NBA 2K21 is the quintessential annual sports game | Review

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An annual sports game does not usually change from one year to the next into a completely different game. That includes NBA 2K21. What can we expect? Less technical flaws, better servers, even more realistic drops of sweat and a fresh start as a virtual pro. However, the balance between grinding and paying to make your character a star is still skewed.

It is of course no surprise that the game is graphically more beautiful every year. However, the gameplay has been suspended for some time. This year, something is finally added that gives the game an extra dimension. The improved Pro Stick not only introduces a new way of shooting, but also gives experienced players an option to reinvent their playing style. Instead of timing a shot correctly, aim now. You do this by letting go of the right stick exactly in the middle of the bar. When a shot is deployed, an aim appears. When this target ends in the middle of the beam, the ball disappears into the net.

The right poker has much more meaning in 2K21 than in the previous parts. Besides shooting, you can also dribble. The improved Pro Stick thus gives players a lot more options when attacking. This results in smooth gameplay and makes attack situations a lot more instinctive. From a perfect dribble, a shot can be fired immediately, without accidentally pointing the wrong way with the right poker.

In the footsteps

Interesting choices, excellent voice acting and a solid story also makes this MyCareer mode a nice addition to the basketball game. This time the story revolves around Junior, the son of College Basketball legend Duke. In various cut-scenes it can be seen that the bond between father and son is not optimal. For example, Junior prefers to see himself on a football field than on a basketball court and that leads to the necessary discussions. Only after the death of Duke Junior starts his career as a basketball player. Throughout the story we learn more and more about the relationships between father and son. Flashbacks ensure that Junior avoids his father’s mistakes, which is of course rewarded with a career in the NBA.

When you have completed the MyCareer story, the game actually starts. Or should we call it the eternal grind?

Although the emotional impact of the so-called The Long Shadow story is minimal, it knows how to respond smartly to the new possibilities of MyCareer. For example, we see Junior grow as a basketball player as he moves from High School to College and later to the NBA. In addition, the option to choose a college yourself is a nice extra that offers a deeper insight into the developments of NBA talents. Thus, the player is faced with difficult choices that can affect Junior’s future. For example, would you choose to hire father figure Archie as a business observer, or would you rather risk hurting his feelings and sign a contract with a major marketing agency? When the player chooses Archie, it improves the team spirit in the squad, but you are less likely to become known to the public. A deal with the large marketing agency can actually generate a lot of money, fame and media attention.

NBA 2K21

Grind or pay endlessly

When you have completed the MyCareer story, the game actually starts. Or should we call it the eternal grind? Your character now has a rating higher than 65, but if you want to make a name for yourself in The Neighborhood, it is recommended to have at least a rating of 85. And that will take a while, but by playing enough games in The Neighborhood or playing multiple seasons in MyCareer, you will eventually receive enough VC for a strong character. Unfortunately, 2K offers a ‘cheap’ way to boost your character again this year. This year it is again possible to buy VC with real money. It is and will remain unfair to players who play match after match and see their character slowly but surely grow into a pro.

And that while The Neighborhood has had such a nice makeover. Instead of the usual stone fields, the playing field has now been moved to the beach. The Neighborhood’s facilities are much the same. You can train in The Gatorate Facility, build your own gym in MyCourt and play basketball on the various fields. In addition, players can also test their luck with daily spins this year. Only it is now located in Jeff’s Arcade.

NBA 2K21

Furthermore, Neighborhood is not surprising – the place is mainly a bit more dressed up. Buildings are closed and pinball machines are out of order. Not much has changed in MyTeam either. The Dutch still do not have access to the Auction House, which contradicts the new monthly targets. Many of these assignments cannot be completed without access to the Auction House, which is more or less the equivalent of the transfer market. Hopefully there will be a solution for this deficiency in the Netherlands in the near future.

Few is as consistent as annual sports games, even in turbulent times. The latest installment of 2K’s NBA franchise is ‘just’ back in stores. Still, the ball doesn’t fall far from the basket this year either, because apart from a revamped shooting stick and a number of minor improvements, we once again play the unparalleled NBA simulation as in the years before. Grinding is still losing to microtransactions at the expense of offline modes like MyCareer.

NBA 2K21 is already available for PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. The game will also be released as a launcher for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and S.

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