No one knows that the 2020 NBA season has been particularly atypical due to the pandemic, as has happened in many other sports more or less affected by it. The final play-offs were fought in a bubble no less than at Disneyland with virtual spectators and champions greening the laurels of a franchise, the Lakers, which had waited too long to continue to make history. Even the draft, another great sporting spectacle in the USA, has just been kept at bay.
But fans who haven’t had all the NBA we would have liked would have been the consolation of taking the court with our favorite players in pavilions filled with loud virtual spectators thanks to simulators like NBA2K21. And thanks to the successive evolutions of the game, there is everything: realistic graphics, strategy, team management and the possibility of a career in the NBA with our own “rookie”.
And is that since 1999, Visual Concepts has achieved the perfect basketball game in terms of the accuracy of the simulation, the movements of the players (some unmistakable and deadly), the visual details of the same (including tattoos) and it is doing a great job of updating all of this with periodic downloads of changes made by the game team when there are changes in teams with new player additions or deletions. Does that make 2K21 a great game? Does this represent a significant evolution compared to previous editions? We’ll see later.
First, we will talk about the graphics section. There is only one word: spectacular. It’s still the sports franchise that has put the most attention in this section (and one that promises to be better with the new generations of consoles) with three-dimensional modeling with exquisite detail.
In addition to the aforementioned personalized animations of each player with their peculiarities, realistic pavilions with exceptionally successful lighting and reflection details make it one of the decided strengths of NBA2K21. Not that there is any good news and advancement in this regard when it comes to 2K20, but it was already a great game in that regard.
One of the most important aspects of a sports simulation game is precisely the gameplay. In the case of games like NBA2K21, this includes on the one hand “the action”, that is to say the gameplay in the games and on the other hand the part of the story and the manager, in which the interaction is less immediate but also very important.
The main novelty in controlling players when practicing as virtual athletes is the adoption of a new shooting system. Before, to hit the basket, the important thing was to control the time, now you have to aim with the stick to achieve a correct shot. This makes the hitting more difficult, but more importantly adds an element of realism and forces more experienced players to exercise again, which is a good thing so that it doesn’t look like “the same” anymore.
The downside is that it complicates the actions of less experienced players and increases the learning curve. It’s an old debate like the world of video games, is it better to raise the difficulty so that mastering the game is a challenge for more expert players or should it be easier for those who are new to the game? times not to be frustrated? The balance is difficult and in my opinion in NBA2K21, and in previous editions, it is quite achieved.
It is true that when it comes to gameplay, there are some frustrating moments that have yet to be resolved, such as a 2.16 player near the basket sometimes opting at his own risk to do an acrobatic shot that we don’t. have not taken. asked instead of popping the hoop like it’s supposed to, but these are situations we don’t come across often. In general, the game near the basket is what can be considered an open topic for the more demanding (like me, of course).
In addition to this addition to the shooting mechanics, new moves have also been added both without a bullet and with it. We will find them very necessary since the defense applied by the artificial intelligence of the game has also put the batteries from one generation to the next and it will be more difficult to find clear plans if we do not manage the art of blocking or looking for spaces.
I also liked how the players on my team who control AI are now smarter, for example, providing clarification to players who are good one-on-one or who come out of blocks to request the ball and take free kicks. In general, small contributions that make the game rounder if possible in the simulations.
But another workhorse of this franchise is undoubtedly the career mode, in which we design our own player and accompany him throughout his journey from high school to his professional career in the NBA. In this edition, the story is more complex and totally new, with interesting “extras” that intervene in the key moments of our player’s career as if it were a real movie (and in fact it’s is how it is designed in the game).
This edition incorporated the story titled “The Long Shadow” in which the young player must triumph in the shadow of his father, a successful deceased player. There are times for all tastes, especially in high school where our choices will determine our player’s future in the professional league.
The damn micropayments
At any time we can develop some skills of our player with training and games, but unfortunately there is also a shortcut and that is to use the micropayments available throughout the game. The point is that personally it does not seems unbalanced to me, it’s much more expensive to develop skills through the game than to pay our pound of meat to the greedy game developer and it can be really frustrating (especially for greedy players like the one who subscribes) .
General Manager mode is really fun and puts in our hands the control of a professional team to manage their destinations by buying, selling or trading players with other franchises. My Team mode is also great fun with a constantly updated card game (eg with special cards for events like Halloween). We can evolve the players and the team with these cards or trade them. Here too there is an obvious imbalance if we decide to use the money to develop our team.
Of course, another strength of the game, especially for those nostalgic as a server, is the ability to use historical players and teams for real or imagined skirmishes between teams from yesteryear or against current teams for spectacular dream duels. In addition, professional women’s league teams have been incorporated to add new possibilities.
The 2K21 continues to offer everything that we love about this professional basketball simulation franchise from the United States: very polished simulation and great gameplay. The graphics are excellent and it is surprising how one can recognize the movements and even the gestures of more and more players, not just the most prominent stars.
It is true that in this sense there have not been any major developments, but following the established line is not bad and the contributions which have been made are worth it. The gameplay got a bit complicated but it convinced us, even if it will take time to master it, the reward is beautiful. Small touches to improve, such as the illogical behavior of players in certain situations, especially in the low position, or the scourge of micropayments inherited from mobile applications which does not seem to have an immediate solution, because it has become a real fashion.
NBA2K21 is available on its website and in the specialty retail channel. On Amazon reduced for 55 euros.
Summary of final evaluation
The NBA2K saga has a new and worthy successor which, while not revolutionizing in any aspect, has evolved in a sensible way. Too bad for the obsession with collecting money from the player so that he can evolve in a meaningful way.