Review: NBA 2K21
Football (soccer for our American readers), cricket, tennis, rugby…all popular sports here in the UK, and all of them have zero appeal to me. For almost 40 years now I’ve much preferred American sports. Give me American Football, Baseball, Basketball, Ice Hockey, et al, both as a spectator sport and as a sports based video game and I’m very happy.
While I’ve played a lot of gridiron and baseball games, the NBA is something which I’ve only ever briefly dipped into, so I’m coming into this franchise as a relative “newbie” and can’t comment on how it compares to previous versions.
The first thing I noticed (much like with PGA Tour 2K21) is the sheer amount of options and game modes available to the player, something which 2K have never let me down with.
MyCareer is the first mode that I threw myself into, and after creating my character I then got to follow his story arc from college through to being drafted and playing in the NBA.
You can make your player look however you want, but due to the story arc you progress through you are always called “Junior”.
On court playable action is interspersed with cutscenes charting your life, split between family, friends, team mates and associates. Some of these cutscenes require you to make a timed decision on a dialogue option, though I’m not too sure how much your choice affects the course of your story.
Before the NBA draft you go to the combine where you take part in a number of different disciplines to chart your fitness, speed, strength, etc. I have to admit that (apart from jumping) I did awful at these…especially the weight lifting which I just couldn’t get the controls aligned properly.
Once in the NBA you embark upon becoming a star, and while the whole story doesn’t really go too in-depth with anything, I found it an enjoyable enough experience and wanted Junior to do well.
Much like the “fantasy team” modes of other sports games, MyTeam tasks you with assembling a team of NBA players (both current and historical) through the use of acquiring game cards which allocate each player with set statistics and attributes.
Your cards can be traded with other NBA2K21 players online, while daily and weekly challenges give you the opportunity to earn even more virtual currency to spend in the game, or of course you can use real life cash for quick upgrades if you don’t want to spend the time earning VC doing tasks and challenges.
One nice touch is that certain cards are “evolution cards” and you can choose to evolve certain skill paths for those players, making each team that little bit more your own and reflecting your particular play style.
Walk around a virtual neighbourhood filled with other online players and take part in 3 vs 3 or 5 vs 5 games, pop into the shops and buy some sneakers (of which there is a section in the game where you can design your own and make them look however you want), or walk into the arcade and interact with everything going on in there.
I find it strangely hypnotic (and relaxing) visiting the neighbourhood and often just wander about the place!
Much like “head coach mode” is my favourite part of American football games, this really appealed to me, allowing me to make decisions from drafting players, trading them, even relocating the team! Though some of the targets set for me had me trying to over achieve far too early.
A “jump in and play” mode against a friend or the AI, where you set the parameters of who you want to play as, and also “how” you want to play.
The game does a good job of getting you familiar with the rules of the game as well as all the control options, of which actually scoring a basket seemed to initially defy my every attempt!
You can use pro stick aiming or time based shooting, both of which seemed to work against me and end with the ball bouncing of the hoop and into the hands of the other team. However, 2K always listen and react to player feedback and adjustments have already been made in a patch to the game.
The rest of the controls for moving your player and all the actions he can take are intuitive and soon become second nature, with “flashy” plays soon playing out onscreen and making you feel like a true NBA star.
Being able to play as women in the WNBA is good to see and hopefully a section which will improve and expand as we move into another console cycle.
Graphically it looks great, with the longer camera angles sometimes fooling you into thinking it is an actual game, especially as the trademark superb presentation from 2K totally immerses you into believing that your game is being televised nationally for all to see!
With a wealth of options and ways to play, NBA2K21 is a great way to get your basketball fix should you be a newcomer to the game or not.