NBA 2K21: the review

Who I am
Aina Martin
Author and references

The link between basketball and video games certainly wasn't born yesterday. For decades, in fact, the magic of the NBA championship has been represented on screen by development teams that have alternated from time to time. This before that Visual concepts came with its NBA 2K series, crushing the competition to become the only alternative on the market over time. The NBA 2K21 review comes just over twenty years after the birth of that "2K", which took place at the turn of the year 2000 with the first edition of the series on Dreamcast. EA Sports has tried again on more than one occasion to get back on track with its NBA Live, but also for the Redwood giant in the end it is time to hoist the white flag against the 2K Games series, often judged not only with the title of best basketball simulation but also with that of best sports simulation in general.

Difficult to think otherwise, after all, when NBA 2K came to make use of the collaboration of Spike Lee when others were just beginning their experimentation with the story mode in sports, or in front of an increasingly refined and realistic representation of what happens on the parquet. Not always everything that shone was gold, it is true, just as the choices of 2K Games in commercial terms have not always satisfied the players, but the great impact this series had in the world of sports video games remains undeniable. With the arrival of PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, the appointment with NBA 2K21 will even be double: waiting to be able to taste the news of the game on the next consoles, let's see how it behaves on the current ones.

My Career: The Long Shadow

As mentioned in the introduction, it's been years since the mode titled My career is a core part of NBA 2K. This year's title is no exception, bringing us with the story titled The Long Shadow to take on the role of Junior, nickname of a budding player forced to live with his father's long shadow behind him. Despite his skill, Junior's parent did not manage to make the big leap from the college world to that of the NBA at the time, remaining an unfinished talent. When the protagonist begins to gain popularity thanks to the talent received as an inheritance, the press and environment of the league will inevitably make the inevitable comparison, forcing Junior to compete with other difficulties.

Starting from high school, NBA 2K21 allows us to accompany the boy in his passage to college until the arrival in the NBA, alternating moments dedicated to the narration with others in which we are instead called to play basketball to promote the chances of the young man in the draft. All this represents the prologue where one gets to know Junior's story, divided between dreams of glory and personal events. In fact, there is no lack of love affair with a college girl, in addition to the genuine rivalry with an old friend considered by all to be the star of the draft. The story gives the impression of being quite linear even if every now and then we are called to make important choices, such as the one linked to the agent which then influences the way in which Junior can acquire VC (the virtual currency of the game) and fans with pass matches.

As per tradition, also for NBA 2K21 Visual Concepts has attracted some real actors to impersonate the main characters of the story: among these the presence of Michael K. Williams (The Wire, Boardwalk Empire), but the faces of Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond), Jesse Williams (Grey's Anatomy) and Mireille Enos (The Killing) are also easy to recognize. While not reaching the heights of NBA 2K16, The Long Shadow is still more than willingly followed, also allowing us to savor with its first hours of play the world of college basketball that until recently belonged to the NCAA videogame series.

NBA 2K21's Career Mode also acts as a bridge to entry into the Neighborhood, however, only possible after the arrival of Junior in the NBA. If you want, you can skip the entire prologue to get straight to draft time, in order to immediately access the additional mode. However, in our opinion it is worthwhile to enjoy The Long Shadow in all its duration. Returning to the neighborhood, the arrival of the 2K Beach allows us to interact with other players in a renewed environment, from which to kick off three-on-three street basketball or five-on-five ProAM games. The choice of letting players access the Neighborhood only with the character generated with the MyPlayer editor is a double-edged sword, especially considering that to make it grow properly it is necessary to spend the hard-earned VC coins. The same virtual currency can be spent on My Team mode packs, thus forcing the player who does not want to buy VC for real money to choose what to prioritize.

The other modalities

After the first few hours spent in the company of Junior, we are inevitably led to explore the other modes that NBA 2K21 has to offer. We have already mentioned among them My team, a kind of FIFA Ultimate Team interpreted according to Visual Concepts. Just like in FUT, we can create our ideal quintet by collecting cards and opening packs. After the criticisms of last year, the developers have rethought a bit the characteristics of this mode, which with NBA 2K21 integrates within itself a series of additional competitions and periodic events in a very similar way to what has been seen in recent times in the FIFA series. . The possibilities offered by La Mia Squadra are now quite numerous, both offline and online, although as regards the latter we must say that we have had some problems. In more than one case matchmaking has led us to face opponents with whom the connection dropped after a few moments, or even at some point to play against a team made up of invisible men before the game realized that something had gone wrong in the game. start of the game.

If the online sector is therefore a bit to be fixed after the launch a few days ago, those who want can console themselves in the meantime with the numerous offline alternatives offered by NBA 2K21. Among these we find in the front row My GM and My League, modalities that have remained practically the same as last year. The WNBA is also back, with the ability to select women's teams for both quick games and My League.

PlayStation 4 Trophies

In addition to the glory of the ring, NBA 2K21 allows us to also conquer fifty-one Trophies, divided between the usual platinum, two of the gold type, ten silver and thirty-eight bronze. Most of them are linked to the two modes My Career and My Team, within which we must therefore get to grips with particular enterprises to be able to hit all the objectives studied by Visual Concepts.

Gameplay: new shot, new expletives

Once on the pitch, the sensations proposed by NBA 2K21 are very similar to those of its predecessor. Those who have had the opportunity to play NBA 2K20 in recent months can therefore be perfectly at ease with everything, except for one fundamental aspect: the threw. The choice of Visual Concepts was in fact to completely redesign the shooting system by the players, delegating its management to the use of the right analog stick. To define the goodness of the shot is no longer the release timing but the aim that the gamer must take inside a crescent that appears once the lever is moved downwards, and then aim at the center of a highlighted range to obtain the coveted green evaluation. With a few more games than the demo and a difficulty in our opinion calibrated a little higher, we must say that the new pitch has taken us more than we expected. In several cases, the system was also excessively punitive, causing shots taken by unmarked players to fail with players who were good at the fundamental. It is no coincidence that after the release of NBA 2K21 in stores, gamers began to complain about the severity of the new shooting system, forcing Visual Concepts to intervene to soften it especially at the lower difficulty levels. The current situation sees the need for an inevitable period of adaptation, both for newcomers to the series and for veterans. Especially in the most agitated phases it is in fact still necessary to press the square button to shoot, risking to make a great confusion. In reality, the old shooting system has not completely disappeared, but it has been made more inconvenient in terms of time and yield due to a new release bar with which timing is now evaluated.

Shot aside, as we said, the impressions offered by the gameplay of NBA 2K21 are very similar to those of NBA 2K20. Along with the new shot comes a dribbling system connected to the right stick itself, thanks to which a renewed fluidity is given to this type of movement. Also tangible is the different way in which the players move on the pitch, thanks to an improved management of the spacing and the different types of bodies of the athletes.

Graphics and sound: postponed to December

Arriving at the end of the generation, the technical aspect of NBA 2K21 inevitably becomes the least interesting of the package. With the current consoles practically squeezed beyond belief, we will have to wait for the release of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X version of the game to see the news prepared by Visual Concepts in the field graphic. The glance of the field and its protagonists is still of an excellent level for what are the current standards, with an overall experience that brings NBA 2K21 very close to the basketball that we see on television.

The filmed scenes featured in My Career, on the other hand, have some small shadows. While it is nice to see how the faces of the known actors have been brought into the game with extreme care, on the other the secondary models do not enjoy the same attention to detail, not to mention the background images that in some cases seem almost attached with scotch tape. To be a sports game, however, at least for this generation, perhaps you can't ask for more. Finally, we report the permanence of some screens that are still a little too long in the uploads, especially between the various phases that make up The Long Shadow.

NBA 2K21 and nextgen: watch out for buying!

Before buying NBA 2K21 for PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, it is a must to pause for a few moments to reflect on the platforms on which you will then want to play basketball simulation for the rest of the year. The model designed by 2K Games for the transition to the new generation hides some pitfalls, so first of all we must not assume that the purchase of the game now allows us to have it at no additional cost on PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. This it is in fact true only for the Mamba Forever Edition sold at a price of 99,99 euros, while the standard edition will not allow players to access the next-gen version. Right or wrong, keep that in mind.


Tested version PlayStation 4 Digital Delivery Steam, PlayStation Store, Xbox Store, Nintendo eShop Price 69,99 €


Readers (22)


Your vote

The judgment that emerges from the review of NBA 2K21 can only be positive overall, given the undoubted quality of Visual Concepts' work that has become a certainty for years. The imminent arrival of the new generation of consoles, however, makes this edition one of the most conservative that we have seen, with the complicity of the pandemic that will force the developers to update the roster to the new season only with its expected start (at least for now) at December. While diehard fans will likely have already purchased the Mamba Forever Edition to play NBA 2K21 year-round across all platforms, it might also make sense for others to wait for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X to be released.


  • The new shot is troubling but in the end it convinces
  • The usual simulation quality
  • Interesting enough story
  • Very few tangible news
  • A few loads too many
  • There remains a certain propensity towards microtransactions
add a comment of NBA 2K21: the review
Comment sent successfully! We will review it in the next few hours.