Review: NBA 2K21 - The pinnacle of sports gaming genre on current-gen

Published: 14:06, 11 September 2020
Updated: 14:09, 11 September 2020
NBA 2K21 logo placed next to Damian Lillard
NBA 2K21 - AltChar Review

NBA 2K21 is yet another amazing installment of the insanely popular NBA 2K franchise. Featuring stellar visuals and immersive gameplay, the game is a complete package for all fans of the sports gaming genre.

NBA 2K21 may seem like a carbon copy of NBA 2K20 at the first glance, but there's far more to it than meets the eye. The instant I picked up that controller, I knew I was in for a great ride because of how smooth and responsive the game felt.

So what is it about 2K's latest basketball iteration that makes it so good?

A MyCAREER story that matters

Let me start by talking about the MyCAREER story first. This time around, our story begins in high school, where our guy - Junior - decides to follow in his father's footsteps to try and become the next basketball sensation.

It's a very well written narrative that is shaped by your own decisions, like choosing your agent for example which, as a result, impacts your career, both on and off the court, significantly.

The story does a great job of keeping you invested and genuinely interested in seeing what happens next - from a reporter who mercilessly puts the world on your shoulders by giving you challenges to beat in your games, to a love story that emphasizes the stress of being a sports hot-shot even more.

After going through all the ups and downs of the story, you end up the meeting none other than Damian Lillard who gives you a few tips on how to become a major NBA superstar. 

2K Screenshot of Damian Lillard in NBA 2K21 NBA 2K21 MyCAREER story features Damian Lillard.

You then take all your experiences and skills with you to your preferred NBA bunch. My choice, just like last year, were the Houston Rockets, and so my NBA adventure began.

Create your dream build

With NBA 2K20, 2K introduced a feature called MyPLAYER Builder, which allows you to create your own player by choosing different physical traits and distributing your attribute points however you see fit.

This year, this mode is not only back, but it is also improved by additional pie charts that provide even more freedom when making your ideal build.

2K Scoring Machine build screen in NBA 2K21 A Scoring Machine build is made up of some awesome basketball names indeed.

Creating a perfect build for your playing style is of paramount importance for your career and overall experience with the game, so I was extra careful and took my time to nail the perfect creation for my own needs and purposes. And the build that I ended up with was a Scoring Machine - the type of player that has the shades of Pete Maravich, Caris LeVert and Bradley Beal. Now that is a trio that is very much a force to be reckoned with.

Make some waves at the 2K Beach

The Neighborhood is back in NBA 2K21 with all its well-known playgrounds and facilities, now coated in the wonderful and jolly colours of the 2K Beach. The revamped area is certainly a breath of fresh air for the 2K community as it is here that MyCAREER players spend most of their in-game hours.

The Daily Spin wheel is now located in a place called Jeff's 2K Arcade and works essentially the same as it did last year. Nevertheless, it's good to see these free ways of boosting up your player present in the new game as well.

2K Player running through 2K Beach in NBA 2K21 NBA 2K21's Neighborhood sure does look fresh!

Making progress with your player does require VC, but I'm happy to report that the game is far from a pay-to-win model. Buying X amounts of VC can only take you so far, because in order to maximize your player's potential and raise his overall grade - you need to actually play the game and win matches to unlock your potential and attributes cap.

The very same principle applies to badges as well: to max out your badge arsenal, you need to put in the work. Simple as that.

Gameplay that keeps you on the edge of your seat

NBA 2K games have always been known for their simulation style of gameplay, and NBA 2K21 takes it to a completely new level. The physics of the game are absolutely top notch, with player movement once again being at an industry-standard level.

Shooting is a department that has seen the most changes this year, though. With a brand new shot meter and a shot stick aiming system, nailing that green release is far from an easy task in NBA 2K21. The aiming mechanic requires you to not only stop the shot meter at the perfect spot, but to adjust the Pro Stick towards the ideal aim point of the basket as well.

It is a feature that requires a fair amount practice to master, but those who prefer the old shooting style can just turn it off in the settings, though this does mean that they will not benefit from the shot aiming boost.

2K Player shooting a green release in NBA 2K21 Greening your shot is not exactly the easiest of tasks in NBA 2K21...

Stamina is another thing that you should be wary of in NBA 2K21, as holding the sprint button will fatigue your player very quickly. This realistic approach to the game means that you should sprint with your player as you would in real life, so holding the sprint button and never letting go is definitely not the way you want to play the game.

Overall, the game feels much more realistic than its predecessor, which gives scoring buckets and executing plays a whole new level of thrill and satisfaction.

Graphics and sounds

When it comes to the in-game visuals, NBA 2K21 is - as expected - in a league of its own. The presentation is simply second to none, with player face scans, body models and signature animations being absolutely top tier. PlayStation 4 Pro is my platform of choice for this game, and when hooked up to a 4K HDR TV, the experience is nothing less than mesmerizing.

It really makes me wonder just how much progress 2K can actually make in this department with next-gen, because the game already looks photo-realistic at times.

2K Screenshot of LeBron James in NBA 2K21 NBA 2K21 is certainly one of the best looking games on current-gen.

The gorgeous visuals are only complemented by the game's exhilarating and authentic commentary. NBA 2K games' sounds have always managed to add a new layer of immersion thanks to their amazing level of production, and NBA 2K21 is no exception. It is simply a current-gen showcase title, at least as far as sports games go.

Not a flawless game

Everything mentioned so far is all well and fine of course, but it does not mean that NBA 2K21 is not without its flaws. There are some glitchy animations where the ball almost magically shifts from one hand to the other, defying the laws of physics and thus totally breaking the immersion.

Sure, you might call it nitpicking, but seeing the same glitch happen over and over again, especially during slow-motion replays, ruins what could otherwise be a perfect highlight moment.

2K Screenshot of an Oklahoma player in NBA 2K21 The way the ball just suddenly changes hands is unrealistic, to say the least...

However, I am fairly certain that this issue can be resolved with a simple patch update in the future, so here's hoping 2K get around to fixing it as soon as possible.


NBA 2K21 is easily one of the best entries of the franchise. From extremely realistic gameplay and a variety of modes to take part in, to the state-of-the-art presentation of the sport of basketball - the game serves as the very best of what current-gen platforms have to offer.

For basketball, and other sports gaming fans alike, NBA 2K21 is an absolute must-have title.

The Good

  • Impeccable presentation
  • Realistic and immersive gameplay
  • Lots of game modes to take part in

The Bad

  • Glitchy animations tend to rear their ugly heads when dribbling the ball sometimes

Our Rating


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