The upcoming release of NBA 2K21 on next generation consoles is about as a much of a Game 7 feeling that a video game release could ever create. They have the opportunity to silence a lot of their critics, or they could falter and be meme’d into oblivion like they have in each game since the release of 2K18. The margin for error is slim, but the potential greatness is massive, which means that I’m excited and nervous but ready to play it for the first time.
2k has finally dropped a bit of gameplay now that the release is nearly on the horizon, and the first thing that we are shown right off the bat is the “lightning fast load times”. Now originally when I heard them describing it as “lightning fast”, I cringed because I thought they were setting themselves up for disappointment, but it was actually... really quick?
We went from looking at New Orleans Pelican Zion Williamson and Golden State Warrior Stephen Curry on the “play now” screen to seeing Curry prepare for the upcoming bout with just a couple bats of the eyelids. Previously, 2KTV would show a video before the start of games, and as annoying as that was, they had some interesting segments at times. Oh well.
Once being taken inside the arena, we saw tons of things going on in the background, like pre-game shows, security standing around surveying the fans, and of course, the players getting warmed up. We were then greeted by a familiar, yet new voice. It was TNT’s Brian Anderson.
Anderson is making his debut to the broadcast crew alongside Grant Hill and sideline reporter Allie LaForce. Those three will not be the only crew in the game, as Kevin Harlan, Greg Anthony and David Aldridge all will be making their return, and it seems that the game will just throw you a crew at random. I don’t think there is anyone that complains about Harlan, Anthony or Aldridge, but you can never go wrong with having fresh voices to go along with them.
Personally, I tend not to focus too hard on how gameplay appears through video. Whether watching it on a phone or computer, you can’t truly grasp how you feel about it until you actual experience it. However... for what its worth, the game looks as smooth as advertised. The lob that Lonzo Ball of the Pelicans threw to Zion over Steph looked extremely fluid, and while it was predictable (I throw many, many lobs on the pick and roll), it did not feel forced.
What I mean by that is that in recent games, it feels like players get locked into certain animations, but this one just felt like Curry just happened to be down there and was overwhelmed by Zion’s athleticism.
Two things that we won't know until we start to play the game is how much we can alter the settings while keeping the game feeling fluid. In the video, I assume they were playing with the speed at 50, but I personally bump it up just a tad to about 60-65 just because it feels more realistic.
Also, its fair to make the assumption that they are playing with the difficulty on Rookie. I range between All-star and Hall of Fame depending on who I'm playing. If my friends and I want to play a serious game, we put it on Hall of Fame, but that also means tons of missed threes unless the release is green, which can sometimes hamper the realism of it all. To avoid the trials and tribulations of a controller being flung out the window, the difficulty drops to Ssuperstar, and if pure desperation mode kicks in... All-Star. Don't judge me okay?
Any day now, we’ll be getting a look at the game mode that is replacing “The Neighborhood”, which is the online hub where players can buy shoes, clothing, play pick-up games, five-on-five at the recreational center... etc. I honestly have no idea what I should be expecting for what this new mode will look like. They have done a great job at keeping it low-key and avoiding leaks, which means that whenever they drop a video showing us what’s new, we should expect it to garner an insane amount of attention in the replies.
Since we’re talking about game modes, my biggest concern so far is that there has been zero chatter from them about “MyLeague” which is where I spend most of my time while playing my Playstation. I believe that it’s their best mode due to the creativity it allows and the fact that buying VC does nothing, you can be as great as you want without the burden of having to spend money. You can relocate teams, create expansion teams, download other user’s uniforms and floor designs (I’m looking at you SuperSonic fans), blow up a team, create a super team, import upcoming draft classes or previous draft classes. Basically you can do almost anything you want, which is why it’s so addictive.
Even with how great the mode is, there has not been many updates to it in the past couple of years, which is why the lack of attention shown so far is a bit concerning. 2K is calling this their best game ever, but if “MyLeague” is not improved, then I have a hard time seeing that claim become a reality.
Overall, I believe that this game has the potential to actually be their best one yet. A big reason for that is because last time we saw a next gen jump, the quality of NBA 2K improved vastly from appearance, to game modes, to game play.
Not longer after that jump was made, they released 2K16 and 17 which I believe were the two best games they’ve made, 16 being their greatest. If they can recreate that magic on NBA 2K21, not only will they produce an amazing game, but the impact of it could be so much larger due to the boredom that COVID-19 has brought upon us all.
Next gen’s version of 2K21 will launch once the new consoles become available for Xbox on November 10th and two days later, Playstation will have it as well.