme of things.

The character models of players look and sound like their real-world counterparts, with courts looking gorgeous, excellent motion capture and realistic crowds… the MyCareer character models do look a bit rough on some of the main models though. Thankfully the gameplay is tight, with your AI players doing a great job of creating space for you. New in 2k21 is the Shot Stick feature, that allows you to shoot precise shots using the right thumbstick. Meant for advanced players, it takes a bit of time to learn and if you do master it, it could be a powerful tool, giving you an edge in your competitive play. While the game has gotten better, it still has got a few minor annoyances, especially in the AI and animation glitches.

NBA 2k21’s MyTeam mode is where the excitement is at: with an updated roster of players, you can set up your fantasy team and play matches in several competitive modes. You can play either solo with a team of AI players against the computer, or you can take your game online in multi-player, structured in seasons very much like the current slew of service games like Overwatch, Fortnite or Destiny. You grind away in matches, and upgrade your squad on your road to be the best. It is not easy to get to the top, unless you want to spend some real money on NBA 2k21.

Screenshot from NBA 2k21

Screenshot from NBA 2k21
| Photo Credit:
2k Games

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When it comes to cosmetics in which to deck out your players, it is understandable that they have micro-transactions (a business model where users can purchase virtual goods with micro-payments). However, NBA 2k21 is riddled with the worst kinds of monetisation behind terrible grinding, that rears its head even in MyCareer.

This is what you would expect in a free-to-play game (not one you have to pay full price), and even then a level of smart monetisation which Ubisoft, Blizzard and even Fortnite do well. The interface of 2k21 is bruising with stats and coins, taking every chance to shell out its wares to get you to splurge. There is a lot of content to discover in NBA 2k21 in terms of game modes and even the inclusion of the WNBA and MyLeague. There is also a hub area set in colourful Venice Beach, California, where you can visit stores and purchase costumes and more. With the game’s monetisation like an impatient waiter always hustling you for an order. A lot of content is good, but it is just a collection of video game modes thrown together in one hot mess.

Screenshot from NBA 2k21

Screenshot from NBA 2k21
| Photo Credit:
2k Games

Other than the Shot Stick feature, new roster and a decent MyCareer, there is nothing much here to justify that upgrade to 2k21, that you won’t get in previous games. If you are an NBA fan looking for the latest though, then this is great, otherwise wait for a more chunkier release next year… hopefully.

The writer is a tech and gaming enthusiast who hopes to one day finish his sci-fi novel

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