Gameplay is Great, But Pay-To-Win is, Too

NBA 2K21 Review: Better But Even Worse

Sports Games
NBA 2K21 Review

NBA 2K21 Review - just a full-price update? (Image credit: 2K)

NBA Playoffs are well underway and thankfully, NBA 2K21 is here. For our review, we take a closer look at the new game to find out, if there are enough new features to make it worth your money or if it is just a full-price update.

NBA 2K21 Review: Last year’s release was criticized for extensive microtransactions and heavy pay-to-win mechanics. Let’s find out, if NBA 2K21 makes it to the All-Star Team or if things got even worse.

Quick Facts for NBA 2K21

  • Developer: Visual Concepts
  • Publisher: 2K
  • Genre: Sports Game
  • Release: September 4, 2020

Credit: NBA 2K - YouTube

NBA 2K21: Better Than Its Predecessor

You know what? Let us say once thing first: NBA 2K21 is a better sports game than its predecessor. The game is as good as a basketball sim can get, no doubt about it. Smart innovations like the return of the Pro-Stick from 2K17 and a refurbished throwing mechanic are a great addition to an already convincing game.

But the new system takes a lot of time to get used to. Not only that the timing of your lay-up, dunk or three-pointer is important, precision, and the right-angle matter, too. It’s not only harder to score in NBA 2K21, but the gameplay is also much more realistic, and we are really digging it.

NBA 2K21 does a great job at providing a distinct feel for pros. Even stars with the same rating as James Harden or Steph Curry differ in speed, skill moves, and dribbling. Gameplaywise, 2K21 is much better than last year's iteration. This is basketball as good as it gets. BUT….

The new throwing mechanic in NBA 2K21 works great

Landing a three-pointer can be tough - but we like it. (Image credit: 2K)

Nothing Learned

BUT… that is basically it when it comes to innovation. In every other aspect, NBA 2K21 and 2K20 are the same – only with new rosters and kits. No wondering why players on Metacritic eat the game alive. In 123 user reviews, the game only reaches a user score of 1.3. Players mainly criticize the game for a lack of new features and its heavy reliance on microtransactions.

And the worst thing about it? The players are right.

Famous MyTeam mode suffers from its heavy pay-to-win mechanics, forcing you to buy packs and other stuff for real money if you want to have a chance to compete. You thought FIFA or Madden 21 are bad? Things are even worse with this one.

Not to mention several bugs and glitches we came across our NBA 2K21 review. Graphical bugs and notchy animations are not good, but a bad player AI with backcourt violations or misplaced passes are even worse.

Several times when stepping up to the free-throw line, the camera just froze, zooming at our player and making it impossible to score. What the hell?

Video credit: Throneful via YouTube

Anything Else?

Well, the story in NBA 2K21’s Career Mode is pretty good, though. At least for a sports game. Surely you cannot expect an award-winning script or great acting, but it's much better than EA Sports’ take on a story mode.

Besides, there are sponsoring inserts, uninspired half-time shows, and low-quality introduction videos everywhere. New to the game is the 2K Beach online environment where you can hit the streets (near the beach) for a quick play. And it is really looking good, but on the other hand, it is suffering from connection problems.

Speaking about graphics, NBA 2K21 looks like its predecessor. Player models and courts offer great details, but other than that, there are basically no improvements. Seems like 2K is already focusing on the next-gen release.

NBA 2K21 Verdict

Let’s make it short: You had fun with 2K20? Then you will also like NBA 2K21. It is as good as a basketball sim game can get – gameplaywise. Thanks to the return of the Pro Stick it is more realistic than last year's iteration and more fun on the court.

But other than that? It’s the same game as last season. With new kits, rosters and… a beach. The worst thing about this game and the reason you should not buy it is the heavy reliance on microtransactions and pay-to-win mechanics. Sorry, 2K: We will not let you get away with this!

Want to play some virtual basketball? Go and get 2K20 for a couple of bucks and you’re fine.

You can find more news about sports games and the world of esports on EarlyGame.

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Philipp Briel

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