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NBA 2K21 Demo Roundtable: Gameplay Impressions So Far

NBA 2K21 demo impressions

NBA 2K21

NBA 2K21 Demo Roundtable: Gameplay Impressions So Far

OS folks have already been sharing their impressions of the demo and they will continue to do so. But as it relates to the staff, what are your NBA 2K21 demo impressions at this point?

Chase Becotte: I’m simultaneously scared and excited. I’m hopeful and worried. I will totally understand those who say this is the “same game but with a new shot meter” because I get it. The graphics have clearly plateaued, and in general many people who have been playing sports games this whole generation are a little fatigued and ready for next-gen consoles. That being said, I really do think the shot mechanics can be an important game changer here.

First off, I think green releases are bad and they’ll always be bad. I’ll never agree with them being a thing, but I think that fight is one the 2K team will generally lose when it comes to public opinion. With that in mind, I really just care about freedom of movement and creating ways to make the game feel more unique possession to possession. Too often in 2K, there is a very noticeable crutch (at least in online environments) where people are just doing speed burst duck and cover around on-ball screens, or doing a couple specific plays to get an open shot to green a release. It sucks and is not enjoyable to play against.

But there is a competing issue with online games and that’s the latency factor. In a purely timing-based system that is also impacted by how tight you’re covered, it has never been a great look for 2K that the online environment is so spotty game to game, and mode to mode. This shot mechanic tweak, in effect, does the latency-tuning job for them by making it about aiming rather than timing.

nba 2k21 demo shooting

Now, of course, you can still both aim and time the shot if you want (and I think that’s cool to still have there), but this is where the fear and excitement begin to clash. There is going to be a battle over this. It’s inevitable. Some people are going to hate aiming and immediately give up on the new mechanic, and I worry about how the “timing” crowd will then co-exist with the “aiming” crowd when it comes to balancing the game. I will want to play with other “aimers” I think at this point, but I doubt 2K will want to break up the online communities that way.

Personally, I like the aiming system a lot so far for shooting (and this version of the meter is easy enough for me to read, but I have seen some complaints about how it looks visually speaking). And, before I explain why, it’s good that just pulling down on the stick now triggers shots. This is the best change of them all no matter what happens with shooting because this opens up dribble creativity so much more without the fear of shooting by accident.

I also think it’s worth mentioning that I am someone who plays without a meter in 2K20, but I will be fine having the aiming meter on now because I think it provides so much to the shooting types and dribbles. Even when I got timing down in 2K20, I did not like doing leaners and so on because the timing was different from the “regular” jumper you also had to learn for every player. I don’t mind the concept of knowing your squad for jumpers, but then also having to try and remember how to time things out on the shot types that weren’t just basic jumpers was a bit much in terms of having faith in your own abilities.

Instead, I now feel like I’m going to be way more into shooting in different scenarios because down is always how you shoot now, and I can have faith that I don’t need to recognize what the “top” of a jump shot is now on a fade or whatever. This tweak also makes it so you can absolutely disown turbo closeout psychos with a little side step and then banging home a shot. That already feels good against the CPU, and doing it against terrible players online will feel even better.

nba 2k21 gameplay demo

There are slight player movement quality-of-life improvements here as well that coincide with the shooting change. For example, you can now more easily step in on a shot if you catch the ball way behind the line. This was a constant problem last year as 2K had AI players line up further behind the 3-point line like they do now in real life. In theory this was fine (and realistic), only you couldn’t really make shots from that far out with any consistency unless you had certain badges, and the AI/humans closed out too fast at that point and it made zone defense way too strong.

On top of that, I won’t fault people who don’t notice these changes right away (or even at all), but some dribbling animations feel more opened up now when creating space against the AI, and I do think this will show up against humans as well. For example, I think size-up moves feel stronger and the quick stepbacks feel better as well. In conjunction with now feeling more agile and confident on non-standard jumpers, I’m excited about the prospects of taking more styles of jumpers where I create that space and rise up for more complicated shots where the contest percentages are lower.

Of course, none of that might matter if the contest system isn’t tightened up, and I’m still not ready to go one way or the other on that question. I also have some concerns with transition defense still, and with this being a transition year I don’t feel super confident in certain legacy gameplay issues being totally cleaned up. Regardless, I do think there is more here than meets the eye, but all I’m worried about is what happens to this game once it’s released. Please 2K, let this game simmer. Do not make huge balance changes or pull away from believing in “aiming” for shooting if you actually want to trust it. Give the game at least 2-3 weeks in the wild before changing stuff.

nba 2k21 demo kawhi

Joel Smith: In my very brief time with the NBA 2K21 demo so far, I can say that the only thing that immediately stood out as different was the shot meter and shooting itself. Using the stick is definitely going to take a little bit to get used to. Shooting with the square/X button might also take a little getting used to solely because of the new meter. Other than that, the game looks and feels the exact same so far. The fact that you can only play five games is also silly to me. Why would the 2K team put a limit on what we can do within the demo in terms of play time? How do they expect people to get the hang of the changes made in such a limited play window? Using the MyPlayer Builder counts as a game out of the five available, which is also frustrating. It seems like figuring out a good build will have to wait until the game drops next Friday (September 4). As it stands right now, it seems relatively evident the massive gameplay changes that don’t relate simply to mechanics will come with the NBA 2K21 next-gen platforms only. I can’t say that I’m that impressed so far.

nba 2k21 demo 2ku

Brian O’Neill: Agreed, the only difference I can see is the shooting mechanic (not a fan so far) and maybe a couple of new animations. Otherwise, it looks and feels like 2K20. I would much rather them let us dive into something like MyTeam for a couple of hours (obviously I’m biased there as the MyTeam guy), because it sounds like that mode is definitely going to be different and it might be nice to get a jump start. I also miss the Prelude from previous years. I don’t play a ton of MyCareer, but the years that I dove in the deepest were the years that the Prelude piqued my interest in the demo, probably because at that point I couldn’t be distracted by other modes like MyTeam or MyLeague.

nba 2k21 demo block

Jeff Botkin: From my experience with playing NBA 2K20 and now playing the NBA 2K21 demo, there very small tweaks from one version to the next. The transition game feels smoother in minor ways and the AI seemed to push the ball more aggressively down the floor. In the half-court game, AI player movement was more active in back cuts and patience in the pick and roll. These are minor details I noticed in gameplay as well as the player movement seeming slightly smoother. The shooting mechanic is different and timing is more difficult. I found myself using the X button rather than the stick. There was more fluid timing when using the X button after performing a sequence of dribbling moves. All in all, the improvements noticed in the demo were slight so I wouldn’t be surprised by people saying this game feels close to 2K20.

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  1. i played 5 games in this demo.. gameplay is 9.5/10 for me.. graphic still look great though.. animatiions still look great too. can't wait to play it on September 4
    Really enjoyed reading Chase's argument for the new shooting mechanic. My plan at least as of now is to turn the meter off, which apparently means going back to shot timing, but Chase makes a pretty good argument for all the positives that come out of the new system even without getting to the fact that your shooting percentages will be boosted if you get the hang of it relative to timing shots well.
    If we eventually get to the day where it's less sensitive and we can use shot aiming with the meter off, I think I'd like to use it. Not really feeling it in its current stage though.
    Yeah...THAT Guy
    Really enjoyed reading Chase's argument for the new shooting mechanic. My plan at least as of now is to turn the meter off, which apparently means going back to shot timing, but Chase makes a pretty good argument for all the positives that come out of the new system even without getting to the fact that your shooting percentages will be boosted if you get the hang of it relative to timing shots well.
    If we eventually get to the day where it's less sensitive and we can use shot aiming with the meter off, I think I'd like to use it. Not really feeling it in its current stage though.

    In bold is what i am after,too. I try to not look at the meter but i just can't and can't really concentrate this way, yes it may help but i don't like any kind of meters anywhere, the important thing is the feeling and syncing with my motor skills as the time goes on w/o meter, that is the way it should be..
    Feels like Chase wrote exactly what I've been putting in the impressions threads since yesterday. There's a ton of potential with the shot stick. I especially appreciate the part about opening up creativity. There were simply shots I didn't take because of meter timing. It opens things up a bit.
    The 24th Letter
    Feels like Chase wrote exactly what I've been putting in the impressions threads since yesterday. There's a ton of potential with the shot stick. I especially appreciate the part about opening up creativity. There were simply shots I didn't take because of meter timing. It opens things up a bit.

    That was the part that stood out to me too. In 2K20, I pretty much knew I was screwed any time it triggered the pull-up jumper animations. The ones where you're moving to the side were fine for me, but the straight-on pull-up was pretty much a guaranteed miss because by the time I realized it was that animation, my timing was already off. And I just flat out would never use the one dribble pull-ups that you can do from triple threat in game at all. Always had a lot of fun working on that in practices but would never feel confident enough to do it in game (especially with the Intimidator badge making it an effective closeout even if you've side-stepped them.
    I also didn't see it mentioned in the gameplay impressions, but I've seen numerous fouls on jumpshots already in the demo after almost never seeing that in 2K20.
    I like the demo but pretty scummy of 2K to only allow you 5 exhibition games. This is the first time they have implemented such restrictions on a demo. Really uncalled for seeing how much money they make from this game.
    The 24th Letter
    Feels like Chase wrote exactly what I've been putting in the impressions threads since yesterday. There's a ton of potential with the shot stick. I especially appreciate the part about opening up creativity. There were simply shots I didn't take because of meter timing. It opens things up a bit.

    Yeah I think we mostly align with our views at this early stage.
    Yeah...THAT Guy
    That was the part that stood out to me too. In 2K20, I pretty much knew I was screwed any time it triggered the pull-up jumper animations. The ones where you're moving to the side were fine for me, but the straight-on pull-up was pretty much a guaranteed miss because by the time I realized it was that animation, my timing was already off. And I just flat out would never use the one dribble pull-ups that you can do from triple threat in game at all. Always had a lot of fun working on that in practices but would never feel confident enough to do it in game (especially with the Intimidator badge making it an effective closeout even if you've side-stepped them.
    I also didn't see it mentioned in the gameplay impressions, but I've seen numerous fouls on jumpshots already in the demo after almost never seeing that in 2K20.

    That's good to hear, and I know Mike had called that out as a focus as well. I was more labbing than using up all of my five games so far so didn't go as deep into that component yet.
    For the first time in a long time the shot close rating will matter. Now that they have changed animations and the shot stick, you can shoot moving jumpers/floaters inside the free throw line. It will help greatly with bigger perimeter players shooting over the top of smaller defenders within 10 feet.
    alabamarob
    For the first time in a long time the shot close rating will matter. Now that they have changed animations and the shot stick, you can shoot moving jumpers/floaters inside the free throw line. It will help greatly with bigger perimeter players shooting over the top of smaller defenders within 10 feet.

    Think on some level this still depends on the contest system as well and how refined that is as well. Still was confusing last year when a lot of the time layups/close shots were harder to make with any amount of contest than jumpers etc.
    Now, perhaps, if you get good enough with aiming on layups that also helps in some regards, but yeah, I want to believe but not quite sold as of yet.
    I personally love everything about 2k21 except the new shot meter. I was never a fan of the green spam crews who could make anything despite the defense being played. Im sure 2k had this in mind when creating this meter to make the good shooters feel like they earned it making shots. I applaud the effort but this will be the least used feature in the game as most will go with timed shooting. With that being said I just hope shooting isn't a gimme. I do like the player movements and the weight they have behind them depending on their size. I think this will add to the overall balance as you won't see centers running past guards or guards posting upon bigs. More logic behind it. Looking forward to 2k21. It is not 2k20 all over again as I've seen some complain about.
    I believe they had good intention in mind when designing the new shooting mechanic, but the fact that our eyes must rely heavily on the meter once a shot animation triggers is absolutely a game breaker for me. What’s the point of having those beautiful motion captured sig shots if every time a shot is attempted we can’t even enjoy it?
    I don't agree that besides the shooting the game feels like 2K20. 2K21 gameplay is a major improvement, better player movement, ball handling, and foot-planting, and way better defense, especially on ball defense, bigs are a beast in the paint on defense too, I've seen shots get pent on the back board, grabbed out the air, chase down blocks more often than in 2K20.
    This new shot stick is awful. Who comes up with this trash? I don't remember the last time I shot multiple air-balls with 79 3 pt and 81 mid-range stats. Also, I love how the game explains it to you. It doesn't. At this point, I'm fully expecting tutorials from the YT people in order to explain this bum-*** system to common mortals.
    Tutorials. For basic shooting. In a basketball game.
    Bravo to the genius that came up with this.
    skz1904
    This new shot stick is awful. Who comes up with this trash? I don't remember the last time I shot multiple air-balls with 79 3 pt and 81 mid-range stats. Also, I love how the game explains it to you. It doesn't. At this point, I'm fully expecting tutorials from the YT people in order to explain this bum-*** system to common mortals.
    Tutorials. For basic shooting. In a basketball game.
    Bravo to the genius that came up with this.

    This is a big issue for me (with NBA2K in general) - nothing is explained anywhere. I always have to go to YouTube and figure things out using other people's tutorials and explanations. Why wouldn't the game itself explain things to you? I had no idea what I was even supposed to be doing with the new shot stick/meter because it isn't explained anywhere (at least, nowhere that was obvious to me).
    Ahh doesn’t 2KU explain it? If you can’t figure it out in 2 min in 2KU I’m not sure what else they could have done for you. It’s actually kind of nice and the first time I might start using the stick to shoot
    Last year was the same: 5 games max.
    Perhaps a bit out of scope for this treat, but couldn't they at least change the scorebug? Not much has changes besides some gameplay tweeks and to ask full price for it.. smh
    alabamarob
    For the first time in a long time the shot close rating will matter. Now that they have changed animations and the shot stick, you can shoot moving jumpers/floaters inside the free throw line. It will help greatly with bigger perimeter players shooting over the top of smaller defenders within 10 feet.

    I do want to believe that as well, yet the portion that we are testing now is pretty limited, so before final due we need to experience more on different difficulty and game modes...
    At first, I was hating the new shooting mechanic as I tried to jump right into the game and learn it. After I played 2kU for a few hours, I've figured it out.
    Basketball players listen up:
    When you are on the court and you go up to shoot a jump shot, you go into your form and based on whats happening in front of you or how far you are, you may strengthen your wrist or adjust your wrist position to aim your shot. When you pull back on the stick, while the stick is held back, you make slight sliding movements to line up the shot. If you let up on the stick and they try to adjust, you will shoot the meter either wide left or wide right. Similar to a real life jumper mechanic. It's something to practice.
    ShaiLeGran
    Last year was the same: 5 games max.

    Correction: Last year was 5 MyPlayer games max. I love the fact that we get to try out a full 5 on 5 setting this year.
    I wish they would combine 2k7, 2k10 and 2k16... I would love the high school branching into college and then maybe your performance branching into either a G league or park option based on performance... Each level adding towards your development... I would lime the ability to NOT make it to the league. Back in the day, video games had a GAME OVER element that made you get better. Nowadays, society has tricked kids into thinking you can't lose. Participation trophies have ruined society...! I would rather be forced to play street ball until I either make a team or reach a certain point where its game over!
    It's great that we have the option to shoot whichever way we prefer. I think the aiming feature is a good addition but personally I try to turn off as many screen overlays and graphics as possible when playing, I like to go off feel. I found myself watching the meter to try and adjust the aim way too much and it wasn't my ideal gameplay experience. But adding new options without breaking the game is a win for everybody.
    I agree Doggy... I wish user thing was a third option for shooting. I just fear that if you turn the meter off, there is no happy medium of how to successful in shooting. The whole meter idea was a bad thing from its inception. Even Double Dribble relied on user timing to know where the ideal release point was for a successful shot. 
    Edgar_Nunez
    I like the demo but pretty scummy of 2K to only allow you 5 exhibition games. This is the first time they have implemented such restrictions on a demo. Really uncalled for seeing how much money they make from this game.
    Hey you could be a pc player and have no demo at all :) they didnt have to release anything at all.
    Sent from my M2004J19C using Operation Sports mobile app
    The game is very similar to NBA 2k20, with gameplay difference probably only seasoned 2k players would notice. I like the new animations for shots & layups, definitely looks more fluid. Contrary to most, I’m a fan of them bringing aiming back as a factor when taking jump shots. Aiming as a realistic element for us simulation players to develop a skill for, just like shooting in real life. Now, you can actually call “Short left” or “short right” like you would on the court. I’m not as satisfied with the layup aiming yet, but will need to play more.
    ataman5
    In bold is what i am after,too. I try to not look at the meter but i just can't and can't really concentrate this way, yes it may help but i don't like any kind of meters anywhere, the important thing is the feeling and syncing with my motor skills as the time goes on w/o meter, that is the way it should be..

    I would almost like to see it like PGA where pulling back starts the jump and flicking forward is the release. But with a wider release sweet spot
    Hustle Westbrook
    Game is playing great. But I still need to see how this plays online against a real opponent. That’s the litmus test for me.

    If you have anymore games left or asked one of your friends to game share with you then you can play the game online and see how it feels!
    Sent from my iPhone using Operation Sports
    2 things I like:
    I absolutely love the addition of BLOCK REPLAYS ... one of my fave plays in bball, so sending a shot into the stands you really (and finally) get a great payoff ... get that garbage outta here!
    I like the increased speed where you feel a bit less stuck in the mud - perhaps it went a bit too much? Either way 2k20 felt a bit slow in situations like a fast break.
    2 things I don't like:
    CPU boxing me out constantly at the 3 point line is just as bad as 2k20 and I don't get why even with gold worm etc it's just so obvious and takes me out of the immersion. How could I get boxed out so easily and why do the developers care if my guard or sf crashes aggressively - maybe I don't get the putback and lose big on defence. Anyway it's pure trash how easily the cpu completely boxes out my elite rebounder and kills the unique player I want to create in that regard.
    Shot meter - looks weird, like something you'd see 15 years ago. I'm with others where I'd probably go back to previous iterations for the shot meter or turn it off completely assuming I can get it down.
    I'm 100% not grabbing current gen version though, need to see what next gen brings and it's not differentiated enough, although the block replays are enticing (it's that important to me).
    So overall it's not something I'm excited about right now.

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