NBA 2K21 on Xbox Series X looks better than ever before and comes with a variety of gameplay enhancements and new features that make it worthwhile.
2K Games immediately caused controversy when it was revealed that it would not provide players with a free upgrade path from the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One version to the next-gen edition of NBA 2K21. The publisher then made matters even worse by revealing it would be raising the price of the PS5 and Xbox Series X version to $70 as Visual Concepts was developing it from the ground up. All of this means that the next-gen version of NBA 2K21 has to do an awful lot to justify itself to players who may have already bought the game – and yet, somehow, it makes a more compelling case than anyone would’ve given it credit for after the initial kneejerk reactions.
The most obvious change with the port comes in the upgraded visuals. NBA 2K21 certainly looks far better on Xbox Series X than it does on the PS4 or Xbox One. Everything from the textures to the lighting has been significantly improved, and practically every element of the game is impressive, with the court, players, and clothing all having an incredible amount of detail.
This is backed up with what appears to be a big overhaul to the animations. NBA 2K21 on the older systems doesn’t have terrible animations, but things are much smoother with the Xbox Series X edition of the game. The players move in a far more realistic manner and the physics are enhanced so that each individual feels unique with their own traits. That really helps to highlight the differences between the various athletes and personalities that make up the NBA. There’s also a lot more bumps and collisions, making NBA 2K21 more immersive and authentic, showing off the way the game can be gritty in its smaller moments.
It’s not just the presentation and technical aspects of NBA 2K21 that have been improved on next-gen, however. Visual Concepts also switched up some key gameplay mechanics. The most notable of them is shooting, with the shot meter being expanded slightly to give players a little more control. Despite being a relatively minor alteration it does actually seem to make shooting more consistent and balanced. The same is also true of dribbling, with users now able to control the speed of a player more effectively.
When it comes to sound design, the next-gen enhancements are more of a mixed bag. There are extra commentary teams and expert analysis, providing an experience that more closely resembles a proper broadcast. However, the on-court sound effects are not noticeably different to what has come before, which is a bit of a disappointment considering the improvements to the visual aspects.
Without a doubt, the biggest and most welcome addition to NBA 2K21 is The City. This is a persistent hub world that allows players to interact with each other in real time. It is essentially an expanded version of The Neighborhood, although it involves a lot more activities and features. Players can even join one of four teams and compete for dominance. The City is huge and has plenty of areas to explore along with NPCs offering side quests and locations to challenge other players.
The next-gen edition of NBA 2K21 is certainly an improvement over the version that has been available for a while now. It contains a number of upgrades and improvements to both the visuals and gameplay, making it a more authentic simulation of the sport. There’s little to complain about and things like The City and new WNBA modes are a breath of fresh air, providing plenty of new things to do that were not available in the PS4 and Xbox One edition. There is nothing that is truly groundbreaking about NBA 2K21 on Xbox Series X though, meaning that it might not be worth purchasing for those who already bought the original version. Those who were lucky enough to hold off by waiting for the PS5 and Xbox Series X version will be in for a treat thanks to the numerous enhancements and extra features present in NBA 2K21 on Xbox Series X.
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NBA 2K21 is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. Screen Rant was provided with a digital Xbox Series X copy of the game for the purposes of this review.
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