Pretty simple question for the roundtable this time around. After one week, do you like next-gen NBA 2K21?
Chase Becotte: Look, I was friggin’ miserable with current-gen NBA 2K21. It really felt like 2K had hit a wall and I just was not having a good time. I did think the game was in a decent spot at launch, but via patches and just playing the game more and more, I was not content any longer. I was not having fun with Play Now Online. I was not having fun playing the AI. I was not enjoying The Park. I liked the changes to MyTeam in a general sense, but did not like the gameplay there either because you had to be so “meta” to compete. In fact, it was probably the least amount of fun I had with an NBA 2K game in at least four years — and probably longer than even that.
In a lot of ways, NBA 2K21 felt like the culmination of a lot of “bad” small decisions by the 2K developers that had sort of caught up with them all at once. What I mean is badges had become overbearing in a way that made them matter more than ratings in every way. The obsession with green releases had reached a new zenith that made it feel like you couldn’t hit anything but greens. The gameplay felt slower and less like the real NBA in that it was just about dunking and running into the lane over and over again. The fast break defense was a mess, and at the same time it was not very fun to run the break and stick deep jumpers either.
All in all, I was not happy. But I am now.
Next-gen NBA 2K21 has more or less renewed my faith in what’s either my first or second favorite sports franchise (it battles with The Show year to year for me). The gameplay is not built from the ground up, but I think of it like the best patch possible. You can draw charges again. Ratings matter again so not having X badge does not make a certain player unusable. Greens are still a focus, but I don’t feel as obsessed with them because you can hit normal shots again without needing to green everything.
It just feels like NBA basketball again, and it feels like my decisions matter beyond just knowing the one or two ways to score consistently. And the fun part about this for me so far is I still have barely scratched the surface of what I want to check out here. I’ve been so content just playing Play Now matchups against the AI (while waiting for real NBA free agency to start before doing a franchise), and I’ve been freaked out enough about the frame-rate issues in The City to wait it out there before diving into things. I also absolutely want to dig into the WNBA/The W modes more because I was a big champion of the WNBA stuff last year — even begging the 2K developers to make the WNBA teams available online because I really did feel like 2K played the best last year when using the WNBA teams.
In short, I’m happy there’s so much more for me to explore still, and now I just hope that the 2K developers don’t patch this game into the ground because I really don’t have huge issues with 2K21 right now beyond a couple gameplay elements and just some technical issues.
Scott Funk: NBA 2K next gen has been a pleasant surprise for me. I think the gameplay has taken another step in the right direction. The graphics are on point and really no streams can do it justice. The feel of the gameplay has been smooth and it seems like some of the previous issues have been addressed.
The City and MyNBA have been just as good as advertised. One of the best features about the next generation is the rumble feature on the new PS5 controller. It really adds a layer of gameplay and feel that is hard to explain without seeing for yourself.
Overall, this has been more than I could ask for with a new generation and game. It seems like the developers really focused on the next-gen version.
Brandon Kosal: I remember watching the next-gen launch trailer and claiming in this very space that we would have to wait until 2K22 to get the next-gen feel. And after a few days with the game, I couldn’t have possibly been more wrong. In fact, this is my go-to game for showing off my PS5.
To get the annoying stuff out of the way: 2K is still a microtransaction nightmare and it doesn’t appear that will go away any time soon. What matters to me is whether the basketball game itself makes up for that annoyance, and next-gen 2K absolutely hits it out of the park.
To be sure, some persistent annoyances from last gen remain here. It doesn’t feel totally built from the ground up, but it also doesn’t simply feel like 2K with better graphics. For one, the graphics are much, much better. And so is the gameplay.
Will that level out over time? Are my eyes tricking my brain into thinking the graphics leap is also a gameplay leap? Perhaps. But the game is so gorgeous looking that it forced me into changing my default camera setup for the first time in franchise history. Goodbye 2K High cam and hello Broadcast!
If you’re like me and you felt 2K was becoming stale, forget all that and give 2K21 a shot. It’s given me hope that 2K will continue to keep an appropriate level of focus on the on-court product going forward.
Joel Smith: Unfortunately, I have not had as much time with NBA 2K21 next gen as I’ve wanted due to some real life issues and a few PS5 crashes, but I can say that my time with the game has been great. The visuals are pretty nuts on my Samsung Q80T TV in all its 4K glory. The game definitely feels much smoother than what we’ve become accustomed to from NBA 2K over the last while.
I’ve yet to see any gimmicky animations, which is a relief. I haven’t jumped into The City yet or any other modes besides playing through a handful of MyCareer games, so I can’t speak much to those yet. Most importantly, the game feels so much better overall. The on-court action is satisfying and I’ll be sinking my teeth into the game over the next few days to churn out my deeper thoughts on it shortly (I wrote the current-gen review and am writing the next-gen review as well).