Review – NBA 2K21 (PS5) – Less than a month ago, the Los Angeles Lakers with star players LeBron James and Anthony Davis were crowned champions of the NBA. The spectacle of the largest basketball competition in the world starts with a new season just before Christmas. In the meantime, there have been significant transfers in the NBA, All Star player Chris Paul, for example, moves to the Phoenix Suns and the Lakers bring in the best ‘sixth man’ of the past season: Montrezl Harrell. For those who can’t wait for the competition to start again with all the spectacle, there is NBA 2K21 (PS5). We have been able to work with that for a while, we were reasonably satisfied with the PS4 version, as you in our review have been able to read. Since the arrival of the PlayStation 5, we can also play a game of basketball on the ‘next-gen’ console in a game that is completely different according to 2K. Time for a fresh, fresh look at NBA 2K21 (PS5), but we’ll also make the inevitable comparison to the PS4 version. Tip-off, Go!
Splendor and splendor: NBA 2K21 (PS5)
We will be right at home with the dressing room door: What the game looks incredibly beautiful on the PlayStation 5. In-game is the enjoyment, the close-up scenes that come between the competition elements, the grimaces on the faces of the players as they enter a duel, the recognizability of the players with their idiosyncrasies, but also the layout of the menus, the whole picture is perfect. This is the kind of game that you show your curious family who want to know what is so beautiful about the new console. The audience at the games has also had a major update, for the first time there are also children in the stands and the audience does not look wooden. Not only visually, NBA 2K21 (PS5) has set the bar very high, because the audio is also of a very high level. Never before has the audience sounded, the talk of players among themselves and the squeak of the shoes on the floor of the hall as wonderful as it is now. Furthermore, the commentary before, during and after the games is of sublime quality, where former NBA stars Grant Hill and Kevin Harlan, among others, talk things together in a unique way.
Is everything gold that shines? No Unfortunately. There are again the necessary errors in the AI, which we also had to contend with on the PlayStation 4. Players who walk over the sidelines with the ball and all for no reason, or computer-controlled players who stay under the basket for too long for a violation. The necessary fouls made on you by aggressive players every time in the last quarter is also something we see in every NBA 2K21 (PS5). What also happened to us three times in several pots is that the opponent throws the ball from their own half through the net flawlessly in the last seconds of a quarter. One time can of course happen, that happens in real life, but three times in a few matches is a lot. Sometimes you lose the match that went right away and that is quite frustrating.
Oh no, VC
What is also frustrating, but what unfortunately can no longer be ignored from the games today, is the Virtual Currency, or VC. We did not expect otherwise, but also in this NBA 2K21 (PS5) game, spending (virtual) money is decisive in multiple modes. Both MyTeam and MyPlayer are simply about pay-to-win. In MyTeam a little less, as long as you do not play a lot online, plus that in MyTeam you have nice XP challenges with which you can also play packages or meet cool players. For example, make three three-pointers in one match with player X, earn XP and you can climb the ladder. The higher you climb, the more chance you have of nice extras and sometimes really good players come out of the packages. You use those players in the following matches and your team grows little by little.
Incidentally, the story mode: The Long Shadow, has been revived in MyPlayer. The beginning is exactly the same as we already had on PlayStation 4, but more games have been added in the form of the G-League before you can go to a real NBA team. If you don’t have the patience to go through the sweet story mode, then you have the option to skip all the matches and go to the real NBA in one go. But then you miss the new open world in The City.
You cannot take your MyPlayer with you from the PlayStation 4 to the new console, so there is no other option than to create a new player. This allows you to immerse yourself in a completely new open world: The City. To get to The City you have to play a lot of matches in Rookieville, which ultimately gives you access to this big city. This virtual environment is truly gigantic, but it still feels a bit empty. The city could have been made much smaller, because there are enough buildings, restaurants or the like that you cannot use. Sometimes you walk or cycle through an area for a while without meeting anyone, so you get that feeling of emptiness. But if you do meet someone you can join one of the four ‘clans’ with which you can collect points and VC during fun 3 vs 3 matches. Each clan has its own area with its own basketball courts and here you will meet other online players. However, it must be said that you need to invest a lot of VC and time in your MyPlayer if you want to become a real basketball player that they talk positively about.
Make female basketball star: NBA 2K21 (PS5)
No matter how big The City, you’re not going to meet a single woman. Missing women in The City is in itself something special, especially in a world where equality is becoming an increasingly big issue. It may become available later, but not yet. An addition to the new version is that you can create your own female player. Incidentally, there is a full menu that focuses purely on the WNBA, the female professional competition. With your self-made player, there is no long story mode, but a short and simple storyline called ‘The W’, in which you quickly end up in the WNBA.
Outside of a section that focuses purely on the WNBA, MyNBA in NBA 2K21 is our favorite to play. You should actually see it as a merger between MyGM and MyLeague, as we know it from the PlayStation 4 version. This is the real experience for the biggest NBA fans, where you really become part of your favorite NBA team. You play throughout a season with the real stars of your favorite team and you also run into injuries and the like. Managing your team is great, making choices about who to draft or who does not are things that play a role in this. Or the ‘trading’ of players just like the ‘trotting’ of rookies. This is the NBA as it should be, without self-made players, or composite teams, so purely the real experience.
What should certainly be mentioned as a positive point is the speed that is achieved with the PlayStation 5, which means that almost all loading times evaporate. Where you previously could easily make a cup of tea and grab a cookie from the cupboard, the game will now load so quickly that even sending a Whatsapp message has to be done very quickly. This certainly benefits the experience and it is ideal that you are and remain in the action that way. During the matches there are enough time-outs to relax for a while or to enjoy the dance shows that the cheerleaders present you. If you don’t feel like it, you push this away and before you know it you will be back in the middle of the action without any delay.
Audiovisually this is really a big leap forward. Sometimes it even pays to watch replays of dunks to see how detailed the players and their moves are. There are also small downsides, for example, the audience will stand upright at some critical moments, so that in certain stadiums you have a poor view of what is happening on the sidelines, but hey, it is part of the show that makes this sport unique . Where you previously had to look at the shirt with number who the player in question was, you now clearly see which NBA star is on the ball. If you already consider that this is only the first next-gen title from the publisher and they have not even used the full power of the new console, then this really bodes well for the future. Fair is fair,
NBA 2K21 is incredibly beautiful on the PlayStation 5, super detailed and has hardly any loading times. As you would expect, it is quite a step forward from the PS4 version. The ‘new’ MyNBA mode is everything a big fan of the sport needs. Still, the game is far from perfect due to the small flaws in the AI and the recurring VC that determines multiple modes, but especially in MyPlayer. The addition of the WNBA is great for the female fans of the sport, but there is not (yet) more options than making your own player to shine in the WNBA. The City is the new open world for MyPlayer, but it feels pretty empty despite its size. All in all, this is one of the better sports games we’ve played on a console in a very long time,
- Audiovisual really incredibly beautiful
- Loading times are gone
- WNBA additions
- New open world: The City is very big …
- … and sometimes even a little too big and empty
- Sometimes AI doesn’t make sense
- Limited (still) attention to women
- VC is still too determining