2K Sports is the first developer to give us a sports game on the new consoles with NBA 2K21. Without having any real knowledge of either the sport or the game series, I decided to try out the new basketball game, to see how it stacked up on the new-generation hardware.
Before I jumped into NBA 2K21 I hadn't played more than ten minutes on a basketball game, and this is the reason why this review will be a little different from what you are used to. However, the introduction to next-gen sports games makes even me, with no particular interest in the sport itself, excited to try it, mostly to check out the advertised enhanced graphics and the functions the DualSense controller gives us on the PS5. My assumption is that others are also in a similar situation as me, which is why I figured I'd write a few words about my experience with the game.
First and foremost: the DualSense controller makes this game an experience like no other sports game I have played before. The combination of the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers on the DualSense will give us some great sports moments in the future if this is any indication of what is to come. The adaptive triggers become tighter if your player is tired, or if he is of a larger build. You can feel the close contact with other players with the haptic feedback, and it all gives you a closer connection to the game than any other sports game.
In most games I'm approached with a tutorial of some sort when I start it up. Not in NBA 2K21. Here I get thrown into the menu with all kinds of promotions for stuff I can buy with my virtual currency. VC is earnt in the game or bought with real money as is the normal.
To learn the game, I decided to start a MyCareer where I control only one player through a story mode. I figured I would get a sequence of learning how to shoot, pass, dribble or even move, but no, again, I get thrown into the action with no form of guidance. The term "trial by fire" has never had a better fitting, and needless to say, I got burned time and time again.
The story, or MyCareer seemed to play out fairly well, and sees you follow the footsteps of your late father, who was a hero on the basketball court, even though you started out as a football player. The transition from a football player to a basketball player happened somewhere during your youth, but the storyline seems to be unclear when exactly this happened. Of course, as does every other story - there is a girl in play as a romantic love interest that you will have to account for.
Since my knowledge of the sport is admittedly a little lacking, it's hard for me to comment on NBA 2K21 on the technical side, but the player movement feels realistic for the most parts, with the exception of some weird turns in the opposite direction of my input on the controller. It doesn't happen often enough to become an annoyance, though.
In the graphic and sound department, NBA 2K21 delivers what I'd expect from the next generation consoles. The players look extremely realistic and both the movement and the animation of the players feels on the spot. The broadcasting team seems to be up to date on my current situation in My Career, and the sound from both the shoes and ball against the floor, or the chants from the audience makes me feel like I'm present at a real basketball game: whether that setting is High School, College or NBA level. The only thing I'm missing from the presentation is the ability to skip the animations during timeouts. For those that doesn't know, there is a lot of timeouts in basketball, and especially at the end of games. Having to wait 15 seconds every timeout becomes annoying in the long run. The lack of a halftime show is of course boring, but in the end it's the playtime that counts.
One part of the game I would love to try out is The City section. A combination of a small player base on the next-gen console, and my performances on the court did make it hard for me to unlock it during my time with the game so far. This is however, an upgraded version of "The Neighbourhood" from earlier games in the series, which includes playing ball in the driveway alongside other tasks off-court. This part has received a lot of praise from the hardcore players, and I look forward to try it out sometime in the future.
As I mentioned early, this is a different kind of review from what you are used to reading here on Gamereactor, but I hope that you could use my experiences as a first-time player of the series. I think that a lot of players will want to pick up this game to try the next generation of sports games: the game looks great, it plays well, but more introduction to the sport and the game would make it even better. Regardless, I'm having a great time with NBA 2K21, and I find myself having to get "one more game" in, even in the early morning hours. That alone shows how fun this game really is.