Top Critic Average
NBA 2K21 still manages to capture the art of basketball, but it's largely the same dance as years past.
NBA 2K21 is a tough game to review. On the court, the game is mostly very good. The passing and dribbling feels excellent and the My Career mode is certainly well-acted. It could easily be a high 8 or 9 if the whole progression system didn’t feel so broken.
NBA 2K21 is still a wonderful digital simulation of basketball, with a wealth of modes to enjoy, but the MyCareer story has become stale and the microtransactions far too prevalent. This is not the step forwards that it needed to be to keep the series fresh and engaging. In other words, this title does not provide a compelling argument to upgrade from last year's version.
NBA 2K21 doesn't break the series' signature basketball gameplay, but its minor improvements and persistent addiction to obnoxious microtransactions mean more of the same isn't good enough anymore.
It would be one thing if this was just NBA 2K20 with some minor changes but this rips the heart out of last year's game solely to appeal to competitive online players, with many much-loved features stripped back or not included at all.
NBA 2K21 still delivers the thrill of being on the court and producing spectacular plays, but it lacks innovation and fresh ideas
That means some kind of personal journey or transformation for the star, and supporting characters with some depth and likability. Given every chance to be a preening overdog, newcomer Vince Washington turns the character Hendrixx Cobb into a warm, believable friend instead. Michael K. Williams (Omar from The Wire) is just shady enough as a streetwise mentor to make an endgame choice - one the game even forced me to reconsider! - both reasonable and personally regrettable.
The problem with 2K, though, and it’s bigger this year than ever, is that you can rarely be so clear in your perspective. In 2K21, just like we’ve seen for the last few years, every moment of fun on the court is undermined by the racket being run off it.
Coronavirus has extended the previous season of the NBA and next-gen is very close, so the timing is not the best for this entry in the franchise, which is very continuist. However, it is still a great basketball game.
Review in Spanish | Read full review
As it is, there are some strong components, but it doesn’t feel like a completely new game in as many aspects as usual.