NBA 2K21 PlayStation 4 Review

NBA 2K21 is a comprehensive simulation that brings the closest accuracy to actual real-world basketball.

By RON, Posted 20 Sep 2020

The annualized NBA 2K series brings a continuous challenge for developer Visual Concepts, who has worked on 2K series since its beginning. Titles like NBA 2K10 and 2K17 have been quoted as the best there can ever be, however, fans’ expectations kept on rising with each release, the slightest drawback bringing a lot of criticism. NBA 2K21 is, perhaps, the victim of that while also being the best basketball simulation on the market.

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Those who have played the NBA 2K20 will likely find 2K21 to be a more polished version of it. It’s the same basketball game delivering the same virtual experience with a new coat of paint and a few adjustments in the player’s movements. Even though familiar players won’t find this a fact to celebrate, especially when the 2K21 doesn’t differentiate much from 2K20, new players or those returning after a long break will surely find the game tremendously polished.  Characters look more refined, even sweating like real-life players. Speaking of sweating, the newly introduced shooting will make both pro and rookies sweat in real.

The Shot Stick Shooting and Aiming are 2K21’s most visible changes. The system adds a certain amount of difficulty and effort required to pull off these actions. Unlike the 2K20 shot meter, in 2K21 you need to center a wedge that appears on the shot meter, depending on the position from where the player is shooting, using the right thumbstick. Those who prefer shooting the ball with the thumbstick instead of the square button will still have to master the release’s timing, because keeping the meter in the middle of the wedge isn’t enough to make a green shot. To make the gameplay even more realistic, NBA 2K21 has introduced Shot Stick Aiming which requires players to aim their shots and layups with the left thumbstick while shooting with the right thumbstick. It’s not easy to master because the left thumbstick being both the movement and aiming stick requires a bit of practice to get used to the system, especially during gameplay. When mastered, however, it truly gives taking shots a realistic feeling. Thankfully, if you aren’t fond of these new additions, you can disable both from the gameplay settings.

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According to 2K Sports, NBA 2K21 has been rebuilt from the ground up to make it suitable for next-gen consoles. The range of movements that the characters can perform pretty much stands out as the highest accomplishment of any sports simulator for how close it is to realism. A slight dash to an opposing player while he’s taking a layup might cause him to miss the basket, while leading the opponent to make an early jump with a fake jump of your own gives you an opening to make the shot. Sometimes, players also bump into the crowd sitting close to the sideline when unable to control their landing after a jump shot. Though most of these movements were present in 2K20, they look more refined in this release.  Unfortunately, some movement glitches which were found in the previous entry have yet to be fixed.  You’ll still see players running on the same spot, as if they’re on a treadmill while being held by opposition who aren’t event trying to block the run. Also, some animations can cause a slight break in realism, especially when the players hands go through others’ bodies. These issues however, won’t bother the NBA 2K fans much, as the core gameplay is still fun and full of competition.

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Just like the previous release, MyCareer is still pleasing and full of activities while possibly being the hardest mode of NBA 2K21. This is the story mode in NBA 2K21 where you create a basketball star and move your way up to the NBA Draft from high school. The MyPlayer Builder lets you determine your player’s finishing, shooting, playmaking, and defense/rebounding abilities while, at the same time, deciding skill breakdown, potential, body shape, and takeover badge. 2K21 offers some additional pie charts under the skill breakdown menu to keep track of the percentage of finishing, shooting, playmaking, and defense abilities. The overall attributes of a player vary according to these skill sets. If you pick, for example, a higher shooting ability, then shooting attributes simply have greater limits than their peers. Your player’s skills are key to the success of your team, and you can plan your skill distribution in advance depending on the team with which you’re going to play. Your character is simply named Junior. As the son of a former college legend from New Jersey, the mode documents your journey from high school to the NBA Draft while also involving family and romantic affairs. These can lead to some not so enjoyable moments, especially when your girlfriend suddenly leaves, but also some more uplifting ones, like when you decide to choose your family over a corporate giant to make it to the NBA Draft.


Beside the NBA matches in MyCareer, you’ll spend most of your time in the Neighborhood located in Venice Beach. It’s a free-roam area for taking part in online matches, working out or practicing on your skills, alongside doing a lot of shopping. There are stores for anything from clothes to court customizations, full of expensive items that can be purchased through the in-game currency: VC. During the first two seasons, shopping will feel insignificant as you’re mostly going to spend the VC earned from matches to upgrade your players' abilities. As you’re spending VC on practically anything you do for both upgrades and shopping, it never feels really rewarding, because it’s always costing you something else. For instance, when you plan to update your MyCareer attributes, your purchase of a new MyTeam Pack is theoretically sacrificed. In NBA 2K21, it’s really hard to avoid the microtransactions because, one way or another, you’re directed towards them to compete against the pro players in the Neighborhood or to upgrade attributes. To stay on top of things, you’ll eventually have to spend real money on upgrades, even with the existing ways of earning VC from the game by playing NBA matches, in-game advertising endorsements, and meeting daily goals.

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Thankfully, NBA 2K21 MyTeam has had the best of improvements this year with new modes, newly introduced XP currency, and different gem divisions. The major difference is the leveling system which, compared to previous releases, lets you earn daily XP and achieve timely goals to unlock several rewards and packs. There are several new game modes, weekend-themed Diamond Dynasty limited matches, and a new structure for seasoned players. The new Exchange mechanic and Triple Threat that have been reworked as part of NBA 2K21's new seasonal format, allowing you to exchange signature cards from high-group teams to diamond shoes and agreements. Most importantly, MyTeam no longer pressures you to invest real money. It is simple enough to avoid purchasing packs by playing the game and gradually building up MyTeam income. Sadly, however, MyLeague mode feels mostly untouched, except for the only new feature that allows sharing scenarios with friends.

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Overall, 2K21 may feel a bit too daunting for casual players. The differences between the pro and casual players somewhat feel larger than before in Playground matches, as it's easy for highly ranked players with several badges to break you down.  By the time you've managed to unlock some badges, pro players too have unlocked some more. So, the gap will always remain unless the matchmaking can be improved.  This is made worse by the AI opponents, which can be dumb at times, leaving the real fun for playing against the real players. Despite all this, 2K21 is still a comprehensive simulation that brings the closest accuracy to actual real-world basketball. Putting aside the unwanted microtransactions and framedrops during cutscenes, NBA 2K21 is the ultimate basketball simulation on the market.


Sarwar Ron, NoobFeed
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General Information

NBA 2K21


Platform(s): PS4
Publisher(s): 2K Games, 2K Sports
Developer(s): Visual Concepts Entertainment
Genres: Sports
Themes: Basketball, Simulation
Release Date: 2020-09-04

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