While there are a lot of things the NBA 2K series does well, there’s one thing it’s seemingly mastered over the last decade. Consistency, for better or worse, is something 2K has excelled at when making their yearly additions for the series. NBA 2K21 maintains that consistency as far as the current generation version goes.
While the game remains one of the best at letting players simulate real-life action with their favorite players and teams, my frustration with the game comes from almost everything outside of its pure gameplay. When it comes to that gameplay, it does feel the same right out of the gate, at least initially. However, more experienced players will notice a significant change to the games shooting controls.
While some just prefer the good old fashioned button for shooting, others will use the right analog stick. This is where NBA 2K21 made some adjustments. While in previous years the analog stick acted as more of a button alternative once flicked, there’s now a bit more technique to it.
Players who use the analog stick now must focus on aiming their shots within the shot meter rather than purely focus on timing. This is a new system that will require a learning curve, even for 2K veterans. However, the reward for putting in the time to learn it will be making more shots than previously would have been missed with just the button. Again, while gameplay remains a solid aspect, it’s 2K21’s outside features that start to disappoint. There’s simply nothing fresh to excite fans with this years game modes. This includes staples like My Career and My Team.
My Career features an overall disappointing storyline that follows a player named Junior. We follow him as he attempts to make it to the NBA in the shadow of his father’s own legacy. While this mode does allow you to play as actual NCAA teams, it never truly feels like what you do with your created player during this time will serve you better later on. Thankfully, there is an option for players to just start playing in the NBA immediately.
The popular neighborhood feature also gets a makeover that now puts players in a boardwalk type atmosphere. It’s here that you’ll play pickup games with other players online. While the scenery is certainly an upgrade from previous years, the concept still remains the same.
What remains, above all, the most frustrating feature of the game is its micro-transactions. Players who want to be able to compete in the neighborhood are just about forced to purchase virtual currency just to get up to par with the competition. Once players step off the court and into the neighborhood stores, they will be met with, to no one’s surprise, more micro-transactions! Unless players are okay with rocking the infamous brown shirt around, its likely they’ll feel compelled to purchasing a “Bathing Ape” shirt along with a pair of Jordans.
While NBA 2K remains a top, albeit only, option for basketball simulation, the lack of improvements to previous versions is what holds NBA 2K21 back. While it remains to be strong in visuals and still fun in the gameplay department, it’s missing that special something. Perhaps the arrival of 2K’s next-generation version (which owners of the “Mamba Forever” version will receive upon release) will give the 2K series a rejuvenation it so desperately needs.
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