Close to Being Fouled Out: NBA 2K21 Review (Current Gen)

I know you’re probably wondering why this review is so late. Well, I decided to take as much time with this review as 2K did to fix the issues I had with the game, and thus, the reason why this review is so late. Hopefully 2K eventually decides to learn that Quality Assurance is important, eventually. 

It’s another year and albeit this year has been, interesting to say the least. The world of sports as we know it has been shook due to the very real coronavirus with all the major sports leagues trying to find ways to continue their seasons amidst a global pandemic. Have no fear though, because a virus isn’t going to stop 2K from putting out their annual version of NBA basketball. The game wasn’t without any controversy as it was bold to make their next-gen versions of the game at t net price point of $69.99. This of course sparked a lot of outrage among the 2K and gaming community as well as questions of whether or not all next-gen games would be at this new price point. However, the controversy doesn’t end here as 2K put out a chart of all of the different versions of the game that one can purchase. Many within the 2K community and gaming, in general, are aware that most major games have a “special edition” or in the case of NBA 2K, a Legend Edition. This year’s iteration has the cover of the late Kobe Bryant across both it’s current-gen and next-gen Legend versions of the game. The problem with this chart is that it was very confusing to gamers as to which edition of the game to purchase as well as what content they receive and when.

This price chart and guide put out by 2K seems rather daunting, because it is which confused a lot of gamers.

Once the game was released, many people, myself included, that purchased a copy of the Legend Edition (a copy was provided to me for review from 2K), failed to receive their bonus content one day one, which includes 100,000 VC which is essential to leveling up your MyCareer player and also some bonus packs for MyTeam with a few additional bonuses such as Kobe Bryant jerseys for your MyPlayer to wear in the Neighborhood. I myself was one of the many that did not receive their bonus content and after going round and round with 2K, my contacts with 2K’s PR firm, and even 2K support, it took almost three weeks for me to receive my bonus content and there are still, as of this article, people that have yet to receive their bonus content. This is a massive fail on the part of 2K since many people who ended up spending $99 on the Legend Edition were expecting to receive their content upon purchasing did not receive it. Another issue is that people that purchased the next-gen Legend Edition of the game didn’t realize that they wouldn’t be getting the bonus content until the next-gen version of the game was released with many requesting a refund for the game itself.

As far as issues with the actual game itself, well let’s start off by discussing the new shot meter. Gameplay Director Mike Wang had made several tweets before the release of the game stating that this version of 2K will be more challenging and is going to make people have to try and be better at taking shots.  Many in the community were pleased with this and were hoping for more balance to the Neighborhood, which makes its return in 2K21 where players can squad up or play with randoms across several online courts in either 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, or full 5v5 games. Mike, even provided a gameplay teaser before the game’s release showing this new shot meter which has you attempting to time the release of your shot. Changes were also made to the shot stick which has you not only trying to time your shot but also has you tilting the right stick to aim your shot. While many appreciated the attempts at changing the way people shoot in the game, many quickly found out that it seemed almost impossible to make a basket when using the shot stick and the same for those that simply wanted to use button shooting. While the game itself has a bit of a learning curve when playing on Hall of Fame mode, the shot stick at first almost seemed necessary if you wanted to make perfect release shots with some players stating that it was harder to make perfect release shots using button shooting versus the shot stick itself. However, two weeks after the game was released, 2K sent out a patch to make timing easier on button shooting, and currently, it is a bit easier to time shots for those that are casuals and still want to try and compete with others.

As far as the MyCareer mode itself, it provides yet another short story of one making their way from high school to college and eventually into the NBA via the draft. There is really nothing much new here except for making the decision of which agent you are going to have once you make it to the NBA. My problem with these stories is that they always seem to end once you make it to the NBA and never continue throughout the course of your seasons. I really wish that was the case as it once was with old NBA games such as NBA The Life for instance which had you making decisions as well as cutscenes throughout your career. I want to feel more connected to my MyPlayer and I really don’t as I feel as though these opening stories are just filler to get you into the NBA. All of the menus in MyCareer are the same as before and even when you create your build for your MyPlayer all of the menus are copy and pasted from last year. Once again, another problem I have is I want my games to feel new and feel different and really the only difference here is that the Neighborhood takes place on a beach type city with different set pieces. You would think 2K would want to give players so much more but you can see the low-effort really shine here in MyCareer.

Seasons are new to MyTeam and will have you attempting to complete what 2K calls “Agendas” to earn XP and earn prizes along the way.

MyTeam this year is where you will really see a lot of changes and rightfully so since this is 2K’s money-making machine chock full of microtransactions which will have you wanting to purchase more and more packs to have better players in which you feel like you actually have a chance at competing because we all know that there is no way you can take a 65 overall team and stand a chance at modes like MyTeam Unlimited or even in the MyTeam all-new MyTeam Limited mode, which has you creating a roster of specific cards such as “Five players on your team must have won an NBA Championship” which is great in theory because it actually has you needing how to build a great team instead of those that just play Unlimited and always have the game just automatically select the best roster for you. Another new addition to MyTeam this year is MyTeam Seasons, which will have you earning experience points based on what 2K calls “agendas” or goals that you will have to hit to earn XP such as attempting certain feats with specific players or playing certain modes such as Triple Threat. Upon each level you earn, you will unlock either a card pack, MyTeam Points, Tokens, or even players with the max level being 40. Another essential factor that returns to MyTeam is badges. Cards you collect will have badges on them on players of which you can upgrade so long as you have that next level of a card to go from say, Gold to Hall of Fame and etc.

NBA 2K21 introduces a new shot meter that focuses on timing and aiming especially when using the shot stick.

As far as MyLeague is concerned, My GM mode returns but since this game came out during an unfinished NBA season, there is no draft class yet so don’t expect to be able to use a real-life draft class for your My GM or Franchise. Once again these modes don’t feel polished enough. What really bothers me about 2K is that you can really tell what they care about the most, being MyTeam due to all of the microtransactions and the necessary use again of virtual currency when leveling up your MyPlayer. NBA 2K21 does feature some challenging gameplay but is way more frustrating then it should be for any player. With still unpolished shooting mechanics to over-the-top microtransactions that make the game too much of a grind causing you to want to need to give 2K more money than you should, this game pales in comparison to games in year’s past and sadly is the only NBA game out there currently. Hopefully, 2K will have some competition in the future because they certainly need it and they are showing their lack of creativity in keeping their game fresh and if the recent trailer, as well as gameplay for the next-gen version of 2K21, shows us anything, it’s that 2K seems to really care about how pretty their games look and of course the sweat, sweat is always important.

Brian Daniels
I've been writing articles and reviews about the video game industry for over 7 years. I also review any and all conventions that I attend as well as reviewing other products from companies such as Otterbox, HP, Amazon and Turtle Beach. I love to write and travel to many different conventions.
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